The Sho-Air TWENTY20 Pro Cycling team just kicked off its season by winning the Team General Classification at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Team rider Erica Clevenger also took home a stage win on the final day of the event. We sat down with Erica after the event's opening time trial to learn more about her start in the sport, as well as what makes her team so unique in the world of professional cycling.
FELT: How'd you get started in cycling?
I started in triathlon. I got into triathlon during my freshman year of college. I went from my hometown in Orange County, California, to Tucson, Arizona, where I attended the University of Arizona to complete my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. I saw the triathlon team and they looked like they were having a lot of fun! So I jumped in with them, and raced for four years doing triathlon, and I even won a collegiate national championship in triathlon. I wanted to try something different, so I switched over to road racing, and I won the road race at the collegiate national championships in 2017. Shortly after that, I was signed to my first pro team, and then the following year, I signed for Sho-Air TWENTY20.
FELT: What’s unique about the Sho-Air TWENTY20 team?
Sho-Air Twenty20 places a really big emphasis on building up its riders both as people and as athletes, and that comes out in things like school. There a lot of people on the team who are in school or have full-time jobs outside of racing, and the team has always been really supportive of that, from the junior racing level all the way up to collegiate athletes, and even those pursuing graduate degrees. We currently have several graduate students on the team, myself included. I currently go to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, where I’m studying environmental engineering for my PhD. So the team is really special because of its growth mindset, and its commitment to helping riders succeed not just in racing but also in life.
FELT: Tell us about your race bike.
My Felt FR race bike is really fast and really light, and I love it! I started out racing a Felt long before I joined the Sho-Air TWENTY20 team, so it’s great to be able to come back to the brand. It feels so fast, and so responsive, and it’s by far my favorite race bike that I’ve ever had.
FELT: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the sport?
I would tell aspiring athletes to look for what you enjoy about the sport and pursue that. Make sure you’re developing in a way that you are still honing your connection with the sport. I see a lot of people who come through and they train really hard, and maybe they get burned out, or maybe they don’t see their version of success right away. For me, triathlon and cycling have been my outlet away from school and everything else in my life. I think sport is an amazing place to learn and to grow, and that’s why I started to develop as an athlete, to be able to employ those skills elsewhere in my life. So to all those who want to race, just get out and ride, make some friends, and cultivate your love for the sport.
FELT: What races are you most excited about for the 2019 season?
I am really excited about Redlands, because it’s a favorite race of mine. I’ve only raced this event one time before, but I’m from Southern California, so it’s special because my mom can come out, and I had the chance to see my newborn baby niece right before the race, so that was pretty exciting. The race itself has a great atmosphere, the organizers are really amazing, and the team always gets really excited for this race. Redlands is definitely a big one for me. Aside from Redlands, US nationals is always a big goal for me. And for this year, the Colorado Classic is right in my current neighborhood because I live in Golden, Colorado, so that’ll be one that I’m definitely looking forward to.
FELT: What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of cycling?
Aside from cycling, I’m in grad school, so I don’t have too much time for many other things. But I do have a new puppy, and he’s really cute! So whenever I have some free time I like to take him to the dog park and make friends that way. His name is Indy and he’s a Shiba Inu. Interestingly, there’s another girl on the team who also has a Shiba Inu, so we’ve bonded over our shared love of the breed.
FELT: Tell us about your experience with the Zwift KISS Super League.
This year I’ve gotten the opportunity to race in the Zwift KISS Super League, which is a virtual pro racing league. In truth, I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into when I first agreed to join, but it’s been incredibly fun! This has been a particular tough winter in Colorado, so I’ve been told at least, since I’m a relatively new resident there. So Zwift has made my training so much easier because I’ve been able to hop on the trainer and put in so many more miles than what I’ve been used to in the past. I strongly encourage all race fans and fans of Sho-Air TWENTY20 to go and check it out because it’s some of the best coverage that we get being women in cycling. I’ve watched some races outside of actually competing in it, and it’s really cool and very exciting to watch, as well as a great way to help support women’s cycling.
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