After racing your heart out for three hours, you’re just happy to see the finish line—you aren’t necessarily thinking about the medals and other prizes that come along with winning a big event. That’s part of the reason why one of the rewards for winning the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championship in 2015 was such a surprise. Little did I know when I started down the path of competitive cycling that the sport would lead to receive a new car!
But that’s just what happened in Chattanooga in May 2015, when I was handed the keys to a 2015 Golf SportWagen on the podium. For the next year, the car would be mine to use as I wanted.
I didn’t get to enjoy the Golf SportWagen immediately after National Championships. At the time, my husband, Billy, and I were living in Europe, so the car went to stay with our friend in Mountain View, Calif. Early September, we arrived back in California and started prepping for the World Championships taking place in Richmond in September, and that’s when I finally got behind the wheel of my prize.
For about three weeks, Billy and I ran our own private training camp using the car as a support vehicle. My husband’s a good cyclist, but even he’ll admit that he can’t keep up with me on the hills, so he’d drive the Golf SportWagen support car with supplies and spare wheels, ready to assist me and my training partners on our rides.
For extra help during the winter training season, we brought over our friend Yuri Feijtel, a soigneur (a team member who provides nutritional and physical support for competitive cyclists in training and competition), who took the car out for training sessions and could be right there for me with supplies and (most important of all) massages as I needed them.
The car came with some great Volkswagen bike accessories that helped us carry up to two bikes on the roof of the car. We mostly used the roof rack when Billy and I would go mountain biking. Otherwise, my road bike fit perfectly in the trunk of the SportWagen and that’s how we’d transport it to races and my weekly physical therapy sessions, where they look at my pedal stroke inefficiencies and treat my body from a dynamic perspective.
Our car played an important role in one of my biggest races this year—the AMGEN Tour of California. We made the four-hour drive from our home to the race start in Lake Tahoe in the SportWagen. Billy began to pick up the tour once we reached Sacramento. After the first stage in Lake Tahoe, I was leading the race wearing the yellow jersey, so after each stage, I’d usually have to stay for a podium ceremony or press interviews. It’s great to have to stay for these events, but they add an hour or two to the end of each race day! It’s a good problem to have, and the Golf SportWagen saved the day, with Billy being able to take me to the next stage after all my post-race duties were finished. Thanks to the car, the rest of my team, who were working hard to keep me in the yellow jersey, was able to continue onto the hotel earlier and get much needed recovery between stages. Maybe the car brought some good luck because I won that race and earned the top spot in the UCI World Tour rankings!
Although most of my life right now is training and racing, we also had some time to relax. Once in a while, we manage to make it to Lake Tahoe for a few days off where we enjoy cross country skiing, snowboarding (Billy), and snowshoeing in the winter. We can fit all our gear and luggage comfortably in the car, meaning we don’t need a second vehicle and I can take a nap while Billy drives! We’re really excited about the Golf Alltrack that’s coming out soon as the extra ground clearance and four wheel drive will help us drive in snowy conditions on these trips.
It turns out that the Golf SportWagen wasn’t just good luck at Tour of California, but also for two other big races this year. For some events in the U.S., my whole team is not able to come over from Europe, and we need to arrange for our own support vehicle. Thankfully, USA Cycling had an extra Golf SportWagen it could lend us as a support car. So when Billy took over support car duties at this year’s National Championship, he was able to use a Golf SportWagen. It was nice for him to be able to drive a car he was familiar with at these events, and he says this car is perfectly suited to driving at bike races; it handles well on tight and twisting roads, it can really get up and go when you need it, and it is great for carrying all the spare equipment needed in a race. It is extremely reassuring to know that you have a support car on the course all throughout the race, and knowing that the car they’re driving won’t let them down is a big relief too. Everything worked out perfectly at those events, and I won both races!
You know what another win at the USA Cycling National Championship means? That’s right! Another year with a Volkswagen. I’m looking forward to driving a Volkswagen for another year because it’s proven to be so helpful in what’s probably been the busiest and most successful time of my career. Billy and I are excited for the adventures we’ll share over the next few months and we’re glad that we have a car that can take us where we want (or need!) to be.