AMBASSADOR PROFILE:

BW Ambassador Profile: Fiona Dougherty

I remember the first time I saw Fiona Dougherty race quite clearly. I was watching the women’s field at the Georgetown Cyclocross Festival last year, and this tiny girl was putting the wood to pretty much everyone. She was chasing Samantha Runnels, who was in the lead. Just chasing, chasing, chasing... Endlessly, aggressively pursuing her prey. The gap they both had on the rest of the riders was ridiculous, and I kept wondering how someone so small could go so fast.

There was an undeniable talent at play. It’s hard to put into words, but so obvious when you see it. Here was a girl who could go places, not just at a local level, but on a much broader scale. There was a maturity to the way this girl was racing. She had a fierceness, a souplesse, that was amazing to watch.

“What is souplesse?” You ask.

I think the writers over at Rapha provide the most succinct definition: “To pedal avec souplesse is to spin without thrashing, dance without stumbling; it is to look entirely natural on a bicycle.”

Needless to say, it’s a very rare quality.

AMBASSADOR PROFILE:

And here I am, less than a year later, riding bikes with the young upstart in Cameron Park before she leaves to travel through Yellowstone on her way to the Missoula XC (The last UCI mountain bike race on the junior schedule).

It’s interesting, the dichotomy of Fiona’s character. On the one hand she’s an awkward, self aware, charming teenage girl, trying to figure out life as best she can. On the other, well… She’s not any of those things. When Fiona is racing, she's so competitive that all of those other adjectives fade away.

The rain’s been so steady the past few weeks that we really can’t ride for long. It’s all mud. Instead, we sit down at the Redwood Shelter and I talk to Fiona about her goals, her training, and how she got started in the sport.

“This is a family thing for us," she's quick to point out. "I have a younger sister and two younger brothers. We all come to the races as a family. It’s been a natural progression. My parents have always ridden. I’ve always ridden.

When I was thirteen I started racing the collegiate series, because my dad was a chaperone for the Baylor Cycling Club. I was beating every collegiate girl in Texas. Which, being thirteen, some of them didn’t like so much.”

Fiona pulls back after this statement, not wanting to appear arrogant. It’s funny to me, because she’s so much more humble than most of the idiots I normally ride with. If my friends win a city limit sprint they’ll post a photo of the sign on Instagram with an annoying quote, and text me about their domination of the sport for the rest of the day.

But I digress…

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At 14, Fiona started competing in the TMBRA series, and was regularly beating 18-year-old cat 2 riders. That was the moment she thought that maybe she could do something in the sport.

“I realized I had talent, but once I started training, it really blossomed. It happened so naturally, cause that’s what my family was doing already... Everything evolved organically.”

We talk a bit about her training, and she gives props to her one and only coach, Blake Schrader, for her rapid growth in the sport. I’m impressed. At 38, I’ve only just learned how effective structured training can be, but this 17-year-old is already at the next level. It’s a rare thing to see talent recognized at a young age, and nurtured in a sustainable way.

I get the sense that Fiona’s parents aren’t trying to relive their glory days through her, but are simply providing the tools for their daughter to excel, no matter what she chooses to excel at.

Being home schooled doesn’t hurt, either. The flexibility in Fiona’s schedule allows her to do things like travel to UCI races around the country, something traditional schooling wouldn’t normally allow. This fact isn’t lost on her, Fiona understands the confluence of circumstances that have come together to provide her a chance at greatness.

It's just the smallest spark of a chance, though…

The rest is up to her. The rest is up to one legged drills on Wednesdays, and hill repeats on Thursdays. The rest is up to group rides, and course recon, and nutrition, and suffering to catch a wheel because you know that this is "the" wheel to catch.

We’re so proud to call Fiona one of our BW Ambassadors. She’ll be racing the U-23 UCI calendar for the first time next year, as well as all of the TMBRA races she can get her hands on. If you see her out on the road in Waco, get her autograph now. We reckon it’s gonna’ be worth something in the future.

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