Rachel Lloyd’s last pro-level race was 2009 Worlds in Hoogerheide, finishing in ninth place. This season, she started racing casually in a dfL jersey of an underground club in San Francisco that hosts cross-dressing races. Her last USAC race was in 2009, and this season, at CXLA, she made her comeback finishing in second on Day 1 and third on Day 2 during that weekend and then having a great weekend in Bend, Oregon, immediately afterwards. Now she’s made her way onto CalGiant for the season, and has some serious plans for Nationals. The Bay Area-based Lloyd may just be the dark horse contender in the Elite Women’s race on Sunday in Boulder. Andrew Reimann caught up with her before she headed to Boulder for Nationals.
Cyclocross Magazine: Back in 2007, we saw an amazing return of Rachel Lloyd, lasting until you declared you were retired after the 2008-09 season. But then, four years later, you began this fall with a bang. What motivated the second comeback?
Rachel Lloyd: Well, this season started off being all about the costumes. [She showed me a picture of herself at a local race, striking a heroic pose with comically long socks and gloves, a flowing red cape, and a dfL belt buckle]
CXM: I love the dfL kit, but should we be calling you Wonder Woman?
RL: Pamela Palma, the photographer took all of these pictures, and gave me some large prints this weekend… We have a local Bay Area training series [the dfL Training Series CXM experienced and wrote about here] that strongly encourages costumes, specifically cross dressing, and there’s some amazing women cross-dressers now, beards and everything. I just decided I wanted to do those races this year, and it was a big focus really. I ended up designing and making my costumes. It was a little consuming because I had a different costume at every race.
The first race I made the cape for the dfL Wonder Woman to match an old Stars and Stripes Nationals skinsuit [Lloyd has had plenty of silver medals at Elite Nationals,]. Then, I realized I needed to make a real Wonder Woman skin suit—well, costume, suit, whatever. Then I made the boots, shoe covers, leg warmers, and that was fun.
Then, I made shining purple leotards for me and my husband. That was the second race. Then, I made Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader costumes for the third one, which I actually flatted in so I only got a couple laps out of that one. I just caught up to my husband to tell him I flatted.
CXM: Over what time did all of this take place?
RL: This was all September, we did four of these races in two weeks, Tuesdays and Saturdays. I went from going off the couch to feeling pretty good… And then I started training, turning my Tuesdays into training days. It just evolved after these dfL races. I realized I was pretty fast for being off the couch.
CXM: You just made our readers completely jealous.
RL: [Laughter] Well, after these, my sister started racing up in Washington. I thought it would be fun to race to support her. I gave her one of my old ’cross bikes. We decided to meet up in Oregon for a couple races, and so she could see the kids. So I decided to train for that one and do some more races. It just snowballed. I was doing better and better, the more I was racing. ’Cross is a kind of race that can whip you into shape. You do multiple races every weekend, and before you know it, you’re going pretty good. That’s the really fun thing about ’cross: It makes it a little more accessible. I think they are also easy to train for because they are short.
So as my husband saw me doing better, he really wanted me to keep doing it. Before, I said, “I’ve raced for so long, why do I need to keep doing it? I’ve already proved I was good. Time to move on and be a mom.” Then I saw that I won’t keep being able to do this… Well, not for much longer. I’m going to start getting slower; so I’ll do it while I can.
Since my husband is so supportive with helping out with the kids, we called up Anthony [Gallino, General Manager of California Giant Cycling] and asked if he had a spot for me. He said if I wanted to race again, he’d support me.
CXM: That’s amazing to hear, but just going back earlier, this is your twin sister’s first year at cyclocross?
RL: Yea, she started as a beginner and she is a Cat 3 now. She did most of her races in Washington, and she can race. She could race in the As! She told me she could race with me in the As, and said “I don’t think you could lap me!”
CXM: What are her thoughts on the first season? Does she wish she started racing when you did?
RL: Well, she is competitive. My whole family is competitive.
CXM: You have two adorable children and a list of hobbies and activities that would even humble well-rounded athletes. Anything else been keeping you busy all this time?
RL: What’s on that list?
CXM: Last time you spoke with us, you were hiking, trail-running, and mountain climbing, just for starters.
RL: Last summer, just before I was thinking about ’cross, I met up with my sister and climbed Mt. Shasta. I haven’t climbed it in quite a while. I mean, definitely before I had kids. I felt like I definitely got off the couch. So while I now feel like I do a lot of that, I feel like since I’ve had kids I’ve become a little more domestic in my hobbies. I’ve really enjoyed sewing in the last few years: making kid’s clothes, and hats and blankets. Talking with my mom about it, she told me how great it is to keep producing something. That felt very true to me.
CXM: So when you said the early races this year were about costumes, you weren’t just creating the ensemble, you were crafting those together from scratch.
RL: Oh yeah! Designed those costumes, and I sewed everything. I looked at clothes and tried figuring out how to make the patterns.
CXM: Considering you started with costumed races, you look as if you planned this season on your own terms. Any rationale for choosing the amount of races you did?
RL: Well, I wouldn’t call the dfL Training Series costumed races. They’re great races that incorporate a little more Jungle Cross than you would see at a UCI race. Very hard! Otherwise, I just did the amount of races I could. The whole family could come out to see the Bay Area Superprestige Series, so they’re easy to get to, right in San Francisco. I was trying to race every weekend I could apart from recovering from an injury to my ankle and when we traveled for Christmas. My husband and my sister’s boyfriend, we all did our own race together, and we even created a race last weekend with the dfL folks.
Once we decided I was going to do Nationals, we decided I needed to do some UCI races and get some points so I wouldn’t have to start in the back. When there’s a hundred women in the field you can’t start at the back.
CXM: After the change in goals in the season, how was it coming back to a top level team halfway through the season?
RL: Well, I’m honored to be riding with the top-level athletes in the country, but I haven’t been able to do that many races with them. They are in the big races in Europe and I’m here. Hopefully, we get a chance to work together and bring home a National title.
CXM: You rode a bike across the United States in 1994, years before you began racing—that must have changed your perspective on cycling.
RL: It did, really showed me what you could do on a bike, and how much bikes can be a way of life.
CXM: Was there a single moment or experience that you can remember on that trip when you knew you wanted a future with riding?
RL: I don’t know if there was a single time in the trip, but I remember getting back and someone told me I was now a cyclist and it hit me. I was a runner before and raced in high school just like my dad, and my brothers all ran. Since I knew I became a cyclist, I knew I had to race! I’m such a competitive person and tried to get on the road scene because I already had a road bike. It just didn’t feel welcoming.
In ’95 when I did my first mountain bike race, I had ridden a mountain bike a handful of times and I won, and everyone was so welcoming. And I thought, “I’ve got my people here, they’re all open arms,” and I became a mountain biker. The next year I moved to California and turned pro.
CXM: You have stood on the podium at US Nationals multiple times and have represented your country at Worlds. Is there anything left for you to check off in your cycling career?
RL: Well, I’ve never won cyclocross Nationals, so that always does bother me. It was Alison Dunlap as the dominating force early on, and then Katie [Compton] showed up. And it’s been nine years since she’s been dominating. I need something to happen to her to give me a chance!
CXM: What are the most drastic changes you have seen from 2002 to 2014, both in terms of cyclocross racing and the women’s fields?
RL: Nationally, the depth of women’s fields has grown larger and stronger. Locally, there seems to be ebbs and flows. On a world level, and a European level, there weren’t always these races for women. There weren’t always World Cups for women until the early-to-mid 2000s. We just raced with the Junior men. Now all the big races have women’s races. It’s really good. And over the last five years the field size for women at Cyclocross Nationals was over a hundred, which is pretty amazing. You don’t see that in mountain bike races. I don’t know if that is because mountain bike races at that level are only for pros, while cyclocross includes the range of Categories 1-3.
CXM: Do you have ambitions in making the Worlds team?
RL: I would pretty much have to win Nationals, so many of the spots are taken!
CXM: Worlds is taking place in familiar territory!
RL: Well… we’ll just have to wait and see.
CXM: So then heading into Nationals, is your goal going to be the big win?
RL: My husband asked me to win Nationals as a birthday present to him. His birthday’s on January 10, but I might just end up getting him a pair of socks. I’ll be starting in the twenties, so let’s see if I can fight through the crowds and get into the race. I really just want to have fun.
CXM: Well, we definitely wish you the best of luck!
For all the best Cyclocross Nationals 2014 coverage, including bike profiles, race reports, results and video interviews, check out our 2014 Cyclocross National Championship Page here.