At the Pan American Road and Track Championships, held in Aguascalientes, Mexico, on May 12, local racer Lauren Tamayo and her two U.S. teammates defeated Cuba in the team pursuit finals. In the process, they lowered the world record by nearly two seconds, completing the three-kilometer group race with a time of 3:19.569.
A native of Allentown, Pa., the cyclist moved to Asheville five years ago, saying the area's welcoming sense of community and diverse roads made for ideal training grounds.
These days, however, Tamayo doesn't get to spend as much time here as she'd like. The 26-year-old pro cyclist says she's spent most of the past seven months on the road, racing everywhere from California to Qatar. And it doesn't look like she'll be slowing down anytime soon, as her goal for the next two years is to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London (she served as an alternate in 2008).
Mountain Xpress recently caught up with Tamayo as she was enjoying a rare and well-deserved week off at home.
Mountain Xpress: How does it feel to have a set a world record?
Lauren Tamayo: It's pretty amazing. If you would have asked me five years ago if I ever would have thought I would have a world record, I would've laughed and said, "Yeah, right." It's a pretty cool accomplishment to say that we are the fastest women in the world. It's something that I will always cherish and carry with me through the rest of my career and even after I'm done with the sport.
Did you have a particularly good feeling about the race before it started? In the qualifying round, did you feel the potential to win or break a record?
For sure. We had been in Mexico for a week prior to the event, and we had done some training on the track, and all our training was going really well. … In our lap times for training, we were like, "OK, we're good. We're going fast. It's totally achievable."
The day of the event, in our qualifying ride, we were three-hundredths of a second slower than the record. So going into the final that afternoon, it was like, "OK, this is all or nothing. We're going to give it everything and go after that record." And so that's what we did, and it's pretty amazing.
What was the hardest part about that race? What were the biggest challenges?
I think the biggest challenge for a race like that is it's a team effort, and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. Because you don't want to let your other teammates down. If somebody's having a bad day, it's a bad day for the entire team. So you want to make sure you execute everything perfectly in the race so that we can go fast as a team. Because it's only about how strong your other two teammates are as well as yourself. It's definitely not an individual effort.
What's the life of a pro biker like? Is it glamorous traveling all over the world? Or is it exhausting?
Some parts are glamorous. It is pretty exhausting though, actually. From November to now, I think I've spent most of the last seven months on the road. So I don't get to be home as much as I'd like sometimes. And you know, yeah, we travel to all these different places, but we don't necessarily get to see all these different places. Because we're there for racing, and we're focused on the race. So usually we see the inside of the hotel room and the track and that's about it.
How is it being sponsored by a peanut-butter company? Do you get all the free peanut butter you could possibly want?
Yeah [laughing], we do get a lot of peanut butter. But it's actually a really good sponsor. As far as branding the team, in the U.S., everyone grabs onto peanut butter. Who doesn't like peanut butter? They make different flavors of peanut butter, and I have to say my favorite is White Chocolate Wonderful.
Do you have to maintain a really regimented diet for your training and races? It sounds like you can eat chocolate (thankfully)?
Yeah [laughing], well, we don't have to restrict everything -- it's always in moderation. But I do work with a nutritionist on playing with different foods and different diets to see what my body performs best on. And we're still trying to figure it out. We don't have it nailed down yet. It's a process. We've been working on it for two years now. It's kind of interesting to see the different ways your body reacts to different things. …
I've actually found that for me, eating a lot of carbs before the event, I don't digest them as well. So I tend to stick with some simple carbs, but mostly protein.
What brought you to Asheville? Is this a particularly good place to ride and train? Or were there other reasons?
It's a great place. My husband at the time was a racer as well, and he had spent time in Asheville training with some teammates who he used to race with. And so when we were looking for places to go, places that we wanted to settle down for a little bit, he had mentioned Asheville.
We came down, and I had done some basic training camps down here, and we both really liked it. It's a great community. And the roads are amazing -- you can pretty much find anything you need around here. So it was a pretty easy decision to come down here.
Are there certain routes or roads that you ride regularly?
Town Mountain is one of my favorite rides to do around here. Because it's close to home, but it's nice and quiet and you don't usually have too many cars, and it's just a really nice, relaxing ride for me. So it's always one I really look forward to when I come home from a trip.
When it's just you training by yourself, without a team or a coach, is it hard to motivate yourself to do it?
It can be hard to find the motivation some days, and those are the days you're like, "OK, I'm thinking about my future here. This is another stepping stone to what I need to do in two years." And obviously, we don't have the perfect weather here. It can be hard to go out in the winter, when it's snowing and 30 degrees -- like the awful winter we had this year. But for the most part, it's a job, and so I do it because I love it, and I know it's getting me where I need to go.
Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or email@example.com.