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Champion cyclist will represent UA in race

Josh Fields/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Geology junior Melanie Meyers rode into first place at the National Off Road Bicycling Association Championships on Sunday in Mammoth Mountain, Calif. Meyers has hopes of turning pro in the near future and will represent the UA in the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals in October.
By Danielle Rideau
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 23, 2005
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A UA student rode to victory last weekend and became the national mountain bike champion after months of intense training.

Melanie Meyers, a geology and creative writing junior, won the National Off-Road Bicycling Association championship Sunday in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Meyers has been cycling for four years but began seriously training two years ago, she said.

Meyers said she became serious about mountain biking after her brother and her friends noticed her natural talent for the sport and pushed her to compete in races.

Meyers won her first race as a beginner. The first win drove her to continue riding, and she continued to be successful, she said.

She began training for last week's competition with trainer Whit Yost, whom she met working at Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff over the summer, she said.

While working at Absolute Bikes, Yost and Meyers became friends, and he found out she was training without a coach or program.

He noticed how talented Meyers was and offered to help her train because he wanted to watch her succeed with long-term goals, Yost said.

"I saw someone who was naturally super,

super talented," Yost said. "I wanted to see what she could do with a structured workout and if she was thinking weeks and months in advance."

In order to properly train for an important race like the NORBA championship, Meyers said, she began training in December. She and Yost planned a workout where she rode long distances in the beginning of the year to build up stamina and ended the year with short, intense workouts.

Meyers said she would also practice with "roadies," or road cyclists and members of the UA Cycling Club to prepare for her races.

Along with the actual training and practice, she would compete in other races to "prepare and qualify for the championship race," Meyers said.

The training relationship between Meyers and Yost is unique because Yost lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia and trains Meyers over the phone and through e-mails.

Even though Yost and Meyers worked together in Flagstaff, they had not been able to ride together, Yost said.

Yost said Meyers is successful with this unconventional type of training because she is consistent with communication.

"Mel took the initiative to do the training, and she would be consistent and tell me how she was doing," Yost said.

Meyers isn't stopping with the national championship win. She said she is taking a week off from training and will begin

preparing for the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, where she and other members of the UA Cycling Club will represent the UA and compete during the last week of October.

Meyers said she hopes to become a professional cyclist and get sponsorship from a bicycle company. She thinks a sponsor could come as early as next year.

"I've gotten a couple different leads on sponsorship," Meyers said. "It looks pretty hopeful for next year."

Once Meyers becomes sponsored, however, competition will be in a whole new league. She expects she won't win for a couple of years because the women competing on the national level are much older and more experienced.

"With cycling you usually get better with age," Meyers said. "Most of the women competing on the professional level are in their late 20s or 30s. I probably won't win right away."

Although competing with professional athletes might be difficult at first, Meyers is up to the challenge to make it through the ranks.

"Eventually I want to be (one of) the top-20 cyclists in the country," Meyers said.

Yost has full confidence Meyers will be successful as a professional, and hopes she joins a team that will support her long-term goals of being a successful cyclist.

"In a perfect world a team will look at her as a champion in a few years and not their champion right now," Yost said.

Yost also believes Meyers has a good future ahead of her because of her mindset.

"Mel has the right mentality and a good mix of drive and confidence in her cycling without being a looney-tune. She understands this is a marathon and not a sprint, and won't burn out." Yost said. "If Mel were a football player, she would be a first-round NFL draft pick."

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