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As part of a series entitled ‘Faces of the Future‘ we’re taking a look at the personalities, ambitions, and palmares of some of the young and talented cyclists you might not know much about, but you are bound to be hearing lots about in the future.
In this edition of our Faces of the Future series, we’d like to introduce you to 18-year-old Skylar Schneider, who together with her sister Samantha, 24, has been tearing up the US criterium scene. She also won the silver medal in the junior women’s World Championship Road Race in Qatar this past October.
The Schneider Sisters raced for the Wisconsin-based ISCorp Pro Cycling team these past few seasons. The team has dominated the US pro scene with Samantha and Skylar taking first and third in the US Pro Road Tour respectively, as well as earning the Best Young Rider and Best Team awards.
Meet the younger half of the crit-crushing “Schneider Sisters”.
While most four-year-olds are still cruising around the playground with training wheels, American racer Skylar Schneider was already competing at that age, tearing up the BMX park and getting her first taste for winning.
“I never had training wheels,” the now 18-year-old Schneider told Ella CyclingTips. “I still remember when I learned to ride a bike for the first time. It was in front of my house and my dad said, “OK, you’re going to your mom”. And I had watched people ride since I was born basically, so I rode right past [my mom] and to the end of the block because I didn’t know how to stop.”
From BMX, Skylar progressed into cross and track, and took to the road when she was 12. She has won numerous national road titles since.
“Once I started on the road, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” said Skylar.
Skylar jumped into her first professional race when she was just 13 years old, and was the youngest rider at the US elite level for years. Today, five years later, she remains one of the youngest riders in the field.
A family on bikes
It was never really a question of whether Skylar would become a bike racer, just when, because her whole world has revolved around cycling since she was born.
“My Dad rode and raced, and when he met my mom in high school, he eventually got her into racing as well. My sister, Sam, is eight years older, and started on the pro scene at a similarly young age as I was, and so I grew up going to her races and dreaming of racing with her,” said Skylar.
“My parents let me try other sports like tennis and soccer but I honestly really wanted to do cycling,” she continued. “I love the bike because of the goal setting. I write goals down all the time and when I achieve them it’s just such a rewarding feeling. I love the bike because you can really push yourself on it, see new places and meet so many people who share a similar passion. It’s been a very positive lifestyle that I really adapted to and I couldn’t imagine not having the bike.”
The 2016 season in three words: Memorable, successful and filled with opportunity
Between a successful road season at home, competing in Europe and taking the silver medal at the world championships in Qatar, the 2016 season was a big one for Skylar.
When asked to describe her season in three words, it doesn’t take long for her to find the words, “Memorable, Successful, and…opportunity.”
Memorable: “It was memorable because my teammates are some of my closest friends. We travelled together in the team van, so we were on the road sometimes three weeks at a time. We are always together and having a really good time training, racing, cooking and everything in between,” said Skylar. “It’s memorable because we were winning a lot of races and when you’re winning with your best friends it just makes everything seem like a dream, really.”
Successful: “The World Championships will be one of my proudest moments for a while,” said Skylar. “And as a team, we won a lot of races.”
Opportunity: “ISCorps gave us the opportunity to get our feet wet with some UCI stage races, and I got to travel to Europe with the US national team. I learned a lot and expanding on just doing criteriums was a big moment for me.”
In October, Skylar saw the results of that road and stage race experience culminate in a second place finish in the junior women’s World Championship Road Race and a fourth place finish, just outside of the medals, in the World’s junior time trial.
Goals for the next season
With the memories of a breakout 2016 still fresh, Skylar is eagerly anticipating the 2017 season because of two main reasons.
“No junior gearing! Next seas0n will be my first full year with no junior gears and as an elite racer officially,” she said.
“My goal is to improve in a number of areas, such as my hill climbing and time trialing. And I hope to be doing more UCI races, go to Europe some more and find the podium in some achievable races.”
Her long-term goals include qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and making it to the highest level of the sport, the women’s WorldTour, in the next few years.
What kit she’ll be wearing doing it, however, has yet to be announced. After the season she (and her sister) had, there was no shortage of offers, but Skylar could not yet reveal which team she decided on. With that said, whichever kit she’ll be wearing in 2017 will be the same as her sister Samantha’s.
A Package Deal
“We are a packaged deal,” said Skylar. “Because we train together all the time, it really translates into our racing style. When we race, we can communicate just by looking at the other. Racing together is really important to us.”
In negotiating contracts for next season, Skylar revealed that being a package deal wasn’t much of an issue.
“I think a lot of people admire our racing style together and the both of us. There weren’t really any uncomfortable conversations,” she said.
The package also includes their father, Dave, who was the women’s team director for IsCorps the past few seasons and for Team Tibco before that.
“Our dad, Dave, is our director and mechanic. But we are really good at keeping the director and dad relationships separate. When we are on the road, we even refer to him as “Dave” because we want the most professional environment for all of our riders,” said Skylar.
Inseparable as the two sisters are, there is still a healthy dose of competition between the two.
“In a race we will kill ourselves for one another or any of our teammates but off the bike, we are quite competitive,” said Skylar. “There’s definitely some sister competition going on. When we are training, there are half wheel battles all day long.”
So then, who’s the better sprinter?
“Sam has a lot more experience and horsepower. However, when we are training, it’s a pretty close call.”
“I think I’m a bit stronger.”
How about off the bike, with board games or cards?
“Sam is really into numbers, which is annoying, because she definitely always wins when it comes to cards games. She’s a quick thinker. I always try to challenge her for a rematch.”
Having competed at the professional level with women sometimes twice her age for the past five years, it’s easy to forget that Skylar is still just a senior in high school.
After doing her freshman year at a regular high school, Skylar and her family decided to switch her to an online program to allow for race travel and training schedules.
“People worried about me being lonely but since starting the program I have been able to travel the world with other professional athletes, family and cycling friends,” said Skylar. “I love the format and it’s challenging because you have to have that focus and discipline to actually get your work done.”
That kind of discipline would be a challenge for other teenagers but if cycling has taught her anything, it’s to be goal-oriented and have discipline.
“I think I had to grow up pretty quick because every team I have been on, I have been the youngest rider. So I have always been in a very mature environment,” she said. “In order to get along with the other girls, I was extra motivated to get more done, learn faster and mature.”
While most of her focus is on her blossoming cycling career, Skylar hopes to one day pursue a law degree.
“Eventually, I would love to study sports law, but until I have time to go to law school, I will study marketing or business which will be a good complimentary subject.”
In the meantime, she also enjoys learning foreign languages.
“I started learning Spanish a few years ago. I have travelled to Colombia and Mexico various times, and have had Spanish teammates for which I was a translator. I also just started French a few weeks ago and I am really enjoying that,” she said. “It’s a fun challenge.”
QUICK FIRE ROUND OF QUESTIONS
Ella CyclingTips: Living in Wisconsin where the winters are brutally snowy and cold, you spend countless hours riding on the rollers. How do you get through it?
Skylar: “A lot of binge watching, place the clock somewhere I can’t see it or I would be glancing at it every minute. Typically I’ll watch three shows at once and I made this rule where I watch one episode of each show before I repeat a show because that really helps the time pass. Right now I am into Reign, Blacklist and a Spanish show called Velvet.”
Ella: What’s your dream team to race for?
Skylar: “Boels-Dolmans. They really do dominate the sport at the moment and they do it in a classy way.”
Ella: Who are your cycling heroes?
Skylar: “My sister was always a hero, as I have been watching her from my earliest memories on. On a WorldTour level, I would definitely say Marianne Vos, which I’m sure a lot of people do, but it’s incredible how she’s dominated across so many disciplines. And she’s such a good spokesperson for the sport, too.
Ella: Would you rather be Olympic champion or world champion”
Skylar: “Olympic champion. Even though the rainbow jersey would be pretty neat, the Olympics come around only every four years.”
Ella: Is there a specific race you’d like to win?
Skylar: “Flanders. In my opinion, Flander is one of the best spring classics or one day races.”
Ella: Since you’ve been racing for so long already, how do you keep finding enjoyment in racing?
Skylar: “Getting to travel to new places is a big part of the fun for me. And each year I have made steady improvements as a racer. Doing new races, having new challenges, and staying out of my comfort zone keeps it very exciting for me.”
Ella: “How do you relax or taking a break from the pressures of racing?”
Skylar: “I throw myself into my school work, which is totally not cycling related. I do some speedskating in the winter as well.”
Ella: What’s on your workout music mix?
Skylar: “It’s a variety. I put it on shuffle so it’ll will go from The Lumineers to Eminem to Shakira.”
Ella: Do you like racing or riding your bike?
Skylar: “Hmmm I like racing. I think I would still ride, if I stopped racing, just no more inside riding. I would ditch the rollers.”