Huge congratulations to JAMBAR Ambassador Ali Tetrick, who next week will be inducted into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. She’s a natural for the accolade given the amazing things she’s done for the sport of cycling both on and off the bike. Ali became a pro road cyclist in 2009, which took her around the world to compete at the highest levels. She represented the USA National Team at the Pan American Games and medaled at the UCI Road World Championships.
When Ali switched to the world of gravel racing, she did it with a bang by winning her first ever race - the 2017 Unbound 200 - and setting a new course record. She also won Gravel Worlds in 2017, then backed it up with repeat titles in 2018 and 2019, making her the winningest cyclist in Gravel Worlds history. To top it off, Ali is a truly lovely, intelligent human who we’re proud to have as part of the JAMBAR team!
We did a live Q&A with Ali at the recent Jane Fondo Fundraising Ride. Check it out to hear her thoughts on being inducted in the Gravel Hall of Fame, to take a look at the gear she used for the ride, and to learn her favorite JAMBAR flavors!
Learn more about her and the sport she loves in the following Q&A.
Gravel biking has really surged in popularity. Why do you think that is? How does the culture of the sport differ from traditional road racing or mountain biking?
Gravel cycling is about getting off the beaten path – exploring your backyard (or a destination you travel to) with less traffic and all the unencumbered fun. Gravel roads are everywhere, and the bikes are made for all the different terrains. The gravel community offers a space of acceptance and opportunity. The gravel trend started with people wanting to find new ways to seek adventure, and finding roads that weren’t fit for a road bike, but less technical than mountain biking. The industry has now realized this growing trend and developed bikes that are suitable for those bumpy dirt roads, yet still efficient on the road! Gravel riding is an incredible space to push your limits, meet new friends, and discover the less traditional way of getting from Point A to Point B. It isn’t as much about racing and results as it is about celebrating the day together.
In addition to your career as a cyclist, you are also a scientist. Can you talk about your "other" career and how it has intersected with your life on the bike?
I am such a science dork. I worked as a biochemist and physiologist before pursuing my professional career in cycling. Training for any sport requires a little bit of love for data. You can track your progress as you work hard and do your best to prepare for your goals. I have maintained a career “off the bike” through my career “on the bike.” Rather than wanting to just target one career over the other, I prefer to have a balance between my athletic and intellectual pursuits. I think it is important to invest in yourself, whether that means your mental health, education, family, and of course, your health and fitness. The two careers have created a beautiful pattern of my love for the bike, but also for my life to do so much more than just pedal two wheels.
Does music play a role in your training or pre-race preparation? Can you let us know your favorite artist or band: when you were growing up on your family's cattle ranch in California; when you were racing with the USA National Team in Europe in your 20s; and now?
I love to have a song in my heart. I grew up listening to gospel music and classic country. I will always have a special place in my heart for songs from the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson) and Merle Haggard. When I started using headphones to warm up for big races, I became enthralled with Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. I love listening to music when I train that keeps me upbeat and positive. Now, I still listen to a broad variety of music from pop to classic country. I am not a music snob by any means - I like to listen to music that makes me happy and allows me to explore my feelings.
Ten years ago, you were ranked as one of the top 10 professional racers in the world. Then came a series of crashes and a traumatic brain injury that changed the trajectory of your career. We all have times when our lives take unexpected turns and need to find ways to move forward - for example, JAMBAR's founder Jennifer Maxwell discovered the healing power of music in the time following the death of her husband Brian. How did you make it through this extremely difficult time in your life?
Grace. By God’s grace, and grace for myself. We all go through hardships and difficult times where we can’t imagine that life will go on. But life goes on. Give yourself grace to sit with your feelings. Acknowledge them. Recognize them. And then find the best way for you to process where you are. The bike has given me a beautiful way to partake in the therapy of movement. All we can do is be the best we can. It doesn’t have to be perfect but meet yourself where you are and give that person a big squeeze. Maybe you need to get outside and move, or turn on your favorite tune, or even just sit in the still and quiet to rest. It is all about grace.
What is your philosophy when it comes to nutrition? What do you typically eat on a non-race day?
I eat what my body craves. If my body wants a charcuterie board for breakfast, it gets just that. I like eating whole, real food that is nutritious and delicious. I am a savory person, so I enjoy good protein, cheeses, and salads that can be a meal on their own. I love to pair my meals with some delicious California wine and savor the day.
You're a board member of USA Cycling. Can you tell us a bit more about that organization and your role and goals as a board member?
I have been on the BOD of USA Cycling since 2015. I am now also on the Athlete Advisory Council’s Leadership team for the US Olympic Paralympic Committee. These roles help me advocate for the athletes for fair competition, image rights, and overall health and well-being. USA Cycling is the national governing body for all competitive cycling in the United States. I can represent professional athletes by being a voice to promote change and make the best environment for competition. It is important for me to give back to the sport that has given me so much. I also raise money to get more girls and kids on bikes through selling bandanas (https://saga-ventures.myshopify.com) with proceeds going to the National High School Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and Outride.
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