Editor: Brooke Miller retired at the end of the 2010 season after what she described as two poor years. In 2007 and 2008 Miller was winning all kinds of domestic races, and putting in big finishes when racing in Europe. Her 2008 was capped off with not one but two National Championships. Miller provides a very personal perspective on what a championship can mean after one stops racing full time and how cycling goals can collide with real life.
Where and wehn did you win a championship?
2008 Road and Crit Championships, Irvine CA
How did the race go down?
(Honestly- would be best to read race reports… the road race was a boring race that i can’t recall well, and my abbreviated crit description will probably lose some of the action from the time it happened.)
2008 Road Race: Our team kept the race together – i was supposed to be following Laura Van Guilder and Tina Pic. Mara and Lauren attacked on the last climb and Laura and Tina went to bridge across, so i sat on them. That brought the field back together. It was 1k to the last corner with a slight uphill sprint – I can’t actually remember who went first, Tina or I, but I had an awesome sprint.
2008 Crit: SUPER exciting race. TIBCO attacked hard and then with two laps to go set up an awesome leadout, but it was super sneaky. Our intent was to set it up, have kat caroll attack with 1 lap to go and try and have her solo to the finish. We figured we would use the leadout as a decoy. It worked and she had a great attack that caught the field off guard but she was reeled in. Lauren took me to the second to last corner and I knew the sprint was to the final corner. I jumped HARD into the final corner and sprinted full gas into it. I half expected to crash, but there were haybails and they don’t hurt when you crash into them, at least that was my logic. I knew i had to do it to win. I beat Tina to the corner and she had to pull on her breaks and she ended up 5th or so. It was an exciting sprint and I was euphoric.
Where did these wins stack in your list of victories?
They were career highs in hind sight. Because i had been so focused on international competition (World Championships and National Team Projects) I didn’t let myself get too excited at the time, I had simply done my job. It seemed like it was a step along the path to my bigger goals. It did not sink in for about 6 months, it felt like a dream or a delusion. It was hard for me to realize that i had won something that really was a big deal. Because I had put these bigger goals out in front of me, i didn’t linger emotionally and didn’t get too excited. it was only with hind-sight that it all came into focus as being a big accomplishment. Just thinking about it now, for every race that i won, there were a hundred or so riders who wish that they won. That level of competition is even more telling in the national championships.
In terms of where it stacks with my other race wins, it is hard to compare. Each one is different and special for a whole host of different reasons. I can point to the 2007 Cherry Pie Crit, a local race, that in a lot of ways had a bigger impact on me psychologically than the national championships. But, of course, cherry pie was not very important in terms of my career. or the indo grand prix- i took second- but my dad had collapsed and siezed before the race and was taken away in an ambulance. my mom told me to go on and race and i did. he made it back in time to cheer and i heard him around the halfway point. all races are apples and oranges and so you cannot easily compare one victory to another.
Do you have any memories that stand out from before or after the race?
After the race, I saw my husband. We had just agreed, after two years of heartache, to divorce. He came to watch, flying out from Cleveland, after I had left a month before. He was crying with joy for me, and I started crying too. It is hard to even let myself remember it without being flooded with emotions.
Did you get treated different when you wore the jersey the following year?
Absolutely, and it was not always good. I had a pretty poor season in 2009, I was finalizing a divorce in 2008, the hardest thing that I have ever been through, especially since I loved him and he loved me. We had an amicable divorce, but I was breaking the heart of someone i loved, respected, and admired. No matter how much i knew it was the right decision, it was painful. It had been a two year process, and through it the bike was my safety and my escape. I ran away from the pain on my bike.
The start of 2009 had two things that set the stage for a bad season. I had serious asthma and because I was in the out of competition drug testing program, I could not use any inhalers, even when I was training. It took me four months before I received approval from USADA to use treatments. As a result my winter training was horrible and i suffered badly. The second thing that happened was that I no longer needed my bike as a way to run form my emotions. The bike held a different role for me, it was business and 100% goal driven. i still trained just as hard, although not effectively since i could not breathe, but there was something different.
Well – now that i had the jersey, everyone was watching me and expecting me to always win. The problem was my health and emotions were not even keel. The most humiliating moment on my bike was finishing red lantern in a flat stage i was supposed to win out in qatar while wearing the Stars and Stripes. I had not been able to sleep at night with my asthma, and my racing reflected that, but i could not hide from people watching the race when i was wearing that jersey.
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