Like most of the professional women cyclists, Canadian Felicia Gomez has a full time job. Felicia is an Associate Professor at Fresno State in the Department of Kinesiology where she teaches physiology and nutrition. In her fifth year of competitive cycling, Felicia has a long background of athletic competition; for eighteen years she was primarily a runner, but also engaged in duathlon’s (run/bike/run) for 4 years and went to the World Championships in 2000 and 2001.
In 2008, the 38-year old Felicia took a leave from her job at the University with the aim of making the cut for the Olympics. Known for her climbing prowess, she has focused on her time trialing skills – and the work is starting to pay off. She finished third at the Yokohl Ranch Exeter Time Trial and just won the Tour of the Gila ITT.
I had a chance to ask Felicia a few questions earlier this year…
What’s the plan?
Felicia: This year for me is an Olympic year, it’s a big year, one of my goals is to make the Olympic team for Canada. In terms of like future racing after this year is probably wait and see. Definitely my husband and I want a family so we’ll start trying and see what happens. And I took a leave from my job this semester and so probably if I race again next year, I’ll focus more towards the later part of the season instead of trying to be ready in February or March. It’s just too hard to do it anymore.
So you took your leave to get ready for the Olympics?
Felicia: Yes, just to be able to train and race, to go to Europe if the opportunity presented itself and you know, I’ve been able to do a lot working full time. It gets harder every year.
This is your second with Aarons, you had some good successes last year, such as Mt Hood, so what are your goals this year as far as racing and races you want to go after?
Felicia: I’m super excited to be on the team again. I think we have a super strong team, we have young talent which I’m really excited about and the addition of Meredith Miller who has a lot of international experience, I think she can really lend a lot to our team as well. For me, in terms of team goals, I think we can contest the NRC, we finished third last year in our first real pro year and I think with the team we have that we can do better than that this year.
For me personally, like we said the Olympics is a big deal. For Canada, World Cup races are what matters, so I’m hoping to … Montreal would be a key race for me, and hoping to do some stuff in Europe as well. But then again, I’m a stage race, a climber, so anything that goes uphill I’m pretty happy with. You know Mt Hood is UCI this year, I’ll be looking at that race to do well, like I said Montreal, probably Gila although the altitude might kill me (laughs) But also I feel that one that I’ve been able to do is become more of an all around rider not just uphill so I’m looking to do well on some of those bigger stage races. And if some of my teammates are up there too, then lay it out for them. That’s the one thing about our team is that if you’re showing that you’re the one we’re going to ride for then that’s who we ride for.
What is it about this team [Aaron's] that works well?
Felicia: You know I think that one thing we carried over from last year is having a lot of fun. We’re still racing hard but having a lot of fun. I think that Carmen, our director is the best director in women’s cycling and I think when it comes from the top down, I think that really is important. She’s been my director now going on for five years, we’ve both transferred over from Webcor. She’s really good at getting the most of our athletes. I think that the girls that we’ve brought on for this year, is a mix of young talent and then some experience and I think that’s really good. And I think that the other really big thing about our team is that we have most of us coming back from last year so we already have a core that we know works well together and how each other races, and so we have a pretty strong foundation I think that we’re building on so it’s exciting.
And would you consider yourself a mentor to these young riders? Do you see such a role for yourself?
Felicia: I do, that’s what I’m definitely hoping for that I can help mentor some of the young athletes. Julie [Beveridge] and Alison [Testroete] both being Canadian and young riders, you know even though I haven’t been riding a whole lot, I’ve had some good mentors as I’ve come up through and I’ve been doing elite sports for a long time, I came from a running background, 13 years, and you know most people don’t know my history before riding, I’ve been doing elite sports for a long time, and so being able to mentor the young athletes is going to be really good, really fun.
How do you juggle two full time jobs?
Felicia: You know it’s really about time management and I mean there’s not a minute in the day that you are not feeling time pressured. And for me being in academia, if I wasn’t teaching, I really didn’t have to be at the University I say that rather loosely because really in academia teaching is the least of what you do, there’s research and all that kind of stuff. Even though I took a leave I’m still working with two masters student so I’m still about one a week. I try to keep it at a minimum since they are not paying me but ….
But you know, it’s interesting as I said to my husband the other day, this is the first time in my adult life that I don’t remember being time pressured. Before, it’s like okay I have this three hour between 10 and 1 and I have to get my work out in there, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, it doesn’t matter if it’s foggy, that’s the time I have. And it wasn’t necessarily a problem of getting the workouts in because I made sure I did those, what suffered was recovery. You just didn’t have any. The other good thing at Fresno Stage is that the chair of my department, I asked him to schedule all my classes in my morning because then I could have my afternoons. Because once I’ve trained my brain’s fried I wasn’t good for thinking after that. But again, it was always trying to fit it in. Then I would always try and get back to work.
We have a house, and two dogs and a cat, my husband is amazing taking care of all that stuff but you still have all these responsibilities so I was definitely a challenge, it’s why I took a leave this year. It’s like 100% or not.