Pro cyclists grow up really quickly – they have to. Whilst most of us spend the early part of our twenties wondering around in a daze of indecision, debating important topics such as ‘does pesto go with basically all foods?’ and ‘how shall I cut my hair next?’, for a budding World Champion those are the most critical years of their career.
The focus and dedication required to be a pro cyclist was evident when we spoke to nine time American National Champion, Alexis Ryan. Signed to UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling through 2014 and 2015, she’s joined Canyon//SRAM’s pro team for 2016 and we caught up with her at the team training camp.
Aside from her tiny frame and petite features, what’s most striking about the 21-year-old from California is that she’s as quick witted as she is speedy on a bike, despite having to share her attention between school and cycling in a battle which is usually won by the bike.
Chilling out in her room after a training ride whilst on camp in Majorca, Ryan tells me that she’s graduated high school but now balances further education with cycling: “I still struggle to balance school and riding. I go to school in the fall, but it’s so broken up – I take one semester of classes then have months off and have to reset my brain every August.”
“Personally I know I can only do one thing well at a time. The minute I start stretching myself [in too many directions] I get stressed out and I don’t perform well at anything. I know cycling is what I want to do so I’m going to focus on this.”
Despite the claimed disarray, Ryan strikes me as one of the most intelligent, well balanced 21-year-olds I’ve ever met. We chat for some time about the issues in women’s cycling – equal pay, the progression from junior to senior – and it’s clear she’s internally debated every one, either coming to a conclusion or accepting that in some cases there is no clear cut answer.