Alison Powers visits Fraser Valley home, takes a breather from bike racing
Grand County, Colorado
After winning two national cycling championship titles this year, Alison Powers, Winter Park’s skier-turned-bike racer, has ended her second season of professional racing and is setting her sights on new challenges for next year.
In the meantime, Powers has been spending a few days resting and visiting her parents Graham and Louise Powers in Fraser. On Tuesday, she cycled over to the Sky-Hi Daily News office in Granby for an interview about her new career as a professional bike racer.
Skiing vs. biking
“Being a bike racer is so different from being a ski racer,” Powers said. “In bike racing, it’s more physically challenging because you have to train and race day after day. In comparison, ski racing is more mentally tiring because you have to memorize the course and be completely focused because you can’t afford to make a mistake in a race that lasts about 1-1/2 minutes. Skiing is much more of a skill sport, while cycling is more physical.”
While there are obvious differences between the two sports, Powers said being a racer in either has its similarities.
“Whether skiing or cycling, both sports require a lot of training, conditioning, nutrition and preparation,” she said. “Being an athlete is really the same no matter what the sport. And I like being an athlete very much.”
Now that she is a cyclist, does she miss ski racing?
“Actually, not one bit,” Powers said. “I prolonged it more than I should and waited too long to quit. After I did and I got to Vermont to become a ski coach, I started liking my bike more than the snow.”
After trying her first citizens bike race there, Powers said she became hooked on the sport.
“I was so surprised at how well I did,” she said. “And it was so easy. After being a skier for so many years, I already knew how to be an athlete. Then in July 2006 of my amateur season, the teams began approaching me and asking me to join, I said to myself, ‘Oh boy, here we go again.'”
When the Colavita/Sutter Home team asked her to join and become a professional rider, Powers said she did not hesitate in accepting the offer.
“It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “I knew that I didn’t want to be a ski coach forever and I loved riding my bike. It was a real honor to be asked to join a professional team.
“Also, it was the chance to be an athlete again and to race around the country and the world.”
Being a member of a professional cycling team has been a real eye-opener for Powers, who had to learn a lot about team tactics.
“One of the things I learned is how important it is to support the team in races,” she said. “But it’s a lot of fun and I’ve been cycling with a great bunch of girls. It’s been a neat experience and still is.”
Powers confessed that the downside of her experience was this spring when she joined the U.S. National Cycling Team during its European tour.
“It was so much more intense and I wasn’t enjoying it as much,” she said. “I began to forget how to race and was just trying to survive day after day. There was a lot of pressure and I began to ask myself why I was racing.”
After 10 weeks of intense training, traveling and racing in Europe, Powers came back home to the United States determined to refocus her efforts.
“I came to the realization about racing and why I liked it,” she said. “It had to be fun, and not all about getting caught up in the results. I realized that all the pressure wasn’t worth it. So I came back, took some time off, visited family and friends.”
Taking that different approach paid off because the second half of Powers’ season was when her results improved dramatically and she won those two national championship titles.
“I’d set myself the goal of winning the time trial championship at the nationals seven months prior to it,” she said. “Winning it was really something special.”
In September, she got an invitation to go back to Europe with the U.S. Cycling Team, but decided against it. Instead, she wanted to try something different, which was bicycle racing on an indoor track at the Cycling Track Nationals.
“I’d never raced on an indoor track before, but it sounded like fun,” Powers said. “Everything about it was a surprise, including winning that team championship title.”
New team, new challenges
Now that her 2008 season has ended, Powers said she is already planning some changes for her third year as a professional bike racer.
“Next year, I want to step back and race more in the U.S.,” she said. “And I’ve just been given a chance to be a team leader.”
Powers has decided to leave the Colavita/Sutter Home team and has been offered the opportunity to be the captain of the new women’s cycling team called the Type One Diabetes Team.
Sponsored by a number of pharmaceutical companies, the team is a mix of professional riders and riders with diabetes. Type One Diabetes has already fielded a men’s team this past season.
“I’d not just be racing to promote a commercial company but for a cause,” she said. “The idea behind the team is to promote health and wellness and improve the lives of people who have diabetes. And it’s a cool opportunity for me to teach other riders what I’ve already learned as a professional rider. I’m really excited about this.”
While she will be the team leader and mentor for the other riders, Powers emphasized that she is not gearing back on her ambitions as an athlete.
“I still want to win every race I enter,” she said. “I’ve never done anything halfway. I’m 100 percent committed to try to win every stage race, prologue and time trial that I enter next year.
“And I’ll be defending my national champion titles.”
Looking further down the line, Powers said the 2012 London Olympics may be something she will shoot for.
“I’ve wanted to compete in the Olympics since I was 5 years old,” she said. “But right now I don’t have a Big Picture goal. Some coaches would say that’s bad, but at this time I just want to take it one step at a time and keep it fun.”
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