This article was initially posted online - April 30, 2016.
Author: Jamie Smith
As part of our series of exclusive interviews of Michigan riders who have reached the major leagues, we are happy to introduce you to Allie Dragoo: Allie is one of the fresh faces in cycling today. At first glance, you may think she came out of nowhere since she didn’t race much on the road in Michigan, but she’s paid many dues unseen by road cycling fans. The 26-year-old Grand Rapids native is currently racing for Team Twenty16 RideBiker p/b ShoAir Women’s Professional Cycling Team. She graciously took the time to speak to us recently.
It’s April 30th. Where are you right this moment? And what race are you doing next?
I am in Salt Lake City. My next race is Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico (May 4-8) then AMGEN Tour of California!
You took a different route to road cycling: via BMX. (John Tomac and Mike Simonson got their start in BMX.) Talk about your path from BMX to Team Twenty16 and tell us about how BMX helped you develop as a rider.
I raced BMX with my brothers for a few years and when they stopped, I was the lone soldier. I raced for roughly 13 years and 2 years professionally until I made the choice to go to college. I received a four-cross scholarship which is similar to BMX… at school the roadies persuaded me to go on a road ride and I was hooked ever since. BMX has helped me in the road scene by being able to hold my lines, ride in a bunched up peloton, sling through the grass if necessary, and be able to take a nudge without grabbing a handful of brakes (most of the time) ha.
You were offered a golf scholarship to college. So really, you could be at a golf tournament right now in a warm sunny location. Instead you chose a much harder (physically) sport. What is up with that?
I played golf in high school and one year of college. I still like golf and think it is relaxing to watch and play, but riding and racing bikes is a lot more fun. Both sports can be very frustrating and I swear I never choose an easy sport to play… BMX, hockey, golf, road racing… Being pushed and pushing the limits is a thrill for me!
You've chosen a different career path (Allie majored in Physical Education at Marian); what kind of support to you get from family and non-cycling friends?
All of my family, friends (cycling or not) are very supportive. I do have a rule though, since cycling is my full time job I do need a mental break from it- so when I go home I allow about thirty minutes of Q&A about cycling and then I just want my family, friend, and me time.
When you ride past a golf course, do you still check out the pin placements?
I do not check out the pin placement but I do know when I am approaching a golf course even if I cannot see it; I can smell it. I also like watching people tee off, putt, and I often wonder if I asked them to assist them in technique if they would let me? I had a coach and many mentors/friends who I listened to and watched closely on form. I like to think I know a thing or two and can help out!
In golf, the women's side of the sport is much more developed than cycling, but still lives in the shadow of the men's game. In cycling, what do you feel it will take to grow women's cycling?
Women’s sports in general are often overlooked. I think we just need to keep being strong and racing our best. We knew from the get-go that we are overshadowed and underpaid, that’s why I don’t complain too much about it… I look for personal sponsors and ALWAYS remember to have fun while I’m racing and training.
I would say that your rise in road cycling has been somewhat meteoric. It's been fun to watch. You've gotten to where you are, basically, in three short years. To you, it probably feels normal, but others really look at it as a quick jump.
I have progressed very quickly but that did not come easy. I asked questions, paid attention, and took as much in as possible. I have a great coach, director, and a manager. I NEED my family and friends support to do this. I pray a lot and make the most out of this great opportunity that I have been given.
What were your goals when you left Marian University? What are your immediate cycling goals for 2016? And what are your long term goals?
During the middle of my senior year at Marian, I was planning on graduating and getting a job; cycling would become recreational and I would just ride whenever I could. I met Nicola Cranmer during cyclocross season and she told me I needed to prove myself. I think I am doing a good job :) but I want to keep improving and keep proving. There are many highs and lows during a season but I make sure to learn from the lows and keep my highs humble.
You hit one snag last fall when you were bumped from the Worlds team. How did that affect your attitude over the winter? And what did you take from that episode?
Worlds was a very good experience for me. Even though I did not get to compete, I stayed and supported team USA when I had every opportunity to get a flight and go home. I learned a lot about myself and how well I could handle a frustrating, difficult, and sad situation. I held my head high, smiled as much as I could, cried when I couldn’t smile but I stayed positive. I started this sport with a lot of support but after this happened my support crew grew even bigger, more fans, and I believe more memories than I would have had if I was in the race. Over the winter I took a few weeks off… I enjoyed the gym, running, and yoga. I caught up with my family and friends. Built a house in Tijuana with other cyclist and realized how lucky I am to be able to ride and race. I reflect back to worlds and realize how minor that “event” was in my life… But you can count on it being used to fuel the fire.
What is your training regimen like? What do you think is most responsible for getting you to the level you're at now? (I would guess it's the leg speed you developed in BMX. But that's just my guess.) What type of training advice would you give to young women racers?
My training varies like any other athlete’s training. Hours, intervals, rest…RECOVERY. I listen to my coach (Dean Golich, Carmichael Training System). It’s amazing how you can be so in tune with your body and know why you’re tired or why you feel so good. Important training advice i have for young women racers: If you’re not having fun, stop, and maybe come back to it. Listen to your body. Eat and drink while training. Recover well. And don’t be a food stickler, enjoy a treat.
What else would you like racers and fans to know about Allie Dragoo?
I just want people to see me as a person. I have two arms and two legs. I make mistakes and learn from them. I am open to constructive criticism. I love my family, friends, I am a Christian, and I like to paint.
Big thanks to Allie for taking the time to provide those responses. We’re proud to call Allie a Michigander and look forward to more great things from her this season. She's painting quite a picture with her racing career - to follow along look for @AllieOop365 on Twitter.