Five days after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Sportswomen of Colorado’s 2002 Sportswoman of the Year showed that there are still good things in this world with a gritty, come from behind performance in the World Mountain Bike Championships at Vail. In fifth place entering the final lap of the women’s elite, 20 plus-mile cross-country event, the Aurora reared athlete converted her trademark tenacity and talent into an emotionally charged 1:51:28 victory drawing cheers and tears from several thousand local patriots.
“I wanted to do this for everybody who has suffered and lost loved ones,” the event’s first U.S. winner in 10 years said after waving a small U.S. flag triumphantly across the finish line to vanquish tragedy and claim the first world title of her career.
It had been a long journey from Colorado College to that memorable moment. A soccer player at Smoky Hill H.S., she was disappointed when she didn’t make the CC team. Switching to road cycling, she captured the 1991 NCAA championship, made the 1992 Olympic Trials and qualified No. 3 for the 1996 Summer Games. Taking up mountain biking after Atlanta, she rode to Pan American gold in 1999 and 7th place at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The 2001 World title culminated a stellar mountain bike year for the 32-year-old two-time Olympian. A top three finisher in four of six major races, she garnered year end rankings of No. 4 in the World and No. 6 in World Cup competition. Two wins also gave her a No. 5 ranking on the U.S. National Short Track Series.
A force on the road circuit as well, she prevailed in the Tour of Willamette (OR), was third in the Redlands (CA) Classic and set a record on the mountain roads outside Boise (ID) to win the third stage of the International Women’s Challenge for the third time in her career. The SWC Hall of famer then made U.S. women’s cycling history with a fifth straight U.S. Cyclo-Cross championship earning a berth on the 2002 U.S. World Cyclo-Cross Team.
At the end of 2001, the Colorado Springs based cyclist was named Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and was nominated by USA Cycling for the 72nd annual AAU Sullivan Award and 2001 U.S. Olympic Sportswoman of the Year.