You’ve started racing with a new team. What’s that all about? Talk about your team, where you race, your schedule and your goals.
I signed with Visit Dallas Cycling (managed by FCS Cycling) for the 2015 road season and I’m stoked about my new team! Last year I was sort of a freelance bike racer and I got to guest ride on a bunch of different teams (Specialized-lululemon, Colavita, FCS) which was a really fabulous experience. It’s nice to have a more permanent home for the year and all the support that comes along with it. This team is very well run and we have good team chemistry on and off the bike, which really shines through when we race. We are stage race focused, so we are doing the entire NRC calendar as well as a few UCI races. We have some big hitters who bring a plethora of experience to the team with Amber Neben (former Olympian, World and National champion) and Olivia Dillion (five-time Irish National Champion) as well as a couple newer development riders and everyone in between, we seem to have the bases covered. I’m continually impressed and humbled by my teammates; they are such strong, outstanding women! It’s a really good mix and there’s no shortage of jokes, many of them focused around my off-the-bike fashion choices. If you get the chance, ask Olivia how much she loves my house pants.
We race all over the US and will be traveling to Canada for Gatineau. The schedule is pretty full-on, so I sometimes feel like I’m just visiting when I’m home in Portland. My personal season goals are a bit fluid, I’m the most content when I get to turn myself inside out for the team goals (such as keeping someone in yellow or going for the points jersey). I will also get the green light to go for individual stage results; everyone on the team gets this support when it makes the most sense. I’m still learning a lot racing at this level and I was really focused in my training over the off season, taking more time to train and cutting back a little at my day job. I’d like to be able to deliver in a finish and get some good individual results for the team this season.
Bikes are how you organize your life. Can you chat about how this is still very much the case in 2015? What bike adventures have you had?
I’m turning 30 this year and just remembered that and how I need to do something epic to celebrate. I’m planning a little MTB trip for that week that will be sandwiched between two team races, we’re thinking of going to shred in Park City, Utah. I’ve been getting out on the dirt as much as I can, it keeps a good balance. Road racing and training gets really intense, so the time on the mountain bike in the woods is a form of recharging my soul and giving my mind a different kind of challenge. The bike feels so much different, it’s so squishy and you can ride over anything!
So much of bike adventure is created by people. My friendships always become stronger when I spend all day on the bike with buddies, I learn so much about them not only through conversation, but also by all the nonverbal communication and spending hours pedaling alongside one another.
One of the best bike adventures to date happened in January when Olivia and Tayler came to Portland in January to ride back to NorCal for their annual winter super smash party. I escorted them on the first leg (and arguably the best day) of the trip from Portland to the coast. It’s always a gamble to do some big miles in the PNW in the wintertime; you’ll most likely experience the full range of moods from Mother Nature, from intense rain and wind to little pockets of sunshine. I took us over Nestucca River Road which is pure magic with a little bit of gravel. I had never ridden most the roads we were on and it is one of my favorite days on the bike, we did about 140 miles and I rode home 100 miles the next day (Rick Wiles drove me through the boring part of the ride so I could just start my solo trek in the beautiful countryside). We told so many stories and had a crazy fun time, they were especially amused (appalled?) by my choice of snacks (I eat corn dogs from gas stations when I ride my bike more than 100 miles in a day, you can judge me all you want).
Another adventure was in my own backyard. The Portland area is unmatched for urban-based road riding and I’m still discovering little hidden roads I’ve never been on that are all in a day’s ride. I was invited by a good friend to do a gravel ride last minute a couple months back and said yes (of course). We founds some of the raddest roads and I met a bunch of new people; some racers, others gravel addicts, all fun to ride bikes with. It ended up being a pretty crazy five hour day on the bike. At one point, we found ourselves on basically a hiking trail on road bikes. I liked this day a whole lot because it was unexpected, spontaneous, and showed me new places.
Bike culture is shifting/ changing. What excites you the most about where cycling is heading?
There are some really cool things emerging in bike culture and I’m most excited about the growth of women’s cycling, whether in competition and in the simple act of getting more women on bikes in all genres. Bike companies are developing women’s specific lines and/or including women’s needs more in the conversation. Companies like Velocio who are putting women at the forefront of their mission and design are really raising the bar for the industry, women don’t want cheap entry-level products and bikes and we don’t appreciate being an afterthought. We shred and crush just as hard (or harder) than the men and companies are finally taking note. Big UCI and USAC domestic races are adding multi-day women’s events to be run in tandem with the well-established men’s races and this is bringing well-deserved visibility to our side of the sport.
There is also a cool movement that has early roots here in Portland. Bikepacking (spearheaded by Donny Kolb) is becoming more mainstream and a lot of women are finding their stride here. Some friends of mine just launched a new kind of bike team, they are seeking adventure through bikepacking and are made up of a group of six women, they got support of top-notch companies and I’m looking forward to following their story. I’ve done some bike camping in the past and it’s something I would like to do more of someday when I’m not spending all of my time racing. It’s really interesting and empowering to see women creating new communities from their passions, this is making a nontraditional team (meaning one that isn’t a racing team) of women who love to adventure on bikes.
Your day job- you design, you help create. What inspires you? Who are your design heroes? What compels you in design?
For me, design is eclectic; everything can be used as inspiration, even (or especially) seemingly unrelated objects, ideas, concepts. Good design follows a logic, exists within constraints, and solves a problem. Design is infinitely complex and requires focused, rigorous, creative attention (I find a lot of parallels between design and bike racing, but that’s another idea all together). I’m compelled to design as a way to satisfy and explore my curiosities, it’s the way I understand and derive meaning in my day. When I design something, I always start with hand sketches. An idea begins in my mind and travels through my entire body and out my fingers onto paper; it’s a necessary process for me. Most complete design projects end up digitized these days, which is its own important piece of the process, but the hand drawing/sketching/conceptualizing is absolutely necessary for me. I find I view the world through a design filter, always asking: Could this be done better? How? What’s missing? Why are things done this way or why does this system exist in this format? Is it still contextually relevant? It’s a sort of critical yet open and exploratory way of viewing the world and my place in it.
I’m also inspired by people I collaborate with through design. The process of bringing people together to create always makes for unexpected, interesting results. The best solutions result from collaboration and are always more appropriate and interesting than any one person could accomplish.
Recently, I’ve been reading a lot more; short stories, novels, nonfiction, fiction. The content has been varied, but the writing itself is so good. I’ve found that reading has been a source of inspiration for design. I enjoy picking out patterns and find great joy in being surprised or amused by word or phrase combinations or a change in tone, unexpected moments in the story and I find I laugh at loud. Something about really good writing is motivating for me in general. The same is true for music, good music.
Shigeru Ban is my ultimate hero of design and architecture and has been since I discovered his work in college. I could go on and on about him, but really, this New Yorker article articulates everything perfectly. His work and ethos have been the biggest influence in the way I design, especially in my studies. Just reading about him or flipping through books about him gets me super jazzed, I get that physical excitement about design that originates deep in my gut.
Best bike story of 2015 so far?
All I can think about now are paper tube and timber buildings that solve all of the humanitarian needs in the whole world.
I think winning team GC, the sprint competition, and taking second in individual GC as a team at Redlands Cycling Classic this year is one of my favorite bike stories so far! We’ve been overlooked as a team in general by some race organizers so to be able to come out swinging and secure results at the first NRC race of the season is poignant. We’re competing against teams with substantially larger budgets than us, so we’re a bit of the dark horse and it’s suited us well so far, it gives us a little extra motivation.
A slightly different take on answering the question of best bike story of 2015 is the story of our hosts in Silver City, New Mexico for Tour of the Gila. Jim and Phyllis opened their home to us and I’m pretty sure that they are now my NM family or fake grandparents or something meaningful like that. Getting to know them and seeing how full of life they are in their retirement years was inspiring and we had great conversations. Phyllis started a community theater in which she both organizes and acts, does yoga, and goes for a walk every morning. Jim is an architect, builds wooden boats, sings in a barber shop quartet (well, typically, but they are currently looking for a bass), is pickleball champion in his age category, and builds model planes. They enjoy happy hour together each afternoon at any one of their outdoor patios. Phyllis drinks white wine and Jim prefers scotch. Becoming friends with these two reminded me how lucky I am to have cycling as my ticket to experience so many new places and people. Even though I had a rough Gila since I got sick and had to pull out early, the trip is one of the best of my 29 years!
Anna Grace Christiansen is a Velocio Advocate, a product tester and a staple of cycling in Portland, Oregon. Follow her adventures online here or through her Instagram channel.
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