This past Sunday on a very hot afternoon, Anne Samplonius came around the only other rider remaining in the break to win the final stage of the BMC Cascade Cycling Classic. At the last crit of the St Francis Tulsa Tough in early after two days of non-stop attacking for two days, she waited until no one could follow and soloed to the win.
“I just had to wait for people to have hurting legs at the end and then I make my move.” she said after the win in Tulsa.
Not bad for a 43 year-old who started racing in 1993.
“It takes a loft of discipline and motivation to be at the top level and as you get older, that is harder to do. You have different things in your life, it’s a lot of sacrifices that you have to make. I always told myself if I can’t make those sacrifices anymore it’s time to hang up the bike.”
“Even this year, given I didn’t really know if I could do it, I kind of started the season out of shape at Redlands – very much out of shape – but I knew that this team was coming in late, I didn’t have to be fit until June, I timed it perfectly for June, July.” the Canadian smiled.
Samplonius is part of the newest squad on the women’s pro racing scene, the NOW and Novartis for MS team. The team has certainly been getting attention, not only by their results but by their aggressive racing. In the works since last season, a collaboration between Phil Keoghan’ No Opportunity Wasted (NOW) and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the NOW and Novartis for MS squad raced its first event in early June at the Liberty Classic.
“This team is awesome, I can’t say enough about these sponsors that we have, top notch. (DS) Kurt (Stockton). fantastic director, putting together a team at a really late point and we came together, we made a good team with pretty much what was left out there. Me and Robin knew that this was in the works early in the fall, and we just had to be patient and hoped it came together and it did. I think this team is going to go places.” Samplonius said.
One motivator for Samplonius are the 2012 London Olympic Games. The three-time Canadian National Champion, Gold medal winner at the 2007 Pan American Games and 11-time Canadian Team Member for the World Championships has never represented her country at the Olympic Games.
“I’ve always been the alternate at Olympics, I went through years of getting shut out of the Olympics by a druggie which was Jeanson, she took my spot so to speak, I don’t know if it was going to be my spot but she was there and I didn’t get my chance to make it.” she said.
National Team member since 1992, Samplonius competed against Genevieve Jeanson for many years during her career. Vocal on her anti-doping stance, Samplonius has penned a few open letters during her career including this one after Jeanson’s 2007 admission that she used EPO.
Then, in 2008, it came down to a CCA decision. “The past Olympics I was really close and it came to coach’s selection and they selected a climber over me. There’s that motivation at the back of my head to still go for 2012 but at this point when I’m at this age I take it really almost like one race at a time because I just don’t know anymore.”
Samplonius is not the only rider thinking about the Olympic Games, it’s also on the mind of the youngest member of the team, 16-year old Addyson Albershardt.
One big part of joining the team for Samplonius was to help with the development of younger and inexperienced teammates along with 2011 USA National Road Champion Robin Farina. The other riders on the team are Christina Gokey-Smith, Devon Gorry, Erika Graves and Albershardt.
“We wanted to take some younger riders and bring them up. Me and Robin have been around, me more than Robin.” Samplonius laughed when Farina interjected “double the time.”
“I’m kind of wound up and type A and Anne is more the soft-spoken, laid-back. The team actually has good balance, I’m more likely to yell, ‘go back to the car, go get a bottle’ and Anne has this more soft-spoken style; after the race saying ‘you need to be doing this and this is why’. I think with Anne’s experience of 20 years, the small experience that I’ve had but it’s been a fast learning for me, helps.” Farina said. “I think you have to have a good mix and I really believe that’s what we have right now.”
Albershardt, also known as Baby Pro, is ready to be taught. “This year with the team I want to learn as much as I can, mostly from Anne and Robin because they have a lot of experience.”
The junior started riding bikes when she was ten, and started racing four years ago. Since then, “it’s all about racing.” With the assistance of her coach Farina, she joined the team.
“I wanted to step up my game this year.” Albershardt said.
Well she did just that at the junior Tour of Battenkill in April. “The Canadian National juniors team was there and I was really nervous because I didn’t have any teammates with me. It was a pretty big race, it was 65 miles and that’s a lot for a juniors race. I attacked with 30 km to go and I put seven minutes on the field and I was very shocked. I felt really good.” She held on to win with a 7-minute lead.
“Also last year at Nationals, it was my first Nationals because they’ve always been on the west coast and I haven’t been able to go out. I got second in the time trial and I missed first by nine seconds so I was pretty happy with that.” she said.
After racing and finishing Nature Valley Grand Prix, she went on to claim the title in the 2K individual pursuit and the Team Pursuit at the USA Junior National Track Championships.
As for her goals, first is going to the the World Championships in Moscow, Russia in August 13-21 (see fundraising effort).
“I’d like to be on the Women’s U23 National team, I’d like to do it all.” she smiled. “I’ll be 22 in 2016, the Olympics.”
It’s very obvious when talking with the young Charlotte-native that she just loves to race her bike.
“I think it’s just so much fun.” she said. “I love all different kinds of rides, I just love it. It’s addicting, it’s not just racing, I love afterwards when you can socialize with people, have a community and a village. I’ve had a village that raises me, not just my parents, people around me, it’s so great and I love it.”
As for Samplonius, well she’s having a good time right now.
“I’m finding my form now, I have a fantastic team, fantastic sponsor, I just had a baby with my wife.” she smiled. Samplonius and her wife welcomed a baby girl in May.
“It’s these little things that make a difference in life, just this fantastic support with the team, having a baby which is a wonderful experience, it’s all come together at the right moment. Right now, I’m on a high, I’m kind of cruising and we’ll see what happens this year.”