Cyclist Jennie Reed finds her comeback in a new event
By MEGAN MANAGAN
Kirkland Reporter writer
August 12, 2010 · Updated 10:42 AM
There’s a distinctive whirling and whooshing as the cyclists pedal past. The streaked track, marked by thousands of tires under the hot August sun, is the home of local track cycling. The Marymoor Velodrome is the only local track for cyclists on their fixed bikes with no brakes. It is also the current home of Olympian Jennie Reed.
The oval at Marymoor is where Reed learned the sport and it’s where she’s making her comeback, training for what she hopes will be a successful run at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I was kind of a punk kid and I just wanted to see if I could roller blade on it (the track),” said Reed of her start in the sport. “It’s funny now, because when I’m training I see the same thing with other kids, they ride up and want to see if they can skate board around it.”
Reed first hopped on her racing bicycle when she was 16 and three months later was winning titles at the Junior Nationals event in Seattle.
“I was a bit lucky in that when I started, Junior Nationals were here in Seattle. There were a few Junior National coaches who were here looking for riders, so when I did well at Juniors they invited me to the training camps. Then the national team recruited me to do sprints, which is a lot shorter distance.”
Reed, unlike many cyclists who spend years waiting for sponsorship, balancing work while they train, got lucky and was able to jump into the national level of competition, which eventually earned her a spot at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Athens was my first Olympics and really I was just so excited to qualify,” she said sitting on the rail next to the track at Marymoor. “I was kind of an outside chance for a medal at the time. The highlight was qualifying, I really just embraced the whole thing. The opening ceremonies, that’s kind of the part you dream of when you’re a little kid. You get lined up in the tunnel and you’re lined up as a country and then you walk out and you hear United State in seven different language, that’s the thing I dreamt of. I was really proud to be a part of something so huge.”
She finished ninth in the women’s sprints qualifying round in Athens, after taking second in her heat. She spent the next four years racing at the U.S. Nationals, and various World Cup events, posting top three finishes in many of the events. After what Reed called a disappointing run at the Beijing Olympics in the sprints she retired for a year.
“That wasn’t the best Olympics for me. Unfortunately, I got sick and wasn’t on peak form, but it was still a good Olympics. For a year and a half I took time off. What inspired me to come back was that they added a team event,” she said. “They added a team pursuit, so it’s 3,000-meters, three women, so three have to start and three have to finish. They have similar things like it in speed skating. I really was inspired to do something different.”
Reed said she felt she’d kind of done everything she could do with the sprint races, but the team race offered something new and untouched.
“I felt like I had experienced everything there was to experience and I wanted some sort of different dynamic if I was going to come back,” Reed explained. “The team aspect really motivated me to come back.” She’ll soon head to California for practice with her two teammates, preparing for the World Cup in November in Melbourne, Australia.
“At the moment I’m trying to develop my capacity to go for a little bit longer,” said Reed. “It was unexpected for me, I do love the training and I do love the racing. It really inspired me, the thought of lining up with three strong women.” Reed said just for kicks once at the National Championships she and two others gave the team pursuit a try, long before it was a traditional race event, and they set the world record at the time.
Despite two Olympics and a World Championship title, which made her the fastest woman in the world on a bike, Reed admits track cycling isn’t very well known to most people.
“I think a lot of Olympics sports are not really well know,” she said. “Just the sponsorship, it’s hard. I was in a fortunate situation where I was taken on by the national team and then helped out a lot by local people, but it’s really hard to build yourself. When we travel in Europe everyone knows what it is. In the U.S., not so much, but since Lance Armstrong at least people know about cycling now.”
Reed said while people may not be hyper aware of it, as many are with other sports, it is certainly growing in popularity. Reed said she’s working with a group of cyclists right now, sharing her expertise, gleaned from years of training and competing.
“I really didn’t expect to coach when I came back home, it kind of started one by one, with one local girl asking me to help her with the sprint training,” she said. “There are so few coaches around the country who really know about the sprint training, so I thought I’d help out one girl and after that more people asked me. I really do just love to share my knowledge because it took me so long to gather different bits of information.”
The training is not only helping the newer cyclists, but Reed as well. She and the pursuit team will hope to make a run at the 2012 Olympics in London.
“In two years time I want to go to the Olympics and get a medal in that event,” she said. Until then, she hopes the sport will continue to grow in the area.
“I think a lot of people are intimidated,” she said of giving track cycling a try. Whether its the fixed gear or no brake bikes or simply worries about having no experience, Reed said that shouldn’t stop people.
“They offer a lot of classes out here. It’s a really friendly atmosphere. I think that sometimes more casual cyclists get intimidated, but they just have to put their foot in the door and decide to do it. Once you get involved in the community, you’ll find it’s a really friendly one.”
Track racing at the Marymoor Velodrome happens every Friday night, starting at 7 p.m. For more information visit velodrome.org.Contact Kirkland Reporter writer Megan Managan at email@example.com.