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Wearing the Stars and Stripes

Monday evening the day after Nationals, I stood in the Verizon store with my cursed Droid phone in a perpetual loading cycle of exploding, kaleidoscopic red and white graphics. USA Cycling was about to announce the selection for the World Championships and I had been cut off from all communication in my day-long travels from Boulder. Jordan Dubé and Don Snoop, knowing my predicament and reading the news over Twitter jumped in their car and drove over to meet me at the Verizon store to tell I had made the selection! They are good people. They also surprised me by telling me they were making the trip over to the Netherlands.

I suppose the journey to Worlds officially started then, in the parking lot of North Beverly Plaza, but it had been a goal of mine for the last season and a half. After a great start to the season in 2012 with 6 UCI wins, I made the effort to make the team by traveling to as many C1 races as my teaching schedule and budget would allow, and by traveling to Europe for Kerstperiode to race my first World Cups. Despite a 5th place at 2013 Nationals I just missed making the team last year, and I redoubled my resolve to make the team this year.

As a kid, some of my most vivid memories are of watching the Olympics (a rare occasion that the Anthony family turned on the TV!) and dreaming of being in the Games someday. At the time I didn’t even care for what sport but I thought that wearing the Stars and Stripes would be just the best feeling in the world. Since cross isn’t an Olympic sport (yet), wearing the Stars and Stripes for the US in the World Championships is the next best thing and really a childhood dream come true. For as much as cyclo-cross is an individual sport, the story of getting to Worlds for me is a family tale and for that reason it is all that more special to me.

My two younger brothers Josh and Jesse raced Cross Worlds nine times between the two of them. Both have been my cycling mentors growing up, naturally taking it upon themselves to hone my balance skills by purposely bumping me on the road and to toughen my character by leading me on adventure rides on ice and snow and through bogs and thickets and anything else that looked like the road less traveled. I say this all with a huge grin of course because I loved that these two stars even wanted me along and had the confidence that I could ride with them. Or perhaps they were hoping their older sister might actually not return and hence stop pestering them to do chores and to chew with their mouths closed and all that annoying stuff. Anyway. It was all part of growing up together in a family that loved to ride bikes and had big success doing so.

On the one hand I had a foot in the door with my younger brothers’ accomplishments and their recognition within the community, and I had probably more experience growing up than I realized at the time from being educated by them and other neighborhood pros like Shawn Milne and Tim Johnson. In similar fashion, the kids I used to see living in Honduras who had a soccer ball at their feet from the time they could toddle developed unparalleled skills as a result. There’s nothing that beats the talent you develop from doing something from the time you’re a kid. On the other hand, it was a lot to live up to as the Anthonys’ sister, and I shied away at first to do my own thing in the marathon and triathlon. But dabbling in cross over those years I became hooked. It was the most fun I had on a race course and required everything from lung-searing effort, to finesse and skill, to tactics and good instincts. There is no wasting time or second-guessing in a cross race.

Once I committed to focusing on a cross season, Jesse jumped in as my official coach and Josh continued to be my training partner when our schedules allowed. My parents continued as faithful race supporters. It is only fitting that this past season I joined my brother Jesse’s team Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefits to continue the family tradition. Their financial and mechanical support has been invaluable to a successful season and it’s really special to be part of Jesse’s race family.

Learning of the opportunity to be on the 2014 team there in the parking lot meant a whole lot because of the story getting there.

After getting the news, it was time to go back to the other half of my life, my teaching job. I was the midst of helping my 7th graders prepare for midterm exams, though it was pretty difficult to concentrate on that with the big race coming up. The students were very enthusiastic about their teacher going to the World Championships, “Wait, like the Olympics? That’s so awesome! Congratulations!” They praised, and then without missing a beat continued: “Will we have a good sub? And will you explain what we need to do before you leave?”

My wonderful colleague Doris Ann was flexible enough to rearrange our whole exam schedule so that I could travel to the Netherlands for a few days and my department chair and principal were also very supportive of the opportunity.

It’s taken a good deal of discipline to have two “careers” and it brought a smile to know that the long days of traveling on a Friday after work to a race in Oregon or back from Europe on a Sunday afternoon to work on Monday, and the daily routine of rushing home from work and onto the bike, had paid off.

It was a busy several weeks at school while I also tried to get ready for Worlds. Here my family helped a ton once again: Josh braved 35 degree weather and rain to go ride 3.5 hours of sand and trails in Plymouth with Kevin Hines and Sam Morse who were our guides. They are masters at starting out at an innocent enough pace and just slowly, subtly pushing the speed until before you know it you’re in exquisite pain.

And Jesse. Well he is the boss. He kept me focused and designed my training and made sure I had everything taken care of and had thought of all the little details like scheduling a massage and packing my race morning food. What can I say, I couldn’t do it without him.

All week, my enthusiastic/academically focused students came in to class sneezing and coughing and snotting all over their papers, and I kept a strict Incredible Sulk sleeping schedule and guzzled Airborne a