Once a Bike Racer, Always a Bike Racer

by Lisa Buckland

I remember the first time I won a bike race.  It was Mothballs in Goleta in 1992.  I had just joined Coastline Racing.  I’d done a few collegiate races for UCSB prior to that race and had a couple of top ten results, but I’d not gotten to put my hands up in the air until just then.  Flush with a massive endorphin dump, I shouted something like, “We’re all Goddesses!!!!”  I’m sure everyone around me thought I was a grade A geek.

I raced consistently for eight years locally in California.  I helped to form and manage the Santa Barbara Bike Club women’s team in the early nineties.  We were just a small amateur team that liked to race with the big girls.   Our team raced Superweek (one of my favorites), Ore-Ida, Redlands, Hotter than Hell and other stage races that no longer exist, like Visalia.  Racing was different back then. A lot of the races for the Cat 3’s were combined with the pro ladies.  We’d find ourselves as relative noobs racing with the best women in North America and we LOVED it.

There are many reasons why I love cycling.  I have always had a love of activities that require pure focus and produce copious amounts of happy brain chemicals.  I can be on a four hour ride and be fully in the present; thinking of nothing but the pedal stroke, breathing and listening to that squeak, squeak, squeak of my bottom bracket (wait…no that makes me want to throw my bike down the hill – must fix bottom bracket).  Cycling is graceful, it’s zen, it’s communing with nature and with your friends.  If I don’t get to ride, I become impossible to live with. 

Cycling has been the most important source of friends.  Natural tendencies toward risky sports and hobbies (rock climbing, motorcycles, paragliding) meant that I didn’t have a lot of girly girlfriends and often felt like an outcast among women.  In collegiate triathlon and cycling, I began to meet women like me.  There’s something different about women who compete in sports.  They’re tough, risk takers, open to trying new things, more direct, decisive and they’re usually successful in just about anything they do.

Marriage and grad school took me to New York City.  Combined with the fledgling career and birth of a daughter, cycling took a back seat.  Traveling over 100K miles a year meant less time for family and healthy pursuits resulting in an unhappy and exceptionally unhealthy me.  When my daughter was born, I weighed 200 pounds. Always in the back of my mind, I remembered that adage about being on my death bed and knowing I wouldn’t wish I’d worked more.  I took up running and did a couple of marathons, but it didn’t fill that hole left by bike racing.

Six years ago, I bought a used Abici from an Amgen colleague and started riding recreationally.  After doing a couple of triathlons for fun, it wasn’t long before I had a racing bug relapse (well..it took about four years and a job change).  I remembered La Grange always had a strong local women’s team, so I contacted Amy Hutner (who I raced with back in the day).  Two years later and I’m fitter than I’ve been since grad school.  At 45 (with a bum spine) and a 12 year old, I have a balanced vision of what racing can be for me.  I’m happy to show up at the local crits and attempt some track racing and do whatever I can to support my team.  I can’t think of a better group of people to ride and race with than the La Grangers.


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