BEING PRO: ANNA CHRISTIAN

Team: Colavita Factor Pro Women’s Cycling Team

Age: 21

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

How did you get started riding bikes? What were some important moments that led you to becoming a pro?

I always like to tell people that my parents met on a bike ride, so cycling has always been in my bones. Both my brother and I started racing BMX in elementary school, and I started to focus on road and mountain bike riding during middle school. 

The most pivotal point in my career was joining the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) varsity cycling team as a transfer student in fall of 2021. When I was a student athlete at their Atlanta campus, I met Tina Pic and had the opportunity to join the Colvita Factor team. 

I had some success in my early college years, but I struggled to find a spot on a team, and at the time it was hard to understand why I wasn’t getting picked up. I earned a spot on the U.S. National Team’s Collegiate All Stars for the 2019 edition of the Colorado Classic, but multiple factors led to me being the very first rider to get dropped. In hindsight, I was doing a lot of things wrong, such as not getting guest rides, contacting teams too late in the year, and not going to enough big races.

The combination of not being on a team and the pandemic led me to a half-baked retirement from cycling. Then, in the spring of 2021, I heard from a friend that SCAD Cycling was looking for riders. I had always wanted to study graphic design, so figured a chance to study on scholarship at one of the best art and design schools in the country was worth a shot. 

I started training again and jumped back into racing with the collegiate mountain bike and ’cross seasons in the fall. During the mountain bike season the SCAD Atlanta cycling coach, Tina Pic, offered me a spot on the Colavita Factor pro women’s cycling team for the 2022 season. Joining the team was an incredible opportunity and something I wanted for so many years, but I’m the first to admit that how I got there was a little bit of a surprise. 

For anyone unfamiliar with Colavita Factor, how would you describe the team’s goals this season and the sponsors?

Colavita Factor pro women’s cycling is an eight-woman team that races as part of the American Criterium Cup. Our main goal is to push ourselves as individuals and a team, while making for fun and animated racing and rubbing elbows with some of the fastest women in the country. Colavita and Factor share the same goal—they want to support women’s cycling, as well as promote a healthy and active lifestyle both on and off the bike!

For those unfamiliar, Colavita offers an amazing selection of Italian pantry staples and has been sponsoring cycling teams since the early 2000s. They are one of the longest-running women’s programs in the U.S. Before the current crit team was formed by Tina Pic, Colavita also supported multiple local women’s teams, and a women’s pro and UCI team. John Profaci, the VP of marketing for Colavita USA, has been instrumental in keeping the teams going out of his pure love for the sport. Over the years he has found creative ways for the team to secure other co-sponsors, such as Factor. Factor is a ready-to-eat meal delivery service that believes in making people’s lives easier without sacrificing good nutrition. As busy athletes, their chef-prepared pre-made refrigerated meals arrive ready to heat and make our lives easier. 

What is the team’s ratio of criterium to road racing this season? Any gravel racing? 

Colavita Factor pro women’s cycling team is focusing almost completely on crits this year; no gravel for us. A few of our riders did go to Sea Otter this year to race a mix of the road and mountain events. Personally, I think the spirit of crit racing was best captured by my old coach, Heather Fischer, when she said, “I love crit racing because I’m an American, and Americans love hot, nasty, kick-ass speed.”

What is your favorite event of the year to race?

By far, it’s the Snake Alley Criterium in Burlington, Iowa, over Memorial Day weekend. The course is super challenging, with a switchback climb complete with brick pavers and very fast descent. The event is always well-organized and features a 30-second cobbled alley hill-climb next to the course, which is always lined with spectators, and the winner gets a stuffed snake to wear like a boa—fun times!

Were there any important resources you used to develop your cycling skills?

I’ve always credited BMX racing with helping build strong bike handling skills from a young age. It’s a great place for kids to start cycling, because it’s super fun, the races are short, and you race a lot, so there are endless learning opportunities.  

For those coming to the sport a little later, I’d recommend watching pro racing, as well as racing and going on group rides as much as you can. It’s important to understand what is happening in the peloton and where you need to be, those are arguably the most important parts of racing. From there you need to continue to study the sport and learn from experience. I always recommend getting a mentor or coach that will help guide you and help you gain that understanding.

Follow along at @colavita_factor

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