Long-time CTS Athlete Alison Tetrick will be contributing posts to the Trainright Blog, telling stories and sharing lessons learned during her career racing at the highest levels of road and gravel cycling. In addition to consulting for many outdoor brands, Alison has launched AMT Bandanas, a line of one-of-a-kind bandanas that bring to life why we ride and enjoy the outdoors. Proceeds from the sales of the bandanas go towards creating scholarship opportunities to bring more women and diversity into the sport of cycling.
“Hello, I’m Alison Tetrick.” In my head, I hear this statement in the tone of, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”. However, I know I am a little too upbeat for that drawl, so let’s just pretend that it happened.
Let’s talk sports for life. Not that sports are life, but how your health, goals, and training regime become an integral part of your lifestyle. Not your identity, but a valuable puzzle piece in this thing called life and the ways we can impact others, and ourselves, with sports.
I am a cowgirl turned collegiate tennis player turned UCI World Tour professional cyclist turned endurance/gravel/give-me-back-my-life cyclist and industry consultant. I have taken a unique path to discover my athletic and career calling. This calling is never complete. I believe in the life-long quest of growth and development. I have been a professional cyclist since 2009 and have raced around the world at the highest levels. My career has taken me to the most beautiful places to race a bike, and also the most dire. Who doesn’t love Belgium in the spring, where every ride includes the shower of manure across your bike, back, and bottles? But that is the beauty and challenge of bike racing. It’s a vaunted position, to be riding with the greatest of my generation, to be told I can win, to be humbled daily, and to occasionally taste that elusive glory that stories are made of. Then, to be able to pivot and walk away with head held high, satisfied with so much completed, and excited for so much yet to be accomplished. Sports don’t define you, they refine you, push you, challenge you, prove you. Sports are the best teachers.
From Cowgirl to College
Born in Solvang, California and raised on a cattle ranch nearby in Los Alamos, I grew up with dreams as wide as the horizon. If you have ever participated in the CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo, you know my home roads. I didn’t play organized sports because the commute was too long and there were all the ranch chores to do. But that was perfect. My parents instilled strength and power in their two daughters. Both of my parents are incredible athletes, my dad playing football at UCLA, and they made activity and adventure a part of our daily routine. From throwing spirals before dinner, hiking to check the cows’ water, and horse packing in the wilderness surrounding the ranch. It wasn’t official sport, but it was the foundation for wild and free determination and grit. Cowgirl (or person) Up.
I played tennis in high school and earned a NCAA college scholarship and a biochemistry degree. This launched my next phase of my life, working in chemistry research and drug discovery, but I still had the yearning for something directly competitive. I took up endurance running, which transitioned quickly into triathlon, and I found success and gratification. There was something magical about endurance sports. The direct correlation of time and effort into performance. Sports on a graph that I could track. You know the feeling, don’t you? Pure bliss.
Discovering the Euphoria of Cycling
My grandfather, a 17 x USA Cycling Masters National Champion, kept elbowing me to try racing a bike. He passed away a few years ago but was racing and winning at 85 years old. Proof that sports are ageless. I thought bike racing was the dorkiest thing I have ever seen. The neon hues, the awkwardly tight outfits, but I made the leap and bought a used T-Mobile bike off of eBay in 2008. I was convinced it was the legend Mari Holden’s steed, but now, I realize, as she has been my team director, mentor and dear friend for many years, we definitely do not ride the same size frame. I clipped in, barely, to the bike and I was riding into my new calling. The wide-open spaces from my childhood beckoned me and I kept riding into the euphoric feelings of freedom and infinite possibility.
As the wheel turns, I met Charlie Livermore, who is now a CTS coach, and he helped bring my cycling cadence above 65 rpm. I finally entered my first bike race on Charlie’s borrowed race wheels and Mari’s trusty T-Mobile (ok, it wasn’t hers). And then, winning! My Grampy was thrilled and called immediately after, eager to hear the full race report. And, just around the next corner was my next chapter of life on the bike.
The Pinnacle and The Crash
Within a few months of racing, I was headed to Colorado Springs to the USA Olympic Training Center for a Talent ID Camp with USA Cycling. Grampy knew what I didn’t: cycling was always in my blood. This is where my career as a professional cyclist began. Racing on the USA National Team, we won the Giro Donne with fellow CTS Athlete, Mara Abbott. Not only was this the first time an American had won the Giro, it was the first time a National team had won the most prestigious race in women’s cycling. It was the best year of my cycling life, and also the worst year. I had a crash that, besides the life flight helicopter ride I don’t remember, shattered my pelvis and left me with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Racing in the Pan American Games the next year, I suffered another crash and concussion that exacerbated the previous TBI. It was lights out.
On the road to recovery, I was still racing and performing, but life was foggy as I was fighting through depression and many other symptoms from my TBI. This journey is when I realized that identifying myself as a cyclist was wrong. I am not just a cyclist; I am a daughter, friend, granddaughter, scientist, and so much more. Sports aren’t life. They are for life, and that means we need to use them to make us stronger and not suffocate other important resources vital for our well-being. I needed a coach and direction.
Creating a Meaningful Return to Racing
I was podium presenting at the Colorado Pro Challenge and I met Chris Carmichael and the CTS team who were completing their own ride as part of the CTS Bucket List events. We immediately connected, and as coaches do, he recognized my search for meaning and focus within my sport. He reached out later and put me in touch with Dean Golich.
Dean Golich. That name deserves reverence. Dean coached me from 2012 to 2017. He instilled confidence and wisdom in me daily, tempered with high doses of reality. He brought me from a trepidatious road racer to standing on the UCI World Championship podium and then onto winning and setting the course record at the DK200 (now UnBound) and 3 x Gravel World Champion. Through his guidance, I learned to recognize when I wanted to move on from road cycling and chose my own destiny on the gravel roads that were calling me. The decision was mine. I just needed to make it.
Creating Opportunities Through Sports
Transitioning from road racing to gravel events, I began working with Adam Pulford. Coach AP. Adam is one of the smartest individuals I know, and he just gets me. I still train almost the same amount, but I have the experience now to train smarter and more efficiently. Sometimes we need to be reined in and inspired, and other days we need to be encouraged to push our limits. Most importantly, coaches understand life balance and when you need to take a week off with your family to go wine tasting, because that may improve performance more than that set of intervals previously on the schedule. And by the way, it is always the perfect time to spend time with family, especially with wine tasting.
I am excited to share with you the lessons I have learned, and continue to learn, from CTS. I love structured workouts as much as you, but also, using sports as a tool to empower and create opportunity is critical to my success not only as an athlete but as a human being.
I am Alison Tetrick, and CTS has changed my life by putting my health and happiness at the forefront. I look forward to sharing my stories from the road and gravel with you. For now, cheers to the good life we can all share. Just remember, you are more than your sport, but sports empower your life. What are we going to do with it?