Although a lifelong cyclist, Vanessa Bowen is kind of new to the whole idea of racing.
But when she got her first taste of it in the spring at the Tour of the Gila, she was quite hooked.
So when she saw the USA Cycling was bringing the Masters Road National Championships to the Albuquerque area, she was quick to sign up.
“It’s been a lifelong passion,” said Bowen, 37, of Albuquerque. “I’ve consistently cycled, but just recently started competing. Racing was a want I always had, just for the experience on what it was like to be consistent and start a training plan and see how far I can take my fitness. It’s always been a goal but it’s something I had time for just recently.”
Bowen will have plenty of company for the three-stage event Aug. 4-7, as the USA Cycling website said as many as 800 competitors 35 and older will be competing.
USA Cycling officials were unavailable for comment, but the organization discovered Albuquerque last year when the city at the last minute was able to host the event after another city had to bow out because of issues surrounding the virus, said Randy Bradford, 67, who competed in the race last year and will do so again this year.
Bradford is the opposite of Bowen as he is a longtime racer who enjoys the spirit and camaraderie of team racing.
While the Master’s, which groups competitors by age, is not really a team event, he still will be able to interact with team members as they come into the Albuquerque for the event.
“It’s the intensity factor that is involved, the training and how you train,” Bradford said of why he enjoys racing. “The teamwork and working with a team, even though I’ll be racing at nationals on my own. But in most races, I have teammates and the camaraderie of being on a team and training together. Testing limits. I like that feeling of fitness and reinforcement of the good, healthy lifestyle.”
The event begins with a 20- or 40-kilometer time trial Aug. 4 on Vista Grande near Double Eagle Airport.
It continues the next two days with 105- and 52½-kilometer rides on the side of the Sandias, beginning and ending at East Mountain High School, just past the turnoff to Sandia Crest.
And it finishes Aug. 7 at Balloon Fiesta Park with a 45-minute to one-hour criterium in which riders attempt to compile the most laps in the allotted time limit.
All of the events are open to spectators, but Balloon Fiesta Park is the only site with significant parking.
For Bowen, a Navajo, the race holds special meaning because she is representing her home and because she has been training under another Indigenous women in Shayna Powless (Oneida).
“Representation matters,” Bowen said. “It’s super inspiring and extra special to be working with another Indigenous woman … It’s really nice and especially cool that USA Cycling is having the masters here, in my home lands. So, it’s not just the race but my connection with the land, but also to work with other Indigenous cyclists.”
As for where she hopes to finish, that isn’t quite as important this early in her racing career.
“My expectation is to beat my current (personal record),” Bowen said. “I know I have other competition but mostly it’s with myself and pushing myself. I do aspire to win races, and I know I have to be committed to training but right now it’s personal achievement first and I then I want to do be at the level where I’m very competitive and be at the podium and work towards that.”