WORDS: RACHEL PARKER
From the volcanic ash, to the silty loam, to the sectors chock full of chunky baby head rocks, sprinkle in some swoopy switchbacks, steep climbs, water crossings, sand pits, ‘til brown pow is flowing thru my bloodstream. At some point along there the world started making sense, I trusted the traction, and everything started to click. I stopped questioning whether whatever before me was rideable and committed to reading the lines and pedaling thru the uncertainty. Grinduro taught me a lot and I feel different at a cellular level. With proper recovery between the timed segments I had the punch to SEND IT! The dirt was holy as hell, and a conversion process may have taken place. Nothing is out of my wheelhouse.
Although I’ve only even attended a few, I’ve often found gravel races to be a little lonely as a black woman, queer person, road rider whose strengths err on the side of the tarmac, but this one welcomed me with open arms. Grinduro was very clear that she didn’t care about my power to weight ratio, or how aero my setup was, or where I was positioned in the pack. It was refreshing to show up to a race and release the responsibility of being my own biggest critic. It’s empowering to be so new and green at something, to treat my riding style and race strategy as an approach to a blank canvas.
Developing my racecraft has been challenging, and I’ve been riding the waves that come with taking risks, and throwing oneself fully into the learning curve of road racing. My racecraft is like an ecosystem with weather patterns, different lifeforms, and landscapes. Despite the difficulties that come along with really grasping its dynamics, there’s an unwavering voice inside me that insists on chasing my goals, and to constantly stop counting myself out no matter what my aspirations are.
While at Grinduro CA, I sat down with Tiffany Cromwell to talk about the importance of mentorship for anyone developing a skill or profession. I’ve looked up to Canyon/SRAM as a team ever since I started following Women’s WorldTour racing, specifically because of their standards regarding salary, insurance, and maternity leave. Tiffany has been racing since way before we received that WorldTour status. She affirmed what I’ve noticed about bike racing in the states, that we lack solid development programs that give riders a pathway into racing at the highest level. Despite the challenges that arise as one blossoms as a rider, I’m grateful to have found a sport that challenges me in so many ways, and a beautiful community of teammates and competitors that have the common goal of pushing womens racing forward in more just and equitable systems.
Cycling is a very spiritual sport, and I want to embrace the vulnerability that comes with the process of evolving within it. I have found profound release in the expression that is bike racing. As the emotions flow, movement is what drives me to transcend my doubts and insecurities as a rider. Embodiment is a PHENOMENON, and I hope to keep exploring it through different mediums.
The way I see it, one should never put oneself in a box of any sort. I invite others to challenge the limits of how we are perceived, to take that box, set it ablaze, and express ourselves without restriction. I invite you to the universe of possibilities that awaits.