By Taryn Kama
But you don’t have to race as a professional in the big races, like the Tour de France, in order to engage in competitive cycling. You can do it right outside your door. In fact, in the Thurston County area, there is an active, amateur cycling team. The Olympia Orthopaedic Associates (OOA) Cycling Team has its own races and also competes in events around the region. The team is organized to provide high-quality structure and support for amateur, competitive cyclists.
The OOA team consists of many competitive disciplines including road, mountain bike, and cyclocross, which is a hybrid of mountain and road biking. It’s a fall and winter sport that involves doing loops of cycling, running with the bike, and leaping over obstacles in a set amount of time. The road biking discipline includes circuit and road races, time trials and criteriums.
For example, a circuit road race brings together the high speeds of criterium racing with the characteristics of a road race. It is a repeated six-mile loop, which challenges riders with the course’s rolling hills profile.
One of the team’s primary goals is to continue to grow the rider development program, which guides new racers in understanding and implementing race strategy and developing bike-handling techniques. However, what’s really special about the team is the growth of the women’s team. According to Michelle Kautzmann, one of the women’s team captains, more than twenty women signed up to race this year.
“This year, we put more effort into building the women’s team through more extensive recruiting. We had three riders who joined because they saw the team advertised via flyers placed at gyms, coffee shops, bike shops, ThurstonTalk and the Capital Bicycling Club newsletter,” said Kautzmann. Kautzmann is also a co-owner of Joy Ride Bikes in Lacey.
She said that the women who joined the team were evenly divided in different cycling disciplines.
“Some wanted to focus on cyclocross, while others wanted to do road and mountain bike. I believe that women join groups because we are usually more social and enjoy having structure and support from like-minded peers,” Kautzmann said. “We love to ride, train, socialize and compete together. It helps our motivation – well it definitely helps mine anyway.”
The racers vary in ages and backgrounds and join for different reasons. For example, new racer, Cindy Medlin, has competed in running events most of her life, but focused on cycling this year.
She is an accomplished and avid marathon runner. After knee surgery, her Oly Ortho physical therapist and surgeon encouraged her to “cycle more and run less.”
“My co-worker, a local cycling event promoter and avid cyclist, invited me to an OOA team ride. After meeting some wonderful ladies on the team and being encouraged to join, I made the transition from inside riding as a spin instructor, to outside riding,” said Medlin.
“I was immediately challenged by the skill level of outside riding and began the journey to get my bike properly fit and to improve my bike handling skills,” Medlin said. “I am now hooked on riding a few times a week, with a longer ride on the weekend and love spending time with friends or just the looking at the scenery and the intrinsic solitude that comes with riding.”
Additionally, long time touring cyclist, Colleen Welch also joined the team this year.
“This is my first year with OOA. What I love about being on this team is that I have found my posse of women cyclists! I have made great friends, and now I always have someone to ride with,” said Welch. “The women of OOA are not only very friendly, but the more experienced racers are more than willing to help us newbies learn the ‘ins and outs’ of racing. We have been helped with all forms of road racing, be it time trialing, criterium racing, or the road races.”
“What I also love is the camaraderie of my fellow OOA Women Cat 4 racers. We strategize before each race and rejoice when our plan actually works! We have had some successes, but mostly, we have fun,” added Welch.
To learn more about the team, click here.