Steamboat Springs The “dream” for Steamboat Springs cyclist Amy Charity is not exactly a fixed target.
For instance, last spring when she first began to pedal as part of a professional racing team, she couldn’t suppress the feeling that this was it, that she had made it.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, she does think about what could be, and almost reluctantly she admits there’s more still out there. Riding in a World Championship? She said that would be amazing. The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016? She dreams of that, too.
But none of that did anything to lessen the overwhelming sensation that came over her when she recently realized another dream — one that could be a step on the way to more. Charity was selected earlier this month to ride with the U.S. Cycling Team in a pair of major European race.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I’ve made it to racing for the U.S. team. I’m ecstatic about it.”
Charity will leave early next month and spend two weeks racing in Europe, hitting two major events. The first, July 10 to 13, is the Tour de Femini in the Czech Republic. It’s a four-stage, 325-kilometer race.
Then, July 19 and 20, she’ll race in the BeNe, an event in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Neither race was an opportunity Charity expected through much of her cycling career.
Two years ago, she was one of the best local riders, no doubt, but happy working for Deer Park Road, a local investment firm where she was in investor relations.
But she couldn’t put to rest the thoughts that maybe there was something else out there in terms of her racing career. During the 2012-13 winter, she was selected to race on the Vanderkitten Racing team.
Initially, it was everything she’d hoped for, but her season came to a screeching halt just three races in. She was involved in a crash in a race in Philadelphia, knocked over her handlebars when a competitor careened into her.
She sustained a major injury to her shoulder, which kept her off her bike and out of the team’s lineup for most of the season.
“It was critical timing. It was June and there were a couple of races after that I missed, but a big block of training,” she said.
It was an easy opportunity for Charity to acknowledge that she’d reached her goal and to move on with her life. Instead, she doubled down, drawn in by the little taste of professional racing she had gotten before the crash.
She quit her job and began spending long stretches in Arizona training teammates.
“It was enough to know I loved it,” she said about her abbreviated rookie season. “It was enough to get the race bug and realize I wanted more.”
While she’s managed to stay healthy and has recorded strong results, things still aren’t exactly easy.
She’s dug into her savings account. She’s spent days packed in the back of vans, riding across the country en route to events. When she reaches those events, she often ends up sleeping on a couch.
And she’s been away from her husband, a former top racer in his own right, Matt Charity.
“He gets it,” Charity said. “He gets what it’s like to not want to have any regrets and to be on the verge of really making it as a cyclist. He has been unbelievable, completely my rock.”
Finding the worth
The spot in several national team races could be the break that pushes Charity from “on the verge” to simply “made it,” if she’s not there already.
The hours in a race fly by, she explained, time lost to an intense focus that has her calculating strategy, measuring opponents and plotting her path.
“It’s a battle with yourself,” she said. “You’re at the absolute limit. You’re beyond suffering, then when you finish, you're euphoric, and when you get a good result, it’s all worth it.”
At this point, she’s unsure what her role on the team will be, whether she’ll ride as support for a team member or purely for her own place.
She’s unsure where this stint could lead, as well. Will it be one trip to European races, or the start to more? At 37, she said this is not just her first shot, but perhaps her only shot, her real window to potentially realize some of those ideas that haven’t crystallized into dreams yet, such as the Olympics in Rio.
Still, none of that weighs on her. As consuming as she’s found the experience to be on a pro team, and as distant as the world seems during a race, she has not forgotten to look around and enjoy it all.
She’s been living her dream by competing on a pro team, and she’s thrilled to live another dream as soon as her plane lands next month in Europe.
“Nothing about it is luxurious,” she said. “There are days all the time where I ask, ‘Oh, what have I do?’ Then a day does by where I don’t get on my bike and I’m ready to get on it again. I do question it all, but I keep coming back to the same answer. This has been an unbelievable experience that most people might get the chance to have, and I’m so lucky to be able to do it.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9