Storytellers | Maude: The Dark Horse. September 24 2018, 1 Comment

A couple of months ago, I saw this image pop up on Instagram.  Instantly, I thought "Good for her!"  And then I thought, "Hey that's our kit!"  So I messaged Maude and asked if we could chat abut her experience at the San Rafael Sunset Criterium: a pretty well known cycling event in the San Francisco Bay Area.  [BTW: What is a Criterium, you ask?  Read >>> HERE <<<]    

Maude is a phenom, an incredibly strong athlete, who's pretty fresh to the cycling scene.  We had a chat about how she got into cycling, and what she loves about it.

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Alexis:             

So tell me a little about how you got started cycling.

Maude:           

So my first bike was a little bit of a funky thing. I was back in New Hampshire trying to find a bridesmaid dress for my best friend's wedding and the shop had a really long wait time, but next door there was a bike shop and so I thought, "I want to go shop for a bike." And I walked in and had no idea what I was shopping for or looking for but I wanted a bike I can ride on the dirt and do distance stuff, but I didn't know.  And the guy said, "Okay, I have the perfect one for you." And I bought this bike from a women's track team at a huge discount. I was like, sure, it's pretty nice ride.

And then that was where I started really cycling on trails and for exercise rather than just for commuting. And after spending a summer getting familiar with gravel, my partner said, "I think you're a really strong cyclist, we should get you a road bike." And I found a really sweet deal on a road bike and ended up purchasing it and it's a very different feeling being on a road bike than gravel but they're both pretty awesome.

I went out for the first road ride I'd ever done on a Sunday and I had not done super well in this 50K [running] race that I had run the day before. I had bonked and had to stop and sit down for an hour and I was just really bummed out and I decided to go for a bike ride with Matt and we road Hawk Hill and I rode it in eight minutes and he was like, "Wait, how fast?" And so that was the start of thinking I might have something unique here.

And then I started incorporating more and more cycling into my running. And now I'd say I spend half and half of my time per week cycling or running. But yeah. It's been really exciting to be in crits and have such a different style of racing that's super punchy and challenging and quick and just really intense for a relatively short amount of time.

Alexis:             

So you really just started racing, and this is what you'd call your breakout year. The San Rafael Sunset Criterium was your fifth, or so, race.  So when you came to this pretty iconic race, what was it like arriving? Were you like, oh my god, this is bigger than I thought?

Maude:           

Yeah. Matt had said, "Do you want to come race this weekend?" And I had run another running race the weekend before so the weekend of San Rafael I was chilling and not doing a really big run and I was like, "Yeah, sure, a bike race sounds great." And so we arrived and all of a sudden I thought, "Oh, wait, this is a pretty big deal. There are a lot of people here." And "Holy shit, I'm racing some really, really fast women." So I got pretty nervous and was thinking, "I have no idea what I'm doing. What if I crash, I'm terrified. What if I just get dropped?"

I was definitely pretty freaked out about the whole thing but then of course, you get on your bike and warm up and all of a sudden I started to feel a lot better and then we got to the start line and when we got going, I don't know, you just zone into it and I really like the intensity and the focus of racing. And then okay: let's think about this decision and how it might impact the next primary race, and the pushing and the pulling and the falling behind and the patience that you have to have, too. So yeah. It was definitely the most competitive race I have rode in because we were racing with the 3’s as well. But it was thrilling. It was so sick.

Alexis:             

So they put you all together, Cat 3, 4, 5?

Maude:       

Yeah. It was a 3, 4, 5 race, so two 3’s ended up outsprinting me in the very last little bit. We were neck and neck up until the finish line. But I was pretty foolish. I led the most of the race. I was just out in the front pulling, which is just so stupid, but I felt a really strong headwind on the backside, and I was thinking, "I really don't think I should be here right now. I don't know why I'm in the front. This is really stupid." But I was like, "I don't really know how else to do this." I think part of that was definitely an amateur move. But it's also just my style. I'm a really aggressive person. I like to compete. I like to push it. I like to put myself out there.

My partner's always saying, "You just put in all this extra work," and I say, "Yeah, but I like working hard." It was pretty funny because it was like, definitely amateur, but at the same time, I was like, I don't know how I would have ridden any other way. Especially without a team.

Alexis:             

Right.

Maude:           

Yeah. It was a hilarious race but it was awesome.

Alexis:             

Yeah. So I don't even know anything about racing a crit. Do you count the laps, how do you even know how many you’ve done?  And you've got to strategize, and know how when you can hold back and when you can push it.

Maude:           

Yeah. Exactly. You're talking to maybe the least educated person on racing crits. I think there's a lot of thought that goes into positioning and because it is so fast and there are so many turns, it's not like a road race where you're sitting on a tail wind or you can have a breakaway group that gets away from the pack. In a crit, there's not a lot of space to do that and you're already going so fast that if you did want to break away, you'd have to really, really, really punch it.

And so crits are hard because you're really grouped. You can only get strung out if the leaders are really willing to work. And so it's just, it's kind of stressful, right? Because you never really feel like you're in a safe place. So it is really like being on the hunt, but on a much more intense, short-lived way. But racing crit definitely takes more strategy than I have learned thus far. And I think it's really helpful to have teammates working together and having a strategy going into it. Do you know what a preme lap is?

Alexis:             

No.

Maude:           

I didn't either. And one of my races, they announced, "Okay, no preme laps on this race, ladies." And I thought, okay, I don't know what that is. And then we were coming around in front of the speaker and the speaker was like, "Okay, actually, this is a preme lap, sorry." And so they rang the bell. And so all of a sudden, it was in Santa Cruz and these women came up on me and they were really in front of me and I was like, hmm that's interesting. I don't know why they're doing that now and then they passed in front of me, and then they fell back. I thought, "That was odd." So we finished the race and then I said, "Hey, do you guys know what a preme is?" And they all laughed and were like, "We couldn't figure out why you weren't going."  A preme is basically if you win that one lap, you get a prize.

Alexis:             

Ah.

Maude:           

So it's like a one-time, a one-lap prize.

And so I had no idea. I maybe could have one the preme. I don't know. It doesn't really matter. But it's just so funny, because they said, "We didn't know why you weren't fighting. You were just sitting back there. We were just like, 'Oh, okay.' " It's stuff like that that I'm just learning a lot about.

Alexis:               

It's pretty cool that you're bold enough to just do that. No team and just enter and you learn as you go and you try as hard as you can and you win. That's pretty cool. Other than that, how have you learned about things like etiquette and race etiquette and what to do?

Maude:           

My partner has been really excited about this, obviously — we share this and we ride together a lot — he'll share tips and tricks every now and then and give me advice or, say "hey, this is a really cool thing I learned." But for the most part when I'm riding in crits or just on a road race or around others, I try to watch and observe the people around me. I really like watching people. I'm a pretty detailed-oriented and curious person. So a lot of the nuances and styles of racing, I just take from the women that I see and I'm watching that are either in front of me. I'll watch how they're riding.  If you're in the race, you can see the good and the bad. And for the most part, I'm just trying to mimic the people around me and use them as an example and pull from their experience.

So that's been really cool and I think it's one of the things that I like about racing, is first of all, you're in a pack of 30 women, which is so sick because there's just and other time that you can be around and learning and working with that many women around you. And I love it. I'm a huge feminist and supporter of women. So that is really rad.

But a lot of their skill-based stuff has been that, just watching. And then the experience of pushing myself out of my comfort zone with cycling in moments that I'm like, "I know this really scares me, I know that I'm nervous. Let me just try to relax." And so moving in that direction and slowly getting through and pushing through my fear in a whole lot of aspects of cycling has helped me get better skills and hone certain techniques. Especially descending on gravel. At first, I was really into the brakes. I'd get down to the bottom of the hill and I'd think, "God, the only thing that really hurts are my hands because I'm squeezing the breaks so hard." You know? You get so nervous and white-knuckled and learning how to really relax and flow has been hard and is really rewarding because of course, when you start relaxing, that's when the real fun happens.

Alexis:             

Yeah. And then in terms of learning about the sport through other women, are there any particular women who are your role models or that you look up to?

Maude:           

Oh yeah. I watch Coryn Rivera. She's just so speedy and strong. It's absolutely crazy to me. But I haven't really built a solid community of people I'm really familiar with quite yet.  And I'm really looking forward to getting more into cycling and expanding that community for me. In terms of people that specifically inspire me, I don't know.  Anyone that is willing to try something new and play and have a good time and know why suffering can be fun are my friends.

I have a friend Eileen and she was a really competitive cyclist in college and she doesn't race anymore, but she's still really, really into cycling. And we haven't ridden in a while but I remember climbing a hill with her when I got my road bike this last winter and we just connected on this level.  We can't really speak as to why it is that we find sick satisfaction in heaving and huffing up these climbs, but you get to the top and it's just this sense of immense satisfaction. 

You know, and I think surrounding yourself with people that have that attitude and that mentality, that's what I dig a lot.

Alexis:             

Yeah. It is a weird sport in that way. I didn't start riding until I was probably 30 and I had no endurance. No base. I had ran a half marathon.  I took up riding because I couldn't run anymore because I injured my lower back but building and having endurance and learning to suffer is strangely fun. Right? It's weird. Either you like to do it or you don't. And the people that don't understand it think we're crazy. I think in that aspect, cycling does just become a community like that because we're a bunch of weirdos.

Maude:           

Yeah totally. Totally. I won't diminish the fact that I am pretty strong in the saddle and I can ride really hard, but for me, it's not about that.  A lot of people are like, "I can't ride with you, you ride too fast." That's never the case. It's about sharing these things and if you're pushing yourself and challenging yourself, I want to share that. I don't need to be the fastest all the time. I'm not here to ride against you. I want to ride with people. I think that has been really fun to get in the saddle and share that with people.

Alexis:             

Definitely.  When you are getting ready for a race, everything is so important. Your bike has to be dialed.  You don't want any type of mechanical, everything's got to be ideal.  So when you reach into your drawer, when you decided to pull on your Lexi Miller jersey and shorts, you had to have a certain amount of confidence that you're going to be comfortable.

Maude:           

Totally.

Alexis:             

That it isn't going to move around, that you could be racing a gazillion laps at high speeds and know that it was going to work for you. So can you give a couple words on that thought process? Why you chose to wear that as opposed to something else?

Maude:           

What I love about it is that the kit is just the best. I haven't owned something that's so well-made and actually that quality. I could wear this every single time I race and never feel like it was going to fall apart or wouldn't be the right choice. I find it incredibly comfortable and movement and being able to feel like your clothes are part of you and not just something that's on you is I think really important, especially with cycling because so much of it is efficiency and movement. So yeah. Definitely a level of comfort and quality and feeling very confident and like the materials themselves.

And San Rafael was hot. I mean, maybe black wasn't the best choice but I knew that I would be able to perspire and my stuff wasn't going to get soaked and cling to my body. It was a really good choice. Yeah. That's stuff that went through my mind. Definitely. And hoping it was clean.

Alexis:             

Yeah. Well, that's awesome to hear because I do this because I want to give women quality and also allow them to feel feminine but not girly. And again, so much of the style emanates from guys. I'm personally not a fan of bib shorts. I just don't want anything extra on my shoulders. My feeling is, we have hips, and that's what can hold your shorts in place. Guys need suspenders, women have hips.

Maude:           

It's so funny you say that. My boyfriend's always saying, "You gotta get some bib shorts." And I say, "Why? I have to take all my clothes off if I want to go to the bathroom.

Alexis:             

Exactly.

Maude:           

That's so silly. Why would I do that? And he's like, "Because your shorts have to stay up." My shorts do, stay on.  Do your shorts stay on?  I was so confused.

Alexis:             

They do. Exactly.

Maude:           

I love the shorts. The long tights, I love them. They're super high-waisted and they're incredibly flattering. I swear, I look pretty damn good in them. That's a huge piece of it, too just being like, hell yeah. These look great. My sisters are pretty jealous.

Alexis:             

Oh wait, your sister rides too?

Maude:           

She's really into it. The long tights are a lifesaver in the San Francisco summer. I wear them all the time.

Alexis:             

Yeah. They're super comfortable. I mean, and it's the kind of thing you just don't know until you've wore a lot of different apparel, and you may think, "It's just another pair of black shorts, why do I need those?" So having your testimonial is really valuable, I think, for other women and also validating for me and makes me so happy because I'm doing this for women so they can be more comfortable in so many ways on their bikes. The way they look, the way they feel. And just knowing that it resonates with you just makes me super happy. Seeing that picture last week just carried me through the whole week because you know, it's a small operation and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. And again, when guys are the tastemakers and the drivers of what women should be wearing in this industry, I'm like, "Hey wait, we can make it slightly different and still super functional and have our own style and we're not sacrificing anything." You know?

Maude:           

Yeah. Definitely.  It's really cool to hear that and it's cool to hear where all of your commitment comes from. I'm a huge fan of anything that's driven by creating the platform that women can share their thoughts and their ideas and be individuals. I feel like we don't always have that. So it's really dope to hear that and I'm a huge fan of it.

Alexis:             

And I really appreciate that it resonates with you because there are so many perceptions and people think if it's pretty or it's feminine, then it must be for a recreational ride. Or, "that's nice if you want to go slower or something." So you just validate a lot for me, and you’re proving naysayers wrong. And I really appreciate that. It would be super fun to ride sometime, too.

Maude:           

Definitely.  I'd definitely be down to meet up and hang out on the road.

Alexis:             

Thank you so much for your time, again.

Maude:           

Yeah. It was great to finally chat with you.

Alexis:             

Yeah, you too. All right. Have a good weekend.