Amber Pierce, of Team Diadora-Pasta Zara, raced for years on US domestic teams. She raced with the Webcor Builders Women’s Professional Cycling Team and then spent time on Team TIBCO. As an ex-pat living in Graz, Austria, she contemplated leaving Team TIBCO at the end of 2009 and dreamed of racing in Europe full time.
“It was a big step to decide that I did not want to come back and ride for a US team,” stated Pierce. “Living in Europe, it just made more since for me to be racing in Europe full-time. I am doing the calendar that I really want to be doing. I was really excited for the opportunity last year with KUOTA Speed Kueens.”
There was a slight set back to her racing calendar in 2010. During a pre-race training ride outside of Doha in Qatar, Pierce landed on the pavement of a highway. She received news shortly after that her pelvis and sacrum were fractured. Though she did not require surgery, her injury would require time.
“It was looking like it was going to be a cool year with a great calendar until I broke my pelvis,” continued Pierce. “That put a damper on things. Like with any challenge or set back…there is always a silver lining. You just have to deal with what’s in front of you. In my case it meant healing and getting back into racing. Thankfully the DS of KUOTA was very understanding. I was a little depressed because I was on a new team and I wanted to show them what I could do. I did my rehabilitation and it made me really hungry. I knew that I would come back really fit at the end of the season when everyone else is burnt out. I thought it would be a good opportunity. I had that as motivation. I knew I could get something positive out of the season. I was able to pull off a few wins at the end of the season. It was really fun to be flying…to be in good form. It was cool to show the team what I could do.”
“The other cool part of being on KUOTA was racing with my teammates every weekend in Austria. It was like going to a language camp. I am trying to learn German. My pronunciation is not quite right so my teammates seeing me struggle would start talking to me in English. I wanted them to speak to me in German. I really wanted to practice my German. We then agreed to speak in German when we were together. They were fantastic because they were so patient with me. I know I sounded like a 4 year old at times. They helped with my shyness of speaking in German. It was a definite bonus racing with them. I made lots of new friends and was able to race on European courses.”
“It was hard to decide to leave KUOTA at the end of last season. It was frustrating not to have been able to show teams what I could due last year. Manel Lacambra was working with the US National team last year and he knew of my reputation. He believed in me and offered me a spot on the team. I was still looking at staying with KUOTA at the end of last year. They are based where I am living in Austria and planning on doing a season of World Cup races. The only glitch with KUOTA was the big races I was hoping to do with them last year, they ended up racing as the Austrian national team. That was tough because that meant I couldn’t race with them. I was concerned about that for this season. I loved the girls and the management at KUOTA but I knew Team Diadora Pasta-Zara would be racing the big races as a trade team. I was also excited about racing with Shelley Olds. Shelley and I started racing together in Northern California. We have never had an opportunity to race together. Mara Abbott and I raced together on Webcor. We are all excited about being on the same team.”
After one year with the Austrian team KUOTA Speed Kueens, Pierce joined Team Diadora-Pasta Zara for the 2011 season with fellow Americans Sinead Miller, Mara Abbott and Shelley Olds.
“Last year, due to my injuries, I did more of an Austrian racing calendar. This year I am doing the full European calendar. My current team is a US registered team but the team management is located in Italy. This team has long history of supporting champion riders. We have four American, two Russians, one Ukrainian, one Lithuanian, one German, one Swiss, two Italians…its funny to hear is talk because there is such a mix of languages.”
When asked how it’s been racing in Europe Pierce replied, “It’s been exciting to race in Europe. On the one hand I am totally star struck. I am the ultimate sports fan. I am looking at Mur du Huy and I have butterflies in my tummy. I am so excited to be there. Then there is the side of me that is the athlete. I try to control my emotions in a way that I put a good amount of pressure on myself. I get into the optimal mental space in approaching the race. I approach the really big races the same as I approach the small races. I put pressure on myself in the small races to perform and I do the same in the big races. I try not to let the external pressure get to me. I try to keep a consistent mental state. This is a bike race and I have a job to do.”
Pierce has maintained a positive, if not realistic outlook. “I think my role on the team is more of a support role and I really love that role. I love being a part of that. What that means though is that I am not necessarily chasing UCI points for myself which will play into selection next year. I kind of figured that I am always going to be a good pick for a support role on a team. I am happy to do the work and I am also capable to take advantage of an opportunity if it comes up. I figure if I go out there and give 100% in very race that I do and give the best that I can, and continue to improve and come back a better rider, I am going to let the chips fall as they may. If I am good choice then so be it, but if someone is a better choice then it’s okay, because I want to see the US team succeed.”