Many people think of heart disease as a man’s problem, however, women can and do get heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. It is also a leading cause of disability among women.
This is the message that members of the RED Racing Cycling team would like all women to hear. The team is, as their team website promotes, “a group of female cyclists committed to developing competitive racers while building awareness and supporting the American Heart Association.” Their mission is to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women.
“This was a personal crusade,” stated co-founder Michelle Melka. “My dad had a heart attack when I was a freshman in high school. Then had another heart attack in 2006, which he unfortunately did not survive. We tried to make changes in my family to live a heart healthy life. We tried to eat better and exercise. My parents went back to not eating healthy and not making healthy choices and that is when my dad had his second heart attack. I am a big believer in eating right. I want to spread the message for women to become fit and that they can use their bikes.”
Janelle Kellman, Melka’s RED Racing team mate and fellow co-founder, put the word out to her Dolce Vita squad. Dolce Vita is a Northern California based racing program focusing on developing CAT3/4 riders. Kellman stated, “We really enjoyed the development angle but after focusing on development, and spending all of our time racing our bikes, it was time for a slightly different perspective on life. We started to think about helping the community and giving back. We thought it would be amazing to work with the American Heart Association and put the buzz out to the women on Dolce Vita. We got a really good response.”
“We knew we wanted to build on the Cat3/4 model,” continued Kellman. “Many of us are now racing as Cat1/2. The RED Racing team is focused on Cat1/2 with a handful of Cat3 riders. Riders like Martina (Patella) heard the message and really wanted to be a part of the RED Racing team. We also added riders like Megan Melack, who is a collegiate rider from UC Santa Cruz. It turned out that many had family members who had heart disease.”
“We began working for the Go Red for Women campaign and then aligned ourselves with the American Heart Association. We want to do whatever is necessary to spread the word about heart disease. As a team we have a goal of raising $25,000 for the American Heart Association. We were able to raise $15,000. We have an awesome sponsor in Velo SF. It is an indoor training facility in San Francisco. One of our riders is the CEO of Velo SF. She donated the space so that we could have an indoor fundraiser. A lot of our local sponsors have been amazing. They wanted to help us and be a part of our AHA campaign.”
RED Racing was recognized by The American Heart Association for all of their hard work in fundraising and advocacy. RED Racing was one of the 2010-2011 Heart Partners Honorees.
The team has also been successful on the bike this year. Swiss National Road and Time Trial Champion, Pascale Schnider, rode for RED Racing at the MERCO Credit Union Cycling Classic earlier this year. Schnider placed second in the last stage and second in the General Classification. Patella found herself on the podium at this year’s San Rafael Twilight Criterium finishing second in a bunch sprint. Patella also garnered second at the Lodi Criterium.
“I want to spread the message for women to become fit and that they can use the bike,” stated Melka. “When I found bike racing a couple of years ago I just thought it was so great. It was an amazing way to be with other women, working hard together and I thought how great it would be to use this power to do something good. I am pretty jazzed about the momentum we have.”
Team Members: Patricia Black, Amy Heine, Janelle Kellman, Katie Kindt, Allyson Kutler, Kate Ligler, Mary Magnani, Emily Matheu, Megan Melack, Michelle Melka, Juliette Olson, Martina Patella, Christine Riker, Amy Russo, Cheryl Shwe, Kimberly White
Note: You can purchase the RED Racing jersey and support the AHA/Go Red for Women Campaign. Voler has offered to donate 15% of the sales of the RED Racing jerseys to the AHA/Go Red For Women campaign.