Steamboat Springs On a blustery Saturday that was reminding residents wintry weather hasn't left, Amy Charity was in the basement of her Steamboat home on her indoor bike trainer.
It’s become Charity’s biggest ally.
Saturday’s workout required a 1 1/2-hour ride in the morning followed by a brief break and then another 1 1/2-hour ride.
“It’s sort of been a whirlwind of events the past year,” she said between workouts.
In late November, Charity earned a spot on the Vanderkitten women’s pro cycling team based out of California.
Just three years after racing as a Category 3 rider, Charity will compete in Redlands, Calif., against the best female riders in the world.
“Honestly, I never though I’d get on a pro team,” she said. “Now that it’s actually happened, I can’t believe it. I’m on a pro team. It’s probably the best thing and most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It’s beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.”
Charity, who moved to a Category 2 rider in 2011 and last year competed in the women’s pro 1-2 division, went to races throughout Colorado and proved herself. Without a team, it wasn’t easy. She didn’t have the advantage of leaning on teammates. But it never seemed to matter, and a top result always was followed with another one.
In July, she won the state road race in Salida. After the win, her coach pulled her aside.
“My coach said, 'You have potential,'” Charity said. “He encouraged me to put together a cycling resume."
She had hired former U.S. national team member Jeff Winkler prior to the season. At the time, Charity said she didn’t have these grand ambitions. But as she racked up top results, her racing acumen became apparent.
Prior to the Steamboat Stage Race, she met Angelo Cilli, the U.S. president of Wilier Bikes.
Cilli, a Steamboat resident, took interest in Charity’s riding ability and eventually passed her resume to Vanderkitten. After several conversations, Charity got an offer to compete for the 12-woman team.
She had to completely shift her training. As a top triathlete, the workouts weren't designed for a pro cyclist. Gone were runs and swim workouts.
“Cycling is very different,” she said. “You’re either pedaling or sitting. Those are your options.”
Charity met her new teammates and sponsors at a training camp in February, and now Charity’s No. 1 priority is cycling.
She spends 12 to 16 hours each week riding. Every weekend since January, she and her husband, Matt, have traveled to Boulder or Fort Collins in search of dry roads. She admits she’s at a disadvantage because ten of the team's members live in California and the other lives in Boulder.
Her indoor trainer has become her best friend. Her diet is monitored closely. Her schedule is about as detail oriented as it gets.
“I’ve put a lot of other things on hold. I’m OK with that,” she said. “It can be tough. All my friends are at happy hour at 5:30 p.m., and it’s not something I can do. It’s very structured. I have everything planned out to about 30 seconds.”
Her first race is from April 4 to 7 in Redlands. She said she’s not expecting a top result, but the goal is to earn the trust of her team.
“I’ll be assigned a role,” she said. “Whether it’s carry water bottles, chasing a break or sitting on the front, I don’t know yet.”
She’ll compete in subsequent events with her team in New Mexico, Tennessee and Oregon, a July event on which Charity has her eye. She said she wants to get a top 10 there.
It's an exciting time for Charity. At 36, she said she wants to give pro cycling a four-year window.
She’s not sure where this will take her. She even is looking at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
“A lot would have to fall into place for that,” she said. “But it’s out there. It’s in my mind. I never thought I’d win the state road championship. I never thought I’d be on a pro team.
"We’ll see what I’m capable of. This is a sport for whatever reason I’m able to excel at. It’s a sport where I’ve been able to combine an interest and a passion.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com