On Riding and Writing: Reflections from Professional Cyclist Alexis Ryan of CANYON//SRAM

As part of the Stinner focus on the Spring Classics, we wanted to understand what the Classics, what racing in Europe, means for the racers themselves. They are the ones surrounded by the community of fans, immersed in a sensory onslaught full of European tradition, pleasant and unpleasant.

Alexis Ryan is a young cyclist out of Ventura, California, a city just south of Santa Barbara. She is racing professionally for the CANYON//SRAMwomen's team out of Europe where she'll be spending much of the season. Alexis is one of the top young American cyclists and also one of the most cerebral and well read. With CANYON//SRAM, she'll be racing most of the major Classics and she's offered to write about her time abroad. Alexis will be providing an alternative view, an inward looking approach to just what cycling and racing the Classics means to her throughout the Spring season.These won't be explicit race reports but will provide insights about culture and her own pursuits on and off the bike.

With that, in her own words, meet Alexis Ryan, professional cyclist.

An Introduction

I wake up slowly, peacefully. There is no alarm. Alarms are for early race starts and airport runs. I stretch each limb and listen to the distinct whaling of fatigued muscles. I half-roll, half-fall out of bed and shuffle to the kitchen. Bleary-eyed, in need of revival, I assume my morning routine: boil water, weigh and hand-grind 25 grams of coffee beans—this morning it is Ethiopia Shakiso—brew 16 ounces in a Kalita Wave 185, and consume.

Planting myself in front of the computer, I write and rewrite this introduction. I am not having much success. I find writing about myself to be very difficult. All of my attempts have ended in tangents, mainly TMI-scenarios. Starting over, this is attempt number: I cannot count that high.

I was born and raised in the sleepy, beach-bum town of Ventura, California. I still live in Ventura, though during the racing season I am a transient guest. Cycling is a family affair in the Ryan-household. I learned to ride a bike soon after learning how to walk. At 21 years old, this will be my thirteenth year racing and fourth year as a professional. I ride for the Germany-based women’s world tour team, CANYON//SRAM Racing.

When Danny Katz asked me to contribute to the Freedom Project, I seized the opportunity. I am not a writer by trade, but my uncommon career choice gives me a perspective on life that is worth sharing. My contributions will not be race reports, because the objective is not to bore you to tears. What I want to accomplish with these writings is to share the reasons behind why I ride, what life is like on the road, the ins and outs of European racing. I will be racing a majority of the iconic spring classics, starring cobbles and bergs. Tour of California and Giro d’Italia are also present on my schedule. There will be plenty of opportunities for me to exercise the most neglected muscle in cycling: the brain. Hopefully, I am successful in my writing pursuits and you enjoy the content I produce. My first race of the season, and the topic of my first Freedom Project contribution, opens with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 27th.

Document saved. I look over my training schedule once more and close the computer. Motivation, check. Equipment, check. I am pedaling up the street with heavy legs. The wind is howling at thirty miles per hour. I will see no one on a bike for the next four hours, save my shadow.