Where are they now? Chasing down…Alison Dunlap


by Andrea Doray

Alison takes her son, Emmett, out for a ride near their home in Colorado Springs
Alison takes her son, Emmett, out for a ride near their home in Colorado Springs
If getting cut from the team in one sport leads to excelling in another, then we should all try out for college soccer.

It worked for Alison Dunlap. In 1987, after Dunlap just missed out on playing Division I soccer for Colorado College in Colorado Springs, she joined a cycling club instead, then went on to dominate women’s cycling in multiple disciplines and represent the United States not once, but twice, in the summer Olympic Games.

What started as a way for a college freshman to meet people and enjoy the social aspect of sports turned into a stellar racing career as Dunlap realized she was “kind of good” at it.

“I had a bike—royal blue with training wheels and a banana seat—as a kid and I went on bike trips with the Girl Scouts, but I never considered racing,” she says.

However, in 1991 during her senior year at Colorado College, Dunlap became a collegiate national champion in the road race. She also won the individual omnium at collegiate road nationals that year and, as the saying goes, she never looked back.

A native of Denver, Dunlap credits growing up in Colorado with part of her love of outdoor sports.

“Colorado is known for its physically fit population and cycling is popular here. Living in Colorado Springs, I have access to a diverse choice of roads and terrain…at an altitude of 6,000 feet.”

Dunlap also says that having the Olympic Training Center close by was a “huge benefit,” and that being 20 minutes away from the airport made it easier to be a competitive athlete who travels a lot.

The Olympic Dream:

Alison won the 2001 world title just days after 9-11.
Alison won the 2001 world title just days after 9-11.
Dunlap has been fascinated with the Olympics since she was five years old. “I collected magazine articles and made a scrapbook,” says Dunlap. “But I never believed it was a real possibility.”

Never a possibility, that is, until the Olympic trials for the Barcelona Games were being held in 1992 and Dunlap’s manager talked to her about the 1996 Olympics and said “There’s no reason for you not to be on that team.”

“I got the butterflies right then,” Dunlap says. “But it’s really motivating to work hard when someone believes in your talent.”

And Dunlap worked hard. For the next four years, she followed a training regimen of weights, massage, sleep, nutrition, and, of course, riding. “My buddies would be skiing in two feet of powder, and no matter what the weather—30º and sleeting—I’d be out there training,” she says. “I gave up a lot. But I wanted to work harder than everyone else, because I had the drive and the dream.”

The sacrifice and the training paid off. In 1993, Dunlap took the gold medal on the road at the U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio.

Then, in 1995, leading up to the Olympic trials, Dunlap suffered a head injury that she calls “devastating.” Unlike some other injuries, “I had no control over when I was going to get better, or when I could ride again,” says Dunlap. “I became more determined, more driven to work harder, to be one of the best in the world.”

That’s exactly what happened. At the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Dunlap reached for her dream and rode for the United States road cycling team. After she finished in a disappointing 37th, she contemplated retirement, but that didn’t last for long.

Earning a Spot in the History Books:

What’s remarkable about Alison Dunlap—in addition to the work ethic that’s essential for such elite athletes—is that her talent, drive, and determination extend to a range of cycling disciplines. Even while training and racing on the road, Dunlap was riding cyclo-cross with her husband Greg Frozley, and indulging in her love of mountain biking.

“After the 1996 Olympics, I switched disciplines,” says Dunlap. “I wanted to jump start my career, to keep things interesting.”

Dunlap says she wasn’t thinking about the 2000 Olympics: “It was too overwhelming. I wanted to work from year to year. Then, the season before the Games in Sydney, I prepared to qualify for the U.S. team.”

During those four years, she became the cyclo-ross national champion in 1997, 1998 and 1999, and the 1999 mountain bike national champion in cross-country and short-track. She also won the gold at the Pan Am Games that year.

After qualifying for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Dunlap again proved herself among the best in the world, placing seventh, this time in cross-country mountain biking, which had only been accepted as an Olympic sport four years earlier in Atlanta.

Dunlap’s achievements and accolades seem more like a wish list than actual attainments. After her Olympic success, she went on to become the UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country world champion in Vail in 2001, and the UCI Tissot Mountain Bike World Cup Champion in 2002.

Overall, Dunlap is a three-time U.S. National Cross-Country champion, a three-time U.S. National Short-Track Cross-Country champion, and a six-time U.S. National Cyclo-Cross champion, in addition to her world championships and a stack of other wins in various road races and mountain bike races.

“Representing the United States in the Olympics is one of the greatest highlights of my career,” says Dunlap. The dream of that little five-year-old girl with a royal blue, banana-seat bike had come true.

Fast Forward to 2013:

When Dunlap and her husband Greg became parents to Emmett in 2010, even ESPN took notice, profiling her as one of the “sportiest moms.”

“Being a mom has changed my whole perspective about what’s important,” says Dunlap. “I have different priorities, although cycling is still an outlet to keep my sanity!”

Dunlap and her family live in Colorado Springs, where Dunlap runs her Adventure Camps business, providing mountain bike camps in Moab, Utah, and coaching for all levels and abilities.

“I love teaching,” says Dunlap, who shares her enthusiasm with novice and beginner riders as well as intermediate and advanced mountain bikers. “It’s fun and exciting to help mountain bike riders gain confidence in their sport.”

 Dunlap’s advice to young racers is to keep the big picture in mind. “There’s a lot out there in the world. Enjoy your family and friends and play different sports in high school—soccer, basketball, even cross-country skiing -- as well as your cycling. After or during college, you can settle into your serious training.”

For herself, Dunlap plans to continue as a USA Cycling Certified Level II Coach and of course, as mom to Emmett.

“I enjoyed being a professional,” says Dunlap. “The cycling community was, and is, a relatively small group that’s both social and supportive. I love to just ride.”

This Article Updated June 30, 2014 @ 04:26 PM For more information contact: