What's your day job?
I work at a hospital in clinical policy. I actually graduated with a philosophy degree and ever since, I’ve been working odd jobs: I used to work with kids with autism and a health education centre, but I’ve always worked in the health field.
How long have you been racing?
I started racing when I was 10 or 11 and I was a mountain biker. I did that until I finished up juniors and then I went to university and sort of took a break and got fat and ate a lot of Oreos…wait, that can’t be my featured quote…and then when I finished school I moved back home to Ottawa and started working at a bike shop and they got me started in road. I started racing road in 2009-2010 and then I moved out here to BC.
What disciplines do you compete in?
I raced MTB for a while like I said earlier. Road and track too, and then cyclocross just for fun. I picked up a mountain bike again this year, so I’m hoping to do some endure and some low key stuff. Track is my favourite for sure. I’m just naturally better at it than the others, so that makes it fun. I like the speed and the tactics involved and I like the community of friends I have at the velodrome.
How do you find balance between training, racing, and the rest of your life?
It’s a fine line. I’ll go to work and then I train at my dad’s place every night so I drive out there, do my thing, and then drive home. I mean it’s fine; you just have to set a schedule, and sometimes you don’t get much sleep. On the weekends I make sure that I can sleep in on one of the days and I also try to do things other than riding my bike. I like hiking and I’ll go XC skiing in the winter instead of riding both days of the weekend. I mean, you can, but I think it’s good to take a break from it. I find that after doing a three week block of the same schedule every day, I feel pretty awful and I can’t get out bed and then I have to call in sick because I’m cooked. At that point, you just have to step back.
What made you decide to start racing your bike?
I actually hated riding my bike as a kid; my parents forced it on me. I was doing a few other activities seriously - gymnastics and skiing - so I preferred those over cycling for sure. My parents would take me out to their weekly time trials and there’d be all these old people and they’d force me onto the bike and I’d scream and cry and just refuse to do it. It wasn’t until they enrolled me in a program called Radical Riders at Hardwood Hills and I met a new group of friends to go mess around on the trails with. That’s when I started enjoying myself.
What made you decide to get back into racing after taking the break during university?
I was definitely done with MTB’ing because it’s something you have to constantly work on. You can’t just race on weekends; you have to work on your technical skills and that takes time and a car to get to the trails. When I started working at the Cyclery, everybody there raced and I would go out with the guys to crits and time trials and I slowly got back into things again. There was never any pressure to race, but I’d say I’m naturally competitive, so it was just naturally motivating hanging around people like Mike Woods who now rides for Optum. There were lots of really talented girls in Ottawa at the time as well, so it was really about the crowd I was hanging out with.
Were you nervous about racing either when you started MTB or when you re-started with road?
No, I don’t think I was ever nervous. I’m not nervous to start a race. I was actually thinking about this because I’ve been reading some of the other interviews and I think the only time I was nervous was when I came out to BC because I didn’t know anybody. My coach at the time gave me all of the details about the Tuesday crits, but the racing was not at all like what it was in Ottawa: First of all, the course had a hill in it! So I wasn’t expecting that and then there were a bunch of women and I wasn’t used to racing with other women. And I felt like an outsider because people generally don’t approach you; you have to make the effort to reach out. But, I mean, once you do it once, everything’s fine.
So why did you move to BC?
Well, my parents separated, and my dad moved out here to be closer to my sister. I came out here to visit him and he was a big track racer when he was younger, so he took me to the velodrome and I lied and said I knew how to ride it, so I got on the track. I was so nervous about getting off the track, so I ended up staying on for an hour because I didn’t know how to get off and the national team was training at the same time, so I didn’t want to look like an idiot. So I just rode around for an hour. The coach then got in touch with me and told me that I could totally be a track racer and that he’d coach me if I came out. I went home for a few months but came back west when nationals were in Alberta and then I just stayed.
Do you feel that the clique-y atmosphere is unique to the cycling community, or is it a Vancouver thing? That’s a pretty widespread perception about life here.
Up until just recently, I still felt like an outsider for sure. In Ottawa, everybody felt like family and everybody knows everybody else. Whereas here in Vancouver, I’ll see people I know are riders, but I don’t know their names. It is definitely up to you to make the first move and once I started shaking hands and introducing myself, it definitely made a difference and I’m way more comfortable at races. Everybody’s super nice once you do that, but I think everybody’s in the same position where you have a group of friends that you park next to, warm-up with, etc. and you think “why would I ever talk to anybody else,” but that little bit of extra effort is worth it.
Do you remember first race?
I don’t think I do. Maybe I’ve hit my head one too many times…
Have your feelings about racing changed over the years as you’ve gained more experience?
Definitely. When I was younger, my dream was to go to the Olympics and I took everything so seriously, which is what I needed to do, but it definitely took all of the fun out of it. Now that I’ve softened my edges a little bit and my perspective has changed, it’s more about the experience than the end goal. I don’t really know where the finish line is, and I don’t really care as long as the season is fun and I’ve made improvements, wherever they might be. It’s also really important that I have a good time with my team when we go on trips because there’s so much more to racing than just riding your bike. It’s the stuff in between that makes things worthwhile.
How have your goals changed over the years?
Right now, my goals are more internal. It’s based on power numbers for me, just because I can see where my improvements are coming and hopefully that translates into race results. I don’t really have results goals. Of course I’d like to do well at the big local events like the Delta UCI race and Superweek as a whole because it’s my hometown, but I’m not going into it thinking “I MUST WIN.”
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing in the Lower Mainland?
I actually think it’s improved a lot. When I started racing, there were one or two women in the field and there were no coaches who were interested in trying to build capacity. I think it’s a lot more accessible now.
We definitely need more women’s categories because it’s not fun if you’re racing against people who simply ride away from you. That’s not racing and nobody’s going to have fun like that. We have some of the best women in Canada racing at the Spring Series sometimes so I’m sure that a newcomer to the sport isn’t going to want to race against Jasmine Glaesser. I mean, it’s cool to see them line up next to each other, but it sucks when your first experience is getting blown out of the water.
How did you get your start with Trek Red Truck? What group were you riding with before?
I started off with Local Ride. It was definitely because of positive references that led to TRT. I had a slew of bad luck when I started racing road again. I ended up off the bike for a year because I had surgery and then I went to Europe to race and in my last week there, I ended up with a really bad concussion, so I was off the bike for that season as well. I’m not sure how I ended up where I am now, but I’m sure there must have been some good words put in for me.
How important would you say finding a good group is for developing?
When I was younger, the person who coached you and the team you were on were super important. You wanted to have the right connections, but the situation is drastically different now. You don’t need a team and you don’t need a coach. You don’t need a name across your back; it doesn’t mean anything. When you’re on the outside, you think people who are in clubs are special or that they’ve been selected, but most of these riders buy their own kit. They’re not sponsored at all.
It’s important to join a group to learn the essential skills and to have people to ride with. I think that’s one thing Vancouver is missing; there’s no giant club. In Ottawa, you have the Ottawa Bicycle Club and anyone can join and you’re always going to have a group to ride with. There are different start times and different paces and ability groups. In this city, it’s all individual clubs, and sometimes, a person might perceive a sense of elitism. You don’t need a jersey; you just need a group of friends to go out with.
What can we do at the local level to help grow women's participation?
Having different categories, for sure. I think there are good programs out there and as long as people are friendly to each other and as long as you go up and talk to somebody who looks a little lost or you offer your help of advice if asked, that goes a long way.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
Just do it. Just show up and start. Your first race is probably going to suck and it’s going to hurt, and some people in the group are going to be positive and some are going to be negative about it. As long as you find one good thing about the experience and you want to come back for more, it will get better each time. Anyone can do this.