I’m not sure where to start, I feel like you have a lot to say about track racing, and women’s track racing. But maybe start by telling me how you wound up in Belgium?
Track racing is an individual sport, and there aren’t really teams surrounding it. Last year on the road I raced with Vanderkitten, and they supported me on the track as well. Unfortunately, they folded, and that left me in the position of having to find a new team for both road and track.
I’ve signed with a great road team [BMW Happytooth], and for the track, I wasn’t sure: there aren’t any track teams in the US, except for Felt, and they’re pretty international; they only pick a handful of riders. So it created the opportunity for me to find all of my own sponsors that I wanted to work with. There’s a few, like Fast Forward Wheels, that I’ve been working with since I got started on the track in 2012, so it made sense to reach out to them. They’re my title sponsor for this year, and I’ve got a few other great ones on board, like Nuun, Castelli, Marc Pro, so yeah, it really worked out.
This next year is all about accruing UCI points, this is a UCI scratch race. Almost all of the six days – they don’t have women’s madison racing –
Yeah, why not?
I don’t know. It’s not that popular in the US, although that’s where it gained its popularity [note?], and there’s definitely people trying to make it happen again – Jack Simes, the godfather of cycling, is trying to bring it back. He did the Hollywood Six Day two years ago, and I think are hopes that it’ll happen again this year.
But for me, I ended up in Belgium wanting to start my season racing on the track, it’s my favorite. I feel like it’s the hardest form of racing, so it’s a great way to start the season, to come out here and get a few track races in. I’ll go to Berlin after this, and it sounds like I may do the Revolution Series after that.
After that it’s back to the US, we have our road team camp at the beginning of March, and then my season kicks off in April.
What do you think needs to be done to help women’s cycling? I mean, I know that you’re a racer and not a promoter, but…
I think it’s just as simple as promotion. Everyone knows about six-day racing, but not many know that there’s a women’s race in conjunction with that, and just having it broadcasted in the pamphlets, that the women are doing certain races, or highlighting women’s racing, for whatever weekend it is, I think our races are just as hard. We crash just as hard, bleed just as easily, we put everything out there.
Have you only ridden [a Six] here and Fiorenzuola?
Yeah, it’s the only six-day race I’ve done.
And how do you feel, the second time around?
I love it. It’s crazy, its a big production and yeah, it’s a bit stressful coming in, we had our meeting at 1 and we were on the track at 2 and there are people everywhere. But it makes it fun.
Absolutely. Most of the racers that I’ve been talking to are really into the six-day thing because the crowd is louder, more excited, there’s music… do you even hear it, by the way?
Oh yeah. You can even hear kids with the noisemakers, sometimes they catch you off guard. But it’s a blast.
It’s a show, and I think that’s how racing should be. We were talking about it, it’s kind of a show for spectators, it’s more than just racing… I feel like the track community in general is pretty easygoing, it’s a lot of fun.
I’ve never been to Fiorenzuola, would you tell me a little bit what that was like?
It was beautiful. It’s Italy, to start off with, so that just sets the precedent: it’s in a beautiful countryside, and the racing was phenomenal. I’ve never, even to this day, raced in such a hard, world-class start. It was phenominal: Georgia Bronzini, Kirstin Wild, we’re talking world-cup status. For me, it was a great opportunity to race with them and get that experience firsthand. And I think once you get a taste of six-day racing, you just want to come back. It’s a blast, and it’s hard, and it’s fun, and everything that racing is.
One of the things that I think is unique to Bremen is that everybody’s at the hotel afterwards, to chit-chat and have happy hour, but at two in the morning. Are you joining in the fun?
We’ll see, it’s kind of hard, the track is kind of like a casino: you have no idea what time it is, even how you’re supposed to feel. When you get back [to the hotel], your sense of time is so skewed. We’ll still be racing at 10pm, that’s not the norm, so to get off at two, when racing ends, you still have your adrenaline pumping, you’ve just been racing all-out, so it’s hard to just shut it off and wrap it up. It’s only natural.
And talking about the track community as a whole: that’s the beauty of it, we race hard on the track, and then everyone comes out and hangs out on the infield.
What else should I know? What am I missing about track racing, or women’s racing?
Well, I was going to introduce you to my friend Verena Eberhardt, who I met at Fiorenzuola. It’s funny, you show up to the same races and it’s nice to have familiar faces, so you instantly become friends because you’re all doing the same thing. Most of us went to that race alone, you have to wrench everything yourself, juggle all the chaos, it’s nice to have other people understand how stressful and exciting it is.
You do your own wrenching? Your own wheel changes?
Yeah, of course, but that’s the tough thing: you saw me getting bandaged up as the women’s elimination race was about to start, so I’m running after them, no time to cool down or anything. But it’s fun, I wouldn’t do anything else.
I think that’s all I have for you…
What do you ask the guys?
Mostly I go after the older racers, the ones who have been around for a few years. I wanna know how six-day racing has changed, I want to talk to someone who has something to say. You know what I ask them: what else do you do, outside of racing? What do you do for fun? What music do you listen to?
Oh, I listen to everything. Right now it’s the weekend, on repeat. It’s hard to be in Europe without loving European music, I dunno, I love it, it’s different, it’s dance-y, it’s fun.
Did you get a chance to catch Mickie Krause yesterday? You gotta check it out tonight, I don’t know if you’ll like it but you have to see him, mostly because by the time 23h15 rolls around, everyone’s been drinking enough to sing along with him.
That’s the other crazy thing about six days! Sometimes there’s beauty pageants in the middle, and pop stars, the famous YouTube girl… it really is a show.
Are you living full-time in Belgium now?
No, just for the next few weeks, until the end of February, and then back to the US. I had the opportunity to come over here for road racing last season, and yeah, I love it. It’s such a different style of racing, and it’s really hard – I didn’t do well with it, to be honesty, but I enjoyed that the most. I truly enjoy a challenge, and I’d rather get my butt kicked and learn from the best than… just ride my bike. I’m here to race. So I hope to be back here for either road racing or track racing.
Well, I hope to see you back here!