Megan Guarnier: Why I Ride…
We chat to Megan Guarnier – the winner of the first-ever Women's World Tour – about podium spots, pizza and getting women’s cycling in the public eye…
As the first-ever winner of the Women's World Tour (a six-month season of gruelling races), Megan Guarnier is a cycling legend who just happens to be a bit of a laugh. She’s also up for a slice of pizza or two.
When we meet her in London, she’s just flown in from America and she’s in high spirits (despite the jetlag) having just picked up the Voxwomen Rider of the Year Award.
After a year of spectacular wins, including the Giro Rosa and Tour of California, the ‘Voxy’ award is recognition of a stunning season. Here, she gives us a glimpse of the work that goes in to becoming World Tour winner and talks about what we all need to do to get the women’s sport in the public eye. Oh, and pizza.
Your first biking memory is…
"I get a lot of flack about this one from my family. When I was about six or seven, my family and I used to go on weekend outings to a place called Lake George. It was about 10 miles away and we would go there and back on our bikes...
Except for this one time when we were about 8 miles from home. I got off my bike, put it on the side of the road and couldn’t be coaxed back on. I was really stubborn. I wasn’t going anywhere. My grandfather had to wait with me at the side of the road while my mum and dad went and got the car. Cycling wasn’t really looking like an option back then!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Nothing is easy. Whether it’s life or cycling, it can be super frustrating when there’s no clear path.
I’ve been in this sport 10 years. When you’re in it and you’re not winning and you don’t see how to win, it can be really frustrating. You think, ‘why am I doing this, what’s the point, what’s the end goal?’
So I’d tell my younger self to find a support network, set your goals and don’t get too frustrated too soon.
What do you think has made the difference this year?
My coach, Corey Hart, has been incredible. I’ve had the same coach for almost 10 years now. He has created the foundations for my success with lots of hard work and a vision of me that I didn’t see in myself.
That and having a strong and supportive team. They have gotten the rides out of me that I would never have believed. They have given me the strength to go out there and do it. When you have that respect for your team-mates and they believe in you, you think, ‘maybe I can.’
What would you say is the best ride of your life?
I think the Strade Bianche (a road race in Tuscany, Italy) in 2015 was a standout ride for me. There had been many seasons where I’d been working really hard and not having much personal success.
That was the first time I won a big international race. It made a statement and was a real confidence booster. Strade Bianche is one seriously hard race, so that was a big breakthrough ride.
When were you happiest on a bike?
I’m always happiest when I’m on a recovery ride. That’s when you know that you have done the solid training and your body needs a break to get stronger. I sound a bit lazy saying that, but that’s when you feel you can be confident and happy with what you have done already.
What keeps you awake at night?
My brain. It just runs and runs with all these things that seem really important at the time. Things like, ‘did I pack my shampoo?’. You wake up in the morning and you're like, ‘really, that’s what I was so stressed about?’
In 5 years you’ll be able to say…
I won the world tour…
It’s such a big goal that I think it’s impossible to say. The thing that makes it so special is that The World Tour is such an elusive thing. Again, there’s no clear path. You can never say, ‘I do this, this and this and then I win.’ It’s dynamic, there are so many elements feeding in and it’s always changing…
Your bucket list bike ride?
I’d love to go to the Alps. Amazingly, I have never raced in the Alps.
Does your husband, Billy, ride?
He used to, but he stopped racing in 2012 to support me. Again, I’m so fortunate. I have the most amazing support network. He went all out to support me and make sure I had what I needed to pursue my crazy bike dream.
It’s your last day on earth. Where do you ride and who with?
Vermont with my husband.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
All sorts of them. Chocolate. Ice cream. And pizza because there are a million ways to prepare it!
What do you think needs to happen for women’s cycling to become more prominent in the public eye?
There’s teamwork on the bike, but I think there needs to be just as much teamwork in different parts of the industry to make this sport successful, from the media to the riders to the advertisers.
In order for the sport to grow, we need more media exposure, which requires race directors to invest in making our race available to the fans, whether via live streams, television, or a race recap. Further, we need the fans to voice their demand for viewing our races. With this, sponsors will be more interested in investing money into the sport as our exposure grows and more people become aware of the sport. There are a lot of moving parts, but I think it can be done and I think we are on the right path.
You can follow Megan @MeganGuarnier
Follow more of the women’s sport with Voxwomen
Main image: Wouter Roosenboom