We are excited for 2019! New kits have been distributed, a team photo was taken, and cycling goals for the new year were shared.
When Spokeswomen Racing was founded in 2011, our members’ primary discipline was generally road racing. In the years since 2011, mountain biking and cyclocross have blossomed in popularity both in our region and on our team. As we enter 2019, our team is now most definitely a healthy mix of dirt, cyclocross, gravel, and road.
Despite these changes, our mission remains unchanged: to promote women’s competitive cycling while giving back to our community.
When you first meet Linda, you will be impressed by her statuesque height and infectiously positive attitude. Subsequently, Linda’s avid love of good coffee will quickly become apparent. But watch a little more closely, and you will notice Linda’s skill at flipping her water bottle while cycling at speed — a seemingly small, but very challenging skill that belies a hint of her colorful and multi-talented background not as a cyclist… but as a professional basketball player who escaped a war torn country.
For this Rider Spotlight, we sat down with Linda Nalis to learn a bit more about her. Linda was born and raised in Bosnia and subsequently emigrated to the United States. The following responses were lightly edited for clarity.
Q: When and how did you take up cycling? Did you ride much as a kid growing up in Bosnia?
I started riding when I was 5-6 years old. I rode a bike a lot as a kid growing up.
It was how we transported ourselves everywhere in town – to the gym, lake, stadium, and to goof around. I rode with my boyfriend while holding hands in third grade. Also, I was on a bike police patrol, and we practiced going around the cones, jumping curbs, and of course stopping at the stop light. I even got into some big trouble when I rode with my friends to another town about 12 miles away and far away from home, and that was a BIG no. Riding on narrow streets with heavy two-way traffic was not very safe. There were no official bike mechanics in town so an older friend would fix bikes for all of us on the block. One time we welded a steering wheel in the place of handlebars and had a blast riding through town. It was a hit.
Q: Tell me about your background as an Olympic-caliber basketball player.
I played basketball professionally since my junior year in high school and throughout the college, practicing twice a day and attending classes in between. I was born in and grew up in Bosnia and played for, at the time, the well-known ‘Bosna’ team in Sarajevo. After the war in Bosnia broke out in 1992, I moved to Croatia and continued to play with a team called ‘Split’ in the city of Split. We won two National Championships in a row, and I had a pretty good time playing and living in Split. That’s where I met my husband, Zlatko.
When Bosnia was fighting for independence in 1992, their women’s basketball team was able to compete at the Olympic games as a separate nation. I was selected to be part of that team. The war in Bosnia was in full swing at the time so to practice all the players had to get out of the war zone. Luckily, I was out of Sarajevo before the war turned into a madhouse, but most of my friends were still in the city. With the help of the Bosnian army and the Olympic committee, we (the players) and the coaches were able to get out of Sarajevo, and we were stationed in Italy.
Italy was quite a treat after previously living in the dark, with no electricity, no heat, very little food, and in constant danger of being shot. Now we had warm croissants in the morning, played basketball all day, swam in a pool, ate lots of pasta, fish, and delicious pizzas, and drank coca-cola, a luxury drink back in the war zone. But it was a slow transition back to a sane world. We all would duck or jerk when someone would close the door too loudly, and we would hit the ground at the sound of a loud bang or celebratory fireworks. Throughout, we would laugh at ourselves and try to move on.
The 1992 Olympic Games were held in Spain, but when the departure time approached to head to the Games, I decided not to go. This is the greatest regret of mine. Why did I decide not to go? The war again. By this time, the war was raging; there were great battles and ethnic “cleansings” happening between Muslims and Croats. I was a Croat from Bosnia, but now the new Bosnia was a Muslim country. How could I go to the Games and play for a Muslim nation when I had lived and played in Croatia? My family felt that I would be in danger or that they would be in danger too if I went to the Olympics with the Bosnia team. We had already had a bomb set up at our house in Bosnia. But that is another story.
Anyway, at the last minute, I pulled out of the Olympic Team and the chance to experience the Olympics.
Q: Tell me about your work as a Physical Education (P.E.) teacher.
Fast forward 20 years and I am a PE teacher at a Jewish elementary school. Being a PE teacher is super fun for me. I love teaching sports and being active with the kids. The work environment is very dynamic, and I find working with kids more fun than working with the adults. So far so good.
Q: Is cycling popular in your home country?
Not so much.
Q: What attracted you to join Spokeswomen Racing?
Smaller team and service opportunity with Jubilee.
Q: How do you fit cycling into your life?
Cycling is a significant part of my everyday life. I commute and run errands on my bike.
Q: How do you balance cycling with being a mom?
As a PE teacher, my days are not long like those of most people, and I have plenty of time. Having one child makes a difference. Now my daughter is almost 18.
Q: What are your preferred cycling disciplines and why?
I enjoy cyclocross the most. I love the variety of skills needed but not the mud as much. I also like road cycling because I like to challenge myself and compete with others. However, there is a whole lot of tactics that I am just beginning to understand. But I know I enjoy long, hard, and brutal workouts, which pretty much represents road cycling.
Q: What are your current cycling goals?
Heal my foot tendonitis:)
Get back in shape for the cyclocross season.
Q: Do you have any other interesting facts?
I love to play guitar as my downtime. And make bike jewelry 🙂
Editor’s Note: Linda is known to carry a mug of coffee on long bike rides in lieu of water. Oh, and she appreciates beer hand-ups at the cyclocross races. Just please don’t hand her Gatorade or some other electrolyte drink, or she might throw it back at you in disappointment. Many thanks to Linda for sharing so much about herself.
We caught up with a few of our team members to learn about their pre-race habits and rituals. Needless to say, they are quite varied! Oddly enough… sweet potatoes seem to be a common theme…
Maura likes to rock out to post-grunge music.
Linda always eats a good breakfast, which is likely to include sweet potatoes.
Joy likes to start her race day by waking up early so she can stretch and foam roll while mentally preparing herself. Breakfast: oatmeal loaded with peanut or almond butter, chia seeds, and honey — but only half of it typically gets consumed due to pre-race loss-of-appetite.
Pre-riding the course (sometimes twice) is a must for Joy before races. She’ll munch some last electrolytes and energy shots before commencing her off-the-bike warm up routine, which typically consists of jumping jacks, squats, and lunges combined with some personal mental prep time.
Before Joy’s first ever bike race, she picked up a bracelet made of Green Aventurine stone beads. The name seemed to fit because it sounded like “adventuring” and she was about to embark on new adventures. Later, she learned that it’s the “stone of opportunity” and can bring good luck and increases favor, especially in competition. Perfect! Joy wore the bracelet during every cyclocross race in her first season.
Like Joy, Tara has a lucky set of bling… earrings! She also never leaves home without her lucky pair of socks. Make-up? A big no-no after crashing in a criterium during her first season of racing while wearing make-up.
Laura preps herself and her gear the night before, since she knows she is NOT a morning person. She will get dressed, eat her morning porridge, and crawl back into bed until she absolutely has to get up. Her favorite trainer warm-up tune is “Bossy” by Keli. After checking out the other riders’ serene meditative pre-race state, she heads to the start line, sheds some layers, slams a gel, and asks herself “why am I doing this?” until it’s BAM! GO time!
Lisa maintains a general pre-race routine which includes laying out her gear and foam rolling, but prefers to maintain a flexible approach to pre-race prep, because, in her own words, “nothing goes as planned anyway!”
When potential members ask about our team, they are almost always pleasantly surprised and impressed by our commitment to the Jubilee Women’s Center (“Jubilee”). When the founding members of Spokeswomen Racing formed our team, they purposely wrote the clause “giving back to our community” into our mission. One of the early members had a connection to and recommended Jubilee, and a partnership was forged.
In their own words, Jubilee “supports women experiencing poverty to build stable and fulfilling futures, one extraordinary woman at a time.” Jubilee provides transitional and longer-term housing and on-site services to help give women the time and support to stabilize, heal, and make positive life changes. About 30 residents can be accommodated simultaneously.
Our team members provide home-cooked community meals every other month to the residents of Jubilee. Typically, 3-5 team members will sign up to help with each meal. Someone takes the meal lead and plans/coordinates the meal and shopping while the others roll up the sleeves in the kitchen or donate financially to the food costs if they cannot attend in person. After the meal is prepared, the members who helped make the meal may partake in their own creations alongside the residents.
Jubilee also organizes 1-2 benefit events during year such as a luncheon or silent auction. Our team members frequently host a table or volunteer to help make these events happen. The funds raised during these events go towards supporting the Jubilee residents.
Now, six years later after the founding of our team, our team members remain passionate about our Jubilee partnership. We proudly feature the lovely Jubilee logo on our team kits. If you would like to learn more about Jubilee or contribute in any way, please reach out to us or visit the Jubilee website.
Some of us like fish (to catch, to eat, etc.), but Spokeswomen Racing’s Rachel Hovel REALLY likes fish. By day, Rachel is a research scientist in the Aquatic and Fishery Sciences department at the University of Washington. But when she’s not up to her waist chasing a fish in a creek or lake somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, she’s an avid cyclist and bike racer. We caught up with Rachel to learn a bit more about her work and how cycling fits into her life.
Q: Tell us about your work as a research scientist. Rachel: I am an aquatic ecologist, and I study how changes in freshwater environments affect biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and aquatic animals. I primarily work on fishes (including Pacific salmon!) and zooplankton, and most of my current research takes place in southwest Alaska, on Lake Washington, and in the Northwest Territories of Canada, where freshwater habitats are acutely experiencing the effects of climate change. It’s important to me that my research helps inform sustainable resource use and conservation.
Q: When and how did you take up cycling? Rachel: Two years ago, a number of factors started limiting the amount of time I could spend mountaineering and alpine climbing, and I found myself spending a lot more time on my bike. A female climber friend of mine told me about cyclocross, and as soon as I watched a race I knew I had to try it. Cyclocross has remained my favorite discipline, and I love everything about it–the intensity, the mud, the community.
Q: What attracted you to join Spokeswomen Racing? Rachel: I really value how our team is a collection of women with diverse interests, and I was interested in joining a team that is invested in promoting women’s participation in the sport. In particular, I was attracted to how Spokeswomen Racing makes dedicated efforts to give back to the community (e.g. regular volunteering for Jubilee Women’s Center).
Q: How do you fit cycling into your life? Rachel: I commute every day and try to get out for a couple additional rides every week–around town, at one of the mountain bike trail networks, or on steep gravel roads. I primarily race cyclocross, and most weekends in the fall/winter have a race day!
Q: Do you have any other interesting facts? Rachel: I also like to work on bikes! I built my around-town commuter, and there’s always something I’m updating or a new gear ratio I’m trying on one or another of my four bikes.
Editor’s Note: Rachel will be moving to Maine later this month to begin a faculty position. We will miss her! However, she plans to continue to race for and represent Spokeswomen Racing on the other side of the country. Watch out!