BEING PRO — SHAYNA POWLESS — GET TO KNOW THE PROS

Team: Team Twenty20

Age: 26

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

What’s your cycling background?

My first bike race was in 1998 at 4 years old. It was a kids’ mountain bike race in Florida, and if I remember correctly, I won! I started riding around the same time I started walking. I managed to get rid of my training wheels at age 2, and I remember riding almost every day up and down the street in our neighborhood. Growing up with a brother who started riding just as early in life, we were always competitive with each other. This, along with my successes experienced throughout my time racing in the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League, was a pivotal moment for me on my journey to becoming a pro.

You’re an international-caliber racer that comes from a family of accomplished athletes. What keeps you coming back to the bike? What is your goal for your cycling career?

Being part of an athletic family, my brother and I were involved in many different sports growing up. Our parents literally put us in everything—from gymnastics to swim team to soccer. However, no matter how many sports I tried, I found that I always enjoyed cycling the most and realized that it would forever be my first love, no matter how many different sports I tried. I think what keeps me coming back to the bike is the sense of freedom, adventure and peace it gives me every time I go out and ride. There really is no other feeling like it. I would also say the cycling community is what keeps me so drawn to the bike.

Cycling has opened many doors for me and has allowed me to visit a lot of cool places and meet the most amazing people. My goal in my cycling career is to become the best possible athlete and ambassador for the sport that I can be. Specifically, I would like to inspire more women and girls to get involved in the sport. I also want to inspire more Native American and indigenous men and women to enter the sport, as they are arguably the most underrepresented demographic in the cycling scene. Additionally, I hope to one day compete in the Olympics.

Can you explain Team Twenty20’s mission and goals? How has the team been affected by the events of the current year? 

Team Twenty20’s mission has always been to give women the opportunity and support needed to succeed in the sport of cycling. Specifically, the team strives to help junior and development-level riders evolve into professional-level athletes, and athletes who are already at the professional level, be able to excel at the highest level of competition possible, such as the Olympics and World Championships. Additionally, the team aspires to serve as both a positive ambassador for the sport and an inspiration to others both in and outside of the cycling world. 

As with many sports teams, this year has proven to be significantly difficult for Twenty20. The lack of racing, events, training camps, etc., due to COVID has undeniably affected every person affiliated with the program. At first, it was mentally tough for me to accept the new normal we were all having to face in the midst of COVID. However, as I began to understand the direness of the situation, I quickly accepted that this year was going to look a lot different than previous years. With little to no in-real-life racing the entire year, our team decided to make Zwift racing more of a priority, which has given our team many amazing opportunities to race and communicate together virtually.

How have you seen virtual racing grow in the last year? How have you and the team used it?

This year I’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth on the Zwift platform. Zwift has really done an amazing job stepping up during a time when IRL racing has been put on hold, and it’s been fun seeing more and more cyclists of all levels participate. Zwift has allowed my teammates and me to continue racing and communicating together in ways that I never would have thought possible before this year. Before and during races, our team often communicates live via Discord (a group-call app) in order to discuss tactics and speak to each other if needed during critical moments in the competitions, an added element to virtual racing that has made it that much more like IRL racing. 

The highlight of the racing so far this year has undoubtedly been the first-ever virtual Tour de France hosted back in July in which our team finished second overall. It’s truly amazing that the world’s most prestigious cycling event was made available for both top-tier professional teams and the public community. I’ll be forever grateful to Zwift for making the TdF race series happen and for creating an equal platform for both men and women in the races and media representation.

Do you cross-train at all? What is one workout you prefer to do besides cycling that our readers could try?

I have a true love and appreciation for strength training off the bike. Ever since last year, I’ve been consistently incorporating strength into my weekly routine and have noticed significant improvements in my overall strength both on and off the bike. I stick to doing strength workouts twice a week and will soon start doing them up to three times per week. Every strength workout is a little different and always includes a mix of different weighted, plyometric and bodyweight exercises. I’m a firm believer that any cyclist—no matter their experience level—can make tremendous gains from incorporating strength workouts.

FOLLOW SHAYNA @SHAYNAPOWLESS

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