When we opened up the application process for our Ella CyclingTips ambassador programme, we didn’t now what to expect. We knew that we were part of a passionate women’s cycling community, but even we underestimated the level of enthusiasm that was out there to play a part in growing this sport that means so much to us.
In no time we had hundreds of applications from around the globe. As we turned to the task of scrolling through them, the degree of commitment we could see to help grow women’s cycling and the strength of the applicants, left us brimming with enthusiasm about what a valuable part of Ella our ambassadors will be.
It was clear that the toughest part of this process, was going to be narrowing down the field. The well thought out submissions also highlighted the diversity of our riding community and as a result it became abundantly clear a cookie cutter approach just wasn’t going to cut it, so we decided to break down the launch of the ambassadors into several phases. This way we could more effectively take into account the different needs of our varied cycling communities, altering our programme to recognise each community’s unique needs.
After successfully launching the programme in Melbourne where regular rides and clinics are going strong, we are thrilled to announce the launch of not one but two Ella teams in the United States and they’re eager to meet and ride with you!
Meet the Ella Ambassadors:
We’ve got four kick-ass ladies in the Bay Area and two more (plus our Ella editor) in Seattle.
Growing up in upstate New York, Caitlin was a competitive swimmer, and it wasn’t until she was working on her PhD in Texas that she was introduced to cycling. Introduction turned into obsession and a year later she had ridden several thousand miles. One mile led to another, and she soon found herself entering in her first mountain bike race, then cyclocross, then road racing, and even some triathlons.
Today, she has packed up her bags again and moved onto a new chapter of her life in California, where she continues to ride bikes.
“I’m super excited to be an Ella Ambassador because I would like to pay it forward; there is no way I would have ever experienced the joys of cycling without having mentorship and camaraderie when I got into cycling. The weekly organized (no-drop) rides by folks of the West Texas Cycling Association (WTCA) were instrumental in fueling my love of cycling. As an Ella ambassador, I hope to take the ethos of the WTCA that made cycling accessible and fantastic to me and spread it here on the west coast.”
Erika got on a road bike for the first time on Christmas Day 2011. Two months later, she rode her first self-supported century (118 miles actually) around Oahu, Hawaii.
“This pretty much sums up my interest and drive for cycling. It must be in my bones,” she says.
Wanting to share her newfound passion, Erika started a Bay Area women’s riding group who together raised over $400,000 USD for the AIDS/LifeCycle charity ride. Erika went on to discover bike touring and covered over 3,000 miles last summer biking from Amsterdam to Athens.
“I really just love to challenge myself and bike to new places. Cycling for me is a lifeline: it’s something that keeps me connected to my community, it gets me to see places I’ve never been, it’s there for me to socialize, but it’s also there for me when I just need to pedal and be in my own head.”
A former US national road racing champion, Katheryn is a retired professional cyclist who raced for Webcor Builders and the US National Team from 2005-2010.
Born in Connecticut, Katheryn’s passion for cycling was sparked while living in Vermont where she was introduced to mountain biking. The dirt turned to pavement and she quickly fell in love with the speed, dynamics, teamwork and even the suffering of road racing.
As a professional cyclist, she raced across the US and the world. Career highlights include winning the US national road race championships in 2005 and wearing the UCI World Cup leader’s jersey after winning the 2008 Geelong World Cup race.
“Since retiring, I am very active in my local cycling community and lead a weekly training ride that gets to explore all the beautiful roads and terrain just a few pedal strokes from my front door. I am passionate about mentoring women in the sport, whether they are new or seasoned pros. I look forward to being an Ella ambassador to connect with more women on bikes.”
When sidelined from running due to an injury in 2009, Sophie Ballo did what her friends had been urging her to do for years: buy a road bike. Ever since that day, she has not looked back. Eventually finding her way to Specialized Bicycle Components in 2011, and later to Rapha Cycling Apparel in 2015, Sophie fell head over heals with the sport and everything it had to offer. Along the way, she and some friends decided to start up a small, Made in the USA Bike Company, and VYNL Race Bikes was born in 2015. While not helping to run VYNL,Sophie can be found in the Bay Area’s High School English classrooms, trying to teach the next generation of bike riders how to read and write.
“As an Ella Ambassador, I hope to encourage more women in the Bay Area to tackle NorCal’ challenging but amazingly rewarding terrain! I also hope to empower them to create their own riding identities, and not be shackled with what women riders are “supposed” to be.”
Emily was introduced to cycling after moving to Seattle, Wash., five years ago. She didn’t know anyone in Seattle but shared a desk space with a local racer whose advice for meeting people was simple to “buy a bike”. So she did.
One thing led to another and Emily soon caught the racing bug, competing as a Cat 3 on the road and a Cat 4 on the track.
“I like to say that I ‘make attempts’ at cyclocross and mountain biking mainly because ‘cross is just hard (there’s running?!) and when I mountain bike I tend to spend too much time climbing out of bushes,” she says.
“I’m super excited to be an Ella Ambassador because cycling has taught me a lot about myself and given me many opportunities and I want to give that experience to other women. Seeing, and waving at, more women out enjoying any and all types of riding and getting beyond some of the intimidation factor is a great feeling.”
Margo was raised in the Wenatchee Valley of Washington State where she grew up swimming and playing competitive soccer. She got her first bike at age four and has been hooked ever since. Margo went to Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. She ran cross country and rediscovered her passion for bicycles when racing mountain bikes collegiately. After college, Margo moved back to Washington State and began working in the cycling industry wand continues to do so today. In 2011, Margo became the age-group national champion in Xterra Off-Road triathlons.
“I’m excited to share to knowledge and experience with other riders. I cannot wait to help more women discover the freedom and healthy lifestyle that cycling promotes.”
The Ella Rides
Starting in October, the Ella Ambassadors will host free weekly rides, clinics and special events all with one goal in mind: to grow women’s cycling.
Whether you’re a beginning rider or a pro racer, a roadie, trackhead or mountain biker, riders of all abilities are welcome. Please come out and meet the wonderful community of women on bikes around you.
When: every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month.
Be ready to ride at 6 a.m.
Where: Rockridge BART station
The Ride: Social pace, 10 – 15 miles. Rain or Shine!
Los Altos, California:
When: every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month.
Be ready to ride at 4:30 p.m.
Where: The Red Berry Coffee Bar, 145 Main St, Los Altos, CA 94022.
The Ride: Social pace, 10 – 15 miles. Rain or Shine! Bring lights!
When: Every second and last Sunday of the month.
Be ready to pedal at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Sun Valley Fine Foods, Park Mall parking lot, on the corner of Terra Nova Blvd and Oddstad Blvd.
The Ride: Coastal ride, social pace, 10-15 miles. Rain or shine!
When: Every Monday.
Be ready to pedal at 7 a.m.
Where: Miir in Fremont, 3400 Stone Way N
The Ride: Social pace, 10-15 miles. Rain or shine! Please bring lights always and fenders when it rains.