Being Pro: Kendall Ryan

The Ventura local opens up

Team: TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank

Hometown: Ventura, California

Age: 25

What initially inspired you to get into racing bicycles?

My parents actually met on a bike ride. They were both competing in triathlons at the time. My dad chased my mom for miles, and when she finally stopped at a stop sign he was able to talk to her. Soon after they got married, and a year after my mom had turned pro, she had my brother, sister and me—1991, 1992 and 1994.

One day my dad decided to try out some bike races to improve the cycling leg of the triathlon. He brought us along, and we started out doing the kids’ races. I had learned to ride a bike since the age of 4. The kids’ races evolved into taking us to the local BMX track at age 5, then to the local velodrome at age 9. Next came the local crit practice where I would try to keep up with my brother and the rest of the boys; I was the only girl until my sister learned to ride a bike.

Growing up I competed in all kinds of sports—swimming, soccer, cross-country, water polo and gymnastics. But, nothing was like bike racing. I guess you could say my siblings and I were born into it; we were born to race bikes.

Growing up with your sister racing as well, how has that benefited the both of you? 

We both grew up chasing our brother around. I think that’s why we are both so competitive and skilled bike handlers. He was always stronger, so what we lacked in strength, we had to make up for in skills and scrappiness. We grew up racing on the same junior teams. I taught her how to descend, and I led her out for her first Cat. 1-2 local crit when she was 15. We are each others’ biggest supporters and always offer each other encouragement and advice. During a race in the pro women’s peloton, she’s just another racer, but a wheel I will always trust.

You’re currently racing for an American-based team. Could you see yourself signing with a European squad like your sister (Alexis rides on the Canyon/SRAM team)?

I have raced for TIBCO-SVB for seven years now, and I’ve experienced the growth of the team as I have grown as a racer. It’s evolved from being the top USA NRC crit racing team to a top-10-ranked WorldTour team. I’ve raced in six different countries this year and competed in many WorldTour races, and I get to live in beautiful Southern California with my boyfriend Alex and my dog Apollo. Life is good for me! The team’s main focus is supporting its riders’ Olympic dreams. I’ve had dreams my whole life of being one, so it’s a good fit.

You were able to win the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California this year, which put you in the yellow jersey. How does that compare to your other accomplishments thus far?

Winning the stage into Elk Grove was the biggest win of my career. I’m super proud of that win, especially as someone from California. To put a convincing distance ahead of everyone else gave me a lot of confidence in the sprints. I had also never been noticed at the WorldTour level as a serious sprint contender. I never had pre-race interviews, or a call up to the line in road races. I had never even worn any kind of leaders jersey in a stage race.

After that day a lot of that changed, a lot of firsts for me. Feels like I gained a lot of respect, and I let that soak in and marinate while I had that yellow jersey. The yellow jersey is one of the holy grails of cycling, and I had it on my back for a day. It was a tough Stage 2 racing in Lake Tahoe, but definitely one of the best days I’ve ever had on a bike wearing yellow. I was still in the green jersey after the mountain stage and wore it on the final day in Sacramento.

What does your ideal training ride look like?

I have two ideal training rides:

1) Casual ride with the local yokels of Ventura and my family up to Santa Barbara, loop around Hope Ranch, stop by Handlebar Coffee Roasters (owned by retired bike racing couple Kim Anderson and Aaron Olsen) and then head back down the coast full of coffee to Ventura.

2) Hard training ride option is motor-pacing behind the scooter with my dad driving and doing full-on sprints off the motor. Those are my favorites.

Our readers love to hear training tips from the pros. What do you believe is your most beneficial training workout?

My go-to fine-tuning workout that I feel I benefit the most from is 30 seconds at 100 percent followed by 30 seconds of light pedaling or, for some people, 40/20s. Training workouts are only beneficial if your head is in it. When I can’t take another day of training hard by myself, I like to go ride with other people—maybe a local group ride—and beat up on all the old guys who used to thrash me when I was a little pipsqueak junior. Remember to have fun and revisit why you ride bikes in the first place.

Also, training too easy on your hard days and too hard on your easy days is so common, especially for those people who complain they only have one speed. Trust me, I’ve already trial-and-error’d that one. Last pro tip: if you finish a sprint workout and only the weight of your legs is turning over the cranks, you did it right.

How do you feel the current state of women’s professional racing is? 

I am not big on political matters with this question, because I race bikes for the love of it. I have never done it for the money, because what money? Lunch money? As I’ve grown in this sport, earning money has become more and more of a necessity. I need money to pay for bills, coaching, proper food, massage, chiropractor, gym, etc. You get the picture. Soon, there’s nothing left, and I’m living paycheck to paycheck. To be competitive in this sport, it’s very hard to have a second job on the side. Luckily, I have some very supportive people in my corner to help me, but I can’t expect them to pull my weight forever. Pretty soon I’ll have to retire and get a big-girl job.

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