Profile: Melina Bernecker

by Joe Camacho

Melina Bernecker joined our women’s elite team this season and made an immediate impact, posting great results as well as providing logistical support for the team at key races. She is focused on stage racing and is working hard to represent our club in major races.

I recently had the opportunity to tag along on one of her training rides.

Q. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Basel Switzerland which is on the German border, my parents spent most of my early childhood near the Swiss/German border, we then moved to a town near Stuttgart called Tuebingen which is where I started school and at age 11 my family moved to New Zealand where I went to high school. I later moved to Australia (Melbourne) to attend College, somehow I stayed there for 14 years and it’s the place I think of as home…

2011 San Dimas Stage Race

Q. How did you get involved in cycling?
That’s kind of a long and convoluted story, but basically after a 10 year career in track and field, I had to give up running due to injuries and my boyfriend at the time who was a tri-athlete encouraged me to join him in his training. I did triathlon for about 5 years and finally decided I didn’t like swimming and since I couldn’t go back to running, cycling became the obvious choice. A friend talked me into coming with her on a cycling camp three years ago which was run by ex-Olympian Robert Crowe… after that I was hooked!

Q. How did you come to join LG?
I first heard of La Grange when I did San Dimas Stage race in 2010, I was guest riding for Helen’s and shortly after I met Michael Johnson (CEO Herbalife), who offered me a cycling sponsorship in Australia. When I spoke to Michael about coming to the US to race in 2011 La Grange was the obvious choice with Herbalife being the main sponsor…. so basically here I am!

Q.  How much time do you train?
I have a coach in Australia (Stuart McKenzie) who writes all my programs and “virtually” oversees my training. On average I ride about 350 miles a week which can take between 18 and 20 hours a week. The training schedule varies though as it also depends on my racing load. He’s a pretty tough coach so he will usually push me until I say “enough”!!!  but just quietly with so many beautiful training routes along the coast and canyons I think I could happily spend all day up there!

Q. What is your favorite ride?
Well at the moment my Cannondale… no just kidding! I don’t have just one favorite route. I think the company is what makes a ride great. I do most of my training by myself so I would have to say my favorite rides are when I have great company and I get to solve the problems of the world… which of course I forget as soon as I hit the shower :)

2011 Redlands Photo by Bill Cordero

Q. What’s the most fun you’ve had on a bike?
Hmmm :) not sure I should disclose that kind of information!!! No
seriously I think the most fun was the circuit race recently at Sea Otter at the Laguna Seca racetrack. Coming down the corkscrew at ridiculous speeds in a peloton of 30-40 girls was both scary and amazing. The whole race was just
so much fun!

Q. This is really important, as it really will give us insight as to how serious and devoted you are to the sport. How much coffee do you drink and what is your favorite?
Well I have at least 1 pre-ride coffee every day (maximum strength) sometimes 2 depending on what “pro-hour” start time I have and then I usually have another when I get back after my shower…. I usually also need at least one cup in the afternoon to keep me awake after training so hard in the morning! Oh – and I NEVER drink Decaf!!!

As to what is my favorite coffee?… that’s easy, Chez Mel of course! After complaining about how weak the coffee is here in LA and the dishwater Starbuck’s serves up, my boyfriend Drew gave me a Nespresso coffee machine – I have been the happiest little coffee drinker since!

Q. What is your favorite post ride meal?
Usually anything I can get my hands on although peanut butter on
sourdough toast is my favorite treat :) That is of course after I have taken all my fabulous Herbalife supplements!!!

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