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Our Movers and Shakers series features Q&As with women trail blazers in the sport and industry of cycling. These are women who often go unnoticed but make the world of (women’s) cycling go round.
The women we write about in this series include team owners, key industry players, race organisers, cycling advocates, journalists, inventors, designers, business owners and the professional athletes that often play a huge role in advancing their sport. Is there someone you want to hear form? We happily accept your nominations for Movers and Shakers in the comment sections of these articles.
Some will let life happen while others will make life happen. These are people who recognize that we are the ones who determine our destiny based on the choices we make. And we make these choices every day. Sometimes you go through life not knowing why you do the things you do, but there is something inside of you that compels you to keep pushing, to do the work, to get back up when it gets hard. Sometimes in life you need to take a risk and follow the passion that fuels you with absolutely no reserve.
Retired pro cyclist Mari Holden is one of those people who followed her passion and gave it her all. In doing so, she won six U.S national championships, a silver medal in the 2000 Olympic time trial in Sydney, a world time trial championship in 2000 and was, as of November 2016, inducted into the US Bicycle Hall of Fame. Mari currently works as the director to the UCI women’s team Twenty16-RideBiker. This was her third season with the team and will continue to direct the team in 2017, when it will be renamed Twenty20.
“I’m only 45 and I’m going to continue to follow dreams.”
– Mari Holden. Professional Cyclist. World Time Trial Champion. Olympic Silver Medalist. Team Director.
Jen Agan for Ella CyclingTips: When you learned that you were going to be inducted into the U.S Bicycling Hall of Fame, what were your first reactions and thoughts?
Mari Holden: Complete surprise! [laughing] I was not expecting it at all. I was so humbled especially when you consider the other people I would be joining. It’s been a long time since I’ve been overcome with that kind of emotion.
Ella: You’ve had an amazing journey. What have you held true through it all?
MH: You have to be open to the possibilities of what could happen if you give things a chance. Obviously there will be hard times and you have to persevere. It’s about perseverance. I don’t look at my journey as being finished. I’m not done. I’m only 45 and I’m going to continue to follow dreams.
Ella: What does success mean to you?
MH: Success is being proud of your accomplishments and the way you achieved them knowing you did it well.
Ella: What is your most proud moment thus far?
MH: As a director, it was when the girls won the ATOC team time trial. The girls worked so hard. It was our focus, we even had training camps that everyone committed to. As an athlete, it was winning an Olympic medal.
Ella: What is your greatest strength and how does this apply to your management style with the team?
MH: I’m tougher than a lot of people think. Mentally strong. I have empathy and understand the girls. I think this works well with them, as I am able to relate, I am in-tune with the riders and how they are feeling. I understand the pressures, the stress and the desires of the riders.
Ella: What did you want to be growing up?
First an archeologist. My dad was in the military and we traveled a lot. I would visit the ruins and I just MH: loved going into the different sites. I remember my dad took me to an actual archaeological dig, and I saw what the actual work was, and it was boring! I was a very active child, as you can imagine, so that quickly changed my mind. And for the better. After that, I always wanted to be a professional athlete.
Ella: Was there a time when you didn’t know what you were to do next? Did you ever feel like giving up?
MH: Of course. It happens a lot. You’re always on that edge. We face it all the time. Especially with women’s cycling. It’s important to question things and question the current situation but always remember what you are after. When I was racing we didn’t really have the social media and community that exist today. That was good and bad. It made focusing easier, but nobody at home ever had any information about what we were doing. So there was a sense of loneliness at times. In ’94 I crashed badly and came back in ’95 – it was terrible – but I did it and won Nationals. In ’96 I didn’t make the Olympic team. I could have quit then. I didn’t, and went on to winning silver and the worlds time trial championship in 2000.
Ella: Who have been your personal mentors?
MH: I do not have one in particular. Many people come through our lives offering advice and we can learn from them. My parents were my role models growing up and shaped my character. But Dean Golich was the biggest influence in my cycling career and Barry Bonds for helping me get back involved in directing.
Ella: What was the transition like from athlete to race director?
MH: It was seven years before I became involved as a team director after I stopped racing. I was bitter from injuries and not understanding what was wrong. It’s incredibly frustrating to not be able to compete at the level you expect of yourself. I needed that break and transition time to grow. Having that time, the space.- puts it all in perspective. I realised I needed to get back to what I knew and loved. I also think having that time away has made me a better person and director. I love seeing what is happening in our industry and the women I had a chance to work with.
Ella: What, in your opinion, are the fundamentals that make a great team?
MH: Tenacity. When a rider keeps at you. We have a lot of riders who inquire about the team, and yes of course strength and talent are part of it. To me though, you have to be a good person. Your team has to work well together as a group. Getting along and teamwork is everything. It doesn’t matter how strong and talented you are as a rider, if you don’t get along with the other girls and you have a hard time working in a team setting – well, it’s just not what I look for.
Ella: What was the best advice you were given when you first started out?
MH: On the bike, the best advice was to leave it all out on the road. Don’t come back from the finish with excuses. Off the bike, the best advice is do your research and have a plan. That’s the same advice I give the girls. Surround yourself with likeminded people. You know, surround yourself with people whose goals align with yours – that’s really the key.
Ella: If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would you say?
MH: [Laughing] I would tell myself not to be so hard on myself. It’s going to be okay.
Ella: If you could have a drink and sit down with anyone who and what would it be?
MH: Iced tea with Maya Angelou
Ella: What is your favorite way to gain back your zen and recharge?
MH: I love being outside. Long bike rides and trail runs. Last year I hiked Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon with Kimberly Baldwin and Ina Yoko Teutenberg. It was awesome.
Ella: What does the world need more of? Less of?
MH: More equality. The level of support with men and women. I understand the reasons there is not the same support with women as that of the men. But, I wish we could learn how to have more equality. Less sexualisation of the sport and just recognize the impact that does have.
Ella: What does your horizon look like?
MH: I don’t know what it looks like, but I’m hoping to continue to be involved. Continue to be a director with the team. I’m hoping to develop the next generation – for our team to be a platform – a development for the girls careers.
A big Thank-You to Mari Holden for taking the time to talk to us. Who would you like to hear from next? Let us know in the comment section below.