Kendall Ryan Gets Back on the Track
Listen for her cheering section. Kendall Ryan will have a whole slew of family and friends in the stands when she’s on the start line for the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships at the VELO Sports Center in Carson, Calif. The Ventura, Calif., native is racing in her home state, and she’s launching back into track cycling.
“It’s kind of coming full circle for me because that’s pretty much where I started,” she said. “I was on the track before I was on the road.”
The track is where Ryan began to hone her bike handling skills. The road is where she has found recent success, including the Stage 1 win during the 2018 Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race in May.
Now, she’s shifting between the two disciplines, and the USA Cycling Talent ID Camp has helped with the transition. Her goal, no matter the surface, is Tokyo 2020, and she’s dead set on getting there.
Ryan’s mission to reach the Olympic stage intensifies starting this weekend at the Track National Championships. She begins by jumping straight from the road to the velodrome.
She arrived in California on Monday, directly from the Prudential RideLondon Classique road race in London, a UCI Women’s WorldTour event. She was racing with her pro team, Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank, and didn’t finish with the result she had hoped for. She flipped over her bike as she crashed, landing on her spine. Fortunately, a good night’s sleep had her feeling much better, and the prescribed days off the bike timed perfectly with her trip back home.
Less than a week later, she’s ready to get her momentum going again on the track. Ryan talked about getting back up to speed on the track, about her success this year, and about her journey to reach her ultimate goal.
This has been a really strong year for you. How are you feeling about your road season so far?
It’s definitely been the most successful season of my career. The caliber of races that I’ve won or placed well in have all been WorldTour or UCI races. I’m really happy about that.
I set some really high goals for myself this year. And, I feel like my sister (Alexis) and I are finally getting to that level where we’ve both been able to get in the zone in races and just rise to the occasion. She motivates me a lot to be my best, and it’s cool to see her succeed. We have really healthy competition, and we’re both happy for each other. It’s really cool to have her there racing with me and to share the experiences with her.
Your Stage 1 win at this year’s Amgen Tour of California was an emotional moment. Can you describe the feelings you experienced that day?
I had never won a yellow jersey or any jersey – I never usually go for any of those things. I had always been kind of a work horse my entire professional career. I’ve been racing professionally for seven years now, and I’m just finally coming into being defined as a sprinter.
It meant a lot to be able to pull through and take that win. It was pretty crazy how loud I screamed coming across the line – every breath left my body. I was just so excited. It was an awesome feeling.
When did you start racing and what disciplines?
I started racing when I was 6 years old in BMX. Then it turned into going to the track and racing there when I was 8 years old. Then I went into road and mountain bike and cyclocross – I pretty much raced all of the disciplines of cycling. My brother (Morgan) and sister did the same. It was a family thing that we did together. We traveled around in a motorhome to nationals and other races.
You found success at a young age. When did you get involved in the USA Cycling development programs?
I’ve been traveling all over the world since I was 15, since USA Cycling took me to Belgium. I would be there for about a month at a time. I went every single year from age 15 to 18 with USA Cycling and the junior development team.
How much track racing have you done this year?
I raced on the track earlier this year, a fun Friday night race at the velodrome in Los Angeles. I had just gotten a new bike and wanted to test it out. It was good – I know that track pretty well and now will be racing nationals on it.
I also went to the Olympic Training Center for the Talent ID Camp. I got to meet Olympians, spend time on the track, and I learned a lot from Gary (Sutton). It was a good refresher – I got out there, and thought, ‘Ok, I know how to do this.’
What were some of your key takeaways from the USA Cycling Talent ID Camp?
I did a lot of Team Pursuit training on the track during the camp, which was new for me. I was really pumped to be in the starter position – it’s a really hard effort because you have to get it going and then hang on. That position seemed to fit well because I have a lot of torque as a sprinter on the road. A lot of it is also bike handling skills. It’s hard to time your exchanges well when you’re going up and then back down the track.
Describe the different elements of track and road cycling that you can apply to each. And, how do you transition from the road to the track?
The races on the track are so different because it’s a lot of stop and go. I’m ok with that because I’m a sprinter, and in races I’m not always doing a lot, just saving it for the end. Although, it’s definitely something that some people are more conditioned to, where I’m used to riding for a while. At the same time, I think it can work to my advantage because I have the endurance. So, I can see in races like the Omnium where some people may lose gas and I may just be getting going.
Riding on the track is also more instinctual. I feel like that’s really how I gained this sixth sense in racing on the road. You’re more aware of your surroundings, and you’re more aware of how people are about to pounce. I feel like I’ve used that a lot in my road racing.
What are your goals heading into the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships?
I don’t like losing, so I’m going to go for the win every time. I also have to be realistic and look at who I’m up against. There is some serious horsepower on the track, and it’s completely different from the road. I haven’t really raced on the track all year against nationally-ranked riders, so it’s going to be super hard. As always, I do have high expectations for myself, and I have to have confidence. So, I’m interested to see how it pans out.
Your ultimate goal is the Olympics, and Tokyo is just two years away. What will be your focus as you set out to get there?
A couple years ago, I started thinking about racing on the track again. I went to T-Town, had some fun, and that kind of sparked it for me. I realized I wanted to get back on the track to see what I could do. Now, doing a little more work on the track, and having my own bike and getting a good fit, I’m really excited to see what I can actually do.
I’m already looking at what’s going to be priority. My team is super supportive of my dreams of becoming an Olympian. They’re going to support me in whatever I need to do to get there, which has been really awesome. It will be a wild journey for sure.
For me, going to the Olympics is the goal, so whatever they want to put me in is great, and I’m going to work my ass off to get there.
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Ryan is a three-time USA Cycling National Champion, winning on the junior level in the criterium when she was in the 15-16 age group, and in the points race on the track in the 17-18 category. In 2015, she captured the stars and stripes jersey by winning the USA Cycling Pro Criterium National Championship.
She’ll be racing at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships which run from Aug. 4-7 at the VELO Sports Center in Carson, Calif. Follow @USACycling across all channels for updates throughout the event.
For more information, please contact Kelly Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org