Going against the tide: A European chasing the cycling dream in America

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In a sport where Europe is usually still considered the ultimate goal, the decision by the British Claire Rose’s to hop the pond and come to America to chase her cycling dream might seem like an unconventional one.

But after getting a taste of American racing during last year’s Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Tour of California and finding herself without a team after Podium Ambition folded, Rose said it’s a choice that feels right. For her it is the land of the right opportunity, at the right time.

Formerly part of the British team pursuit squad, the British time trial specialist returned to the pro peloton last year after having taken a break to focus on her career as a doctor.  Riding for Sarah Storey’s Podium Ambition squad, 2016 was Rose’s first full UCI season, and a successful one at that. She stood on the podium of notable races such as Euskal Emakumeen Bira and Tour de Bretagne before taking home the silver medal in the individual time trial at the British Cycling National Championships.

Hoping to build on those results and make an impression abroad, Rose is riding for the American Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling team this season with her eyes set on qualifying for the world championships in Bergen, Norway at the end of the season.

Getting a leg up in America

“I think it’s a good opportunity for me,” Rose told Ella CyclingTips last month as a desert landscape flowed past the windows of a pick-up truck.

It was the end of team camp in Arizona where Rose and her Visit Dallas DNA teammates got some valuable bonding and training time in ahead of the season’s kick-off race, Valley of Sun Stage Race.

“It’s tough racing here [in the US] and the team seems like a really good fit. There’s a good atmosphere and they’re really supportive,” Rose said.

A vast contrast from last year’s European season, which saw her compete at everything from the cobbled Tour of Flanders to races in the French countryside and streets of London,  Rose said American racing is quite different and a fun challenge.

“I do think that the US is a step up from the UK. There is a bit more strength and depth in the US than in the UK. And the racing is different: there is a lot of stage racing with time trials, which for me is really good,” she said.

While she’s hoping for a go at the GC at well-respected events like the Joe Martin Stage Race and Tour de Gila in April, it’s the time trial experience that’s she’s really after.

“I like being in a break and helping climbers at bigger races like Tour of California but yeah, the goal is to selected for Worlds this year with the hopes of going to the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and Tokyo 2020 is the end goal,” she said.

And she’s off to a good start. After dialling in her training and bike fit during a team training camp at Valley of the Sun, she took second in her first race for the team – the time trail – and then went on to win the general classification at California’s season opener, Chico Stage Race, a week later.

From Scrubs to Lycra

As a former member of the British team pursuit program, if Rose makes it to Bergen this fall it won’t be her first time representing Team GB at the highest level.

While attending medical school at Oxford, Rose (then Galloway) discovered cycling after a back injury ended her university rowing career. Riding an upright hybrid bike was the first real physical activity she was able to do in rehab and it wasn’t long before she got hooked.

A raw cycling talent, Rose was picked up by the British team pursuit program just seven months after starting to race bikes, and soon found herself training with likes of Laura Trott, Nicole Cooke, Katie Colclough and Rebecca Romero.

She would represent team GB at several international events before returning to university to finish her studies and start working as a doctor.

The draw of competition and cycling didn’t wane, however, and at the end of 2015 Rose signed with Podium Ambition to give cycling another go.

“Having spent a couple of years working as a junior doctor, I knew that I had to make the decision now if I was going to really go for it and give cycling a good shot again otherwise I would miss out on the opportunity,” Rose said.

“It’s not that I don’t love medicine or that I didn’t want to be out there working. I just knew I also wanted to be out there riding my bike and you can’t do both together. Medicine will always be there. They always need doctors. So I know that if cycling doesn’t work out, I can go back and throw myself into medicine. I just know that if I don’t do this now I will definitely regret it.”

You can follow Claire Rose’s journey via the team’s website and on social media: @claireyrose.

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