She was born in New York and she lives in Europe. She was meant to be a sprinter and she is now one of the best climbers in the women’s peloton. She has an italian family name … that looks french … and she is half irish! She likes rats, mice … and spekkies.
This kaleidoscopic rider is Megan Guarnier and we’ve loved talking to her.
R&M: We women’s cycling fanatics know quite a few things about you, your achievements, teams and the like but I’d love you to describe yourself from a different angle (you choose the perspective)
MG I’m actually a science geek, neuroscience to be specific. I love science. I love reading about it or hearing about it on NPR. My “radio crush” is actually Ira Flatow from the program Science Friday on NPR, thankfully I can listen to it overseas with podcasts and the internet. In college, I spent 3 years working in a lab with rats and mice…..beakers, Bunsen burners, pipettes, the whole deal….hahaha. If all goes to plan I will go back to that world after my cycling career.
R&M Before becoming a cyclist you were a swimmer, how come the switch from one sport to the other?
MG For the final 4 years of my swimming career, I suffered severe shoulder/arm pain and numbness. I went to Middlebury College with the intention of swimming. My freshman year there, I was spending too much time in physical therapy (~1hour/day) on top of morning and evening swim practice and dryland. Surgery was discussed, however, the doctors suggested that the damage to my shoulder was so encompassing that surgery was unlikely to get me to a pain free point. At that point, I reassessed my swimming career, and decided that I was at school to study and learn. I spent 13 years in the pool, and I decided to take a step back from the sport and maybe dabble in triathlon. My uncle had encouraged me to participate in a few triathlons in high school, and I enjoyed them. I trained for triathlon that winter, and in the spring a friend on my freshman hall asked me to go to a bike race. I went to an Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference bike race, and immediately fell in love.
R&M You moved from team Tibco to Europe: Rabobank last year, now Boels. Apparently, you are fond of dutch teams, aren’t you?
MG You are right: I love working with the Dutch. In my experience, they are straight-forward, hard-working, organized people. What I like is that you can be very candid and I appreciate this. There is a respect and trust that comes with being allowing people to have and share their thoughts and opinions. I joke that I was meant to be on a Dutch team because I love spekkies, appelstroop, and hagelslag!
R&M Tell us some gossip we’d never have thought of about those teams
MG Gossip…..kind of going with the above question: everything is quite transparent. I was introduced to the wonderful treat of Spekkies after races on Rabobank! Maybe Spekkies is the secret weapon?
R&M With the new signings, Boels has become one of the strongest teams in women’s cycling this season, certainly threatening the 3 top teams’ hegemony: Rabo-Liv, Orica-Ais and Specialized-Lululemon. What are your big goals as a team this year?
MG We are actually the third ranked team right now! My big team goal for the year is to have a Boels rider on the podium at every race (preferably on the top step!). We have such a breadth and depth of talent that we have many scenarios in which we can achieve this. The World Championships Team Time Trial is something that would be really nice to have success in as a team. It is a really beautiful event.
R&M And as an individual rider?
MG I want to win!
R&M Lizzie said after winning Drenthe (she’s in a great shape and the team did a fantastic work there) that Binda suits you and they will work for you there. How do you see it?
MG I think we have such a strong team that any one of us can shine at Binda. There is an amazing feeling within the team, that I know whoever is our finisher at Binda we will be proud and happy as a team. I am looking forward to an exciting race at Binda though!
R&M Your mechanic Richie Steege is one of our women’s cycling heroes, as he tweets live every race from the car. Is this jeopardizing his attention to you riders? Tell us it’s not or we’ll feel very guilty …
MG Richard Steege is enormously important to women’s cycling fans. I know that many of my friends and supporters in the US follow Richard on twitter because this is the only means that they have to know what is going on in a race! I do not think his attention towards the athletes is jeopardized. We give him a hard time about always tweeting the race, with his phone in his head, but we are just kidding and in reality it is important to the fans. When it is time for him to help with mechanicals or anything, he has been spot-on, super fast.
R&M Last year, we saw how you set the pace for Marianne Vos in Emakumeen Bira and Giro; did you know beforehand your role was going to be that one? Is it frustrating when you have to be next to your leader and not displaying your own potential in races?
MG I knew I would be riding a support role much of the time when I signed with Rabobank, so it is not frustrating. When I rode for an athlete such as Marianne, I only took pride in executing my job. Cycling is a special sport in that respect, it takes a whole team to get behind the one rider on the podium.
R&M Let’s talk about Worlds. Last year many thought that US team’s early pace was sort of suicidal. This year in Ponferrada it seems it can be another race where the US team can set a hard pace from the beginning … everyone is trying hard to dethrone the dutch squad and Marianne … do you have any clues? (throwing nails under her wheels is out of the list)
MG Ponferrada sounds like it will be another challenging Worlds course. I loved the small circuit in Firenze! Or maybe I just love the energy of Worlds! At the moment, I haven’t yet looked at the course details for Worlds this year so I actually do not have any ideas on how we will attack 2014 World Championships. I know we will give it our best shot at putting the US in the rainbow jersey. Marianne is such a strong athlete and gracious one too, so we will really have to just go head-to-head with her!
R&M Cycling is growing fast in the US, do you see yourself racing back for an american team?
MG The right American team would have to develop. It is so important to me to be racing full-time in Europe, and this is a huge challenge for Americans, much less an entire team. It requires us to be away from our family, friends, support networks, and general comforts of home to race. I would love to see more UCI races back in North America, and then that would draw the European crowds over to race on American soil. Maybe in this scenario, I would be able to sign with an American team where I could be racing a full UCI schedule.
R&M Your best and worst moment on a bike
MG Best Moment: Crossing the line at USA Road Race Nationals in 2012.
Worst Moment: when I was 6 years old and on a 20-mile bike ride with my family and decided I was not going to push another pedal stroke. My grandfather had to sit and wait with me, while my uncle went to get the car……not what you would think for someone who has made a career of cycling, huh?
R&M Tell us about your training routine a bit, both off-season and during season.
MG Training routine, well I am not a morning person and I require a lot of coffee to get the momentum in the morning. I love to do yoga and read, which bodes well with balance on and off the bike. I spend a lot of time in the off-season catching up with family since I do not get to see them during the season.
In season, a lot of racing! So far it is travel, race, recover, travel, race, recover, repeat. This is sometimes really nice, because then you do not have time to sit at home and question yourself. I always stick to my yoga though, this is a good way for me withdraw from the craziness of it all and work out the kinks from all the stress I put on my body.
R&M How do you see the future of women’s cycling? This year there are so many good news about more coverage and growth …
MG You are right! There are so many good things coming for women’s cycling, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. As women’s cycling gains more exposure, the fan base will grow and the media will take note, and sponsors will hop on the bandwagon we have been creating these past years. People love the excitement of our sport and especially because as athletes we are very accessible to them. They are able to meet us and interact, ride on the same roads we race on and train on, all of which grows bonds between the fans and athletes and is unique in the world of professional sports. Our single day at Le Tour is a good step, and I think it will create a huge increase in interest and sponsorship, if we can get a little media time! We added another day to the World Cup calendar, and fortunately this year there have been no rumors milling around about losing races which is a big plus! This means that races, promoters, and sponsors are still committing and interested in this wonderful sport.
R&M We are about to end: Guarnier, Guarnier… hm, that is a totally french family name! Any French origin that could explain your attraction to Europe?
MG My family name is indeed a conversation starter. I think it is a fun last name to have because no-one ever says it the same way twice. The story behind my family name is when my great-grandparents (on my father’s side) came over to the United States in the beginning of the 20th century (~1900), there was a large prejudice towards Italians. Our family name was Guarnieri (common Italian family name). My great-grandfather was unable to secure a job, so he dropped the “i” off the end, and it suddenly looked French and was able to find a job.
Now when I am in France, the French claim me as their own, and on the flip-side when I am in Italy, the “i” re-appears on the end of my name! As I said, it is a fun name to have! ((On my Mom’s side, I am mostly Irish.)
R&M Last but not least: will we spanish enthusiasts see you at Bira again this year?
MG I plan to be there!!