Around here, it’s not uncommon to meet families who are die-hard fans of their favorite college or professional football team with a few baseball super-fans thrown in here and there. Not in the Giles household. Lauren Giles and her family were professional cycling fanatics. So much so that when she later moved away from home, she would plan her vacations to coincide with the Tour de France so she could be home to watch it with her family.
Ironically, this massive cycling fan had never really ridden a bike outside of her childhood escapades and a short stint as a bike commuter when she lived in Seattle. Instead, Lauren focused her efforts on running and as many runners do, came to triathlon because of nagging injuries from running.
When she joined Atlanta Triathlon Club’s rookie 2 race program, she discovered that she not only loved watching cycling but she also loved to actually ride a bike.
That was in the summer of 2017, now Lauren is less than one month away from competing in a 200-mile bike ride known as the Dirty Kanza.
So, how does someone go from non-cyclist to completing one of the countries’ most epic gravel rides in less than a year?
It all started with the VeloNews Podcast. They were interviewing Allison Tetrick, the most recent winner of the Dirty Kanza. As she described the epic challenge of the race, sometimes riding completely solo, sometimes being surrounded by people. the terrain and the mental battles, the race captured her attention. Since the race lottery just happened to be open, Lauren decided to register thinking, ‘I probably won’t get in’.
In January she found out that she had indeed been accepted to the ride in the Dirty Kanza. At that point, Lauren had a hand-me-down bike from her brother and had never ridden gravel.
She admits that it’s not the most advisable way to venture into your first bike race but it is consistent with her adventurous personality.
‘In over my head is my favorite place to be – and the idea of a big stretch goal is my favorite thing to do. That’s just how I operate and it’s taken me to some crazy places.’
Lauren had previously been fitted to her road bike with Matt Cole and knew she wanted to be comfortable on her bike. Matt and the team at Podium tried to figure out a way to make the bike work for her but in the end, it just wasn’t the right fit.
‘I love this bike. It feels really fast and stable but at the same time, it’s very responsive. It just feels like it moves with you.‘
Having a good fit and having the bike set up for her measurements has made a huge difference for Lauren. It’s important because she spends a lot of time on her bike. A long day on the bike is between 7-8 hours on a Saturday and then 4 hours on a Sunday. She also rides 4-5 days during the week using a combination of intervals and easy rides to get the miles in. Lauren is not a fan of the trainer so she rode outside all winter. Riding outside has given me the confidence to know I can handle all kinds of conditions that I may encounter on race day.
Dirty Kanza isn’t the only race on her schedule this year. Lauren is also training for Ironman Wisconsin in August so she also runs twice a week and swims once a week.
Check back in mid-June for an update from Lauren’s epic ride.