Race Vista

Credit: Dennis Crane

Beating the odds…

Growth | Success | Adversity | Injury | Rebuilding – the story of a track cyclist…

Credit: Dennis Crane

Credit: Dennis Crane

Cyclists don’t always get the attention they deserve, when compared against top athletes in other “mainstream” sports. Women’s cycling gets even less attention. Women’s track cycling? Right, down another rung on the ladder in the world of media, sponsorships and appreciation for the dedication, skill, strength and commitment these athletes possess.

Race Vista wants to bring stories that deserve attention outside of the shadows, into the foreground. We need your help. Please share this post and let’s encourage, support and motivate athletes like Missy Erickson who carry their hearts on their sleeves and the stars and stripes on their kit. Missy represents not only herself, her hometown (Alexandria, MN) and her country (USA), but she represents what is true, what is good, and what is compelling about the sport. She is proud, while humble, and she is courageous, while mindful of the challenges and pitfalls that are part of her fiercely competitive sport.

What’s Missy’s story? Race Vista connected with Missy to tell you about her vision, her accomplishments, and the hurdles she’s encountered. Please read the 1st Q&A in our interview series with Missy. If you like it, share it. Race Vista is privileged and honored to bring you the interview below.Missy 1

Race Vista: Missy, Race Vista has been following you since we saw you race a few years ago at the NSC Velodrome in Blaine – how has your racing career evolved since then?
Missy: Race Vista saw me at the very beginning of my career. I only started really dabbling in track cycling after graduating college school in 2012. I had ventured and raced a bit in college, but never really took it seriously until I finished my degree. After moving to Los Angeles from Durango in May of 2012, I started going after the discipline of track sprint, and 9 months later, I was on the US team traveling to the Pan Am Championships, where I took home some solid results for being just a baby in the sport. Since then its been a roller coaster ride of emotion, moving across the country, traveling, learning, getting injured, switching coaches…its a busy life, and it never stops changing.

Race Vista: What’s the hardest goal you’ve set for yourself that you’ve achieved so far?
Missy: Last year I sat down and set some pretty ambitious goals. I wanted to win nationals, be the pan am champion, and reach a top 5 at a world cup. Although I didn’t become the Pan Am Champion, I did win both titles in the olympic disciplines at the US nationals, and I won a world cup medal at the UCI Track World Cup in Cali, Colombia, which was the first US sprint female world cup medal in over 6 years. Winning that medal was by far the hardest achievement I have earned, and am incredibly proud of.

Race Vista: What’s the hardest goal that you have set for yourself that you have not yet achieved?
Missy: I am someone who has the highest expectations for myself. Noone expects more out of me than I do. And with that being said, I set my goals very high. The hardest goal that I have yet to achieve is an Olympic medal.

Credit: Dennis Crane

Credit: Dennis Crane

Race Vista: Everyone who follows you has seen your success, but we also know you’ve recently had some challenges, including an unexpected setback due to a significant injury. Tell us more about that, and what that event has meant to you – has it motivated you, discouraged you, or given you a new perspective on racing?
Missy: Well, this story kinda starts back in November 2013, when I fractured the L5 in my spine. I raced all year on it, and once the Pan Am championships were over in September of 2014, I took time off to let the bone heal. Throughout the world cup season, I was building back from this injury, and finally finding some form when I got to the Cali world cup in January, which qualified me for the world championships in February. So it appeared then, that things were turning up. By May, I was flying. I had set a HUGE Pr in the flying 200m at the LA track, and I was just two days shy of flying over the Germany with Team USA for some early season racing.
The crash that happened on Mothers Day (5/10/2015), has been the hardest thing I have yet to deal with. We are now at the end of August, and I’m still recovering from this injury and trying to find the form I had before the accident. I’m still angry, frustrated, and upset. And hearing the words, “We are out of time”, from your coach is by far the least comforting thing when you are preparing for an event to earn points towards qualifying for the Olympics.
At times I have been motivated. At times I have been discouraged. It goes day by day. Sometimes I see a flare of the “old me”, as you could say, but most days, its an uphill battle trying to regain the strength and speed I had before. After finally recovering from the fracture in my spine, it just felt like another blow, which completely upset my ability to race for the entire summer.
I did get a new perspective on racing. I look at things more carefully now. I look at racing as necessities, instead of just racing as much as I can. I realize the tiniest movement by another individual, whether its in training or racing, can completely put a stop to your dreams, goals, etc.

Race Vista: You’ve accomplished so much in your career thus far, and are an incredible example of the strength of the USA women’s track program, yet we see through your fundraising efforts that you still struggle to obtain the financial support necessary to fund your training and racing efforts. What can businesses or individuals do to give you or others in women’s cycling more support?
Missy: It is very hard and very frustrating, constantly asking for funding from individuals via websites and online crowdfunding. It’s actually embarrassing at this point, especially since I’ve been having to do it since I started racing in 2013. Now, with huge medical expenses and bills constantly piling up, I can’t pay my coach, or rent for that matter, and I’m looking at the possibility that the Pan Am Champs just in a few weeks are going to be my last race, just because I can’t afford it anymore. As athletes, we are expected to pay for all these expenses on our own, and regardless of the number of jobs I have held in the process of training, there just isn’t enough. With over $100k in medical expenses and $25k in equipment damages, that’s very discouraging for my future.
One thing I do try to do is partner with companies to offer exposure and incentives through advertising on my helmets and race wheels. It’s a niche sport, which means not many companies see the value in investing in a track sprint cyclist. That’s also pretty discouraging, but there are the few that do take the opportunity, and see the value in what we have to offer.

Race Vista: This is the first in a series of stories we’d like to publish about your journey – which has gone from tremendous growth and success to recent struggles as you try to recover from injury. What do you hope you or we can share about your journey that isn’t being told by other media outlets as other athletes go through similar journeys?
MissyMIssy 2: It is true that people like the “underdog story”, or the “comeback kid”, but I think what a lot of people forget is the journey and struggle it takes to become that. If I was in any other sport, or discipline, there would be a lot more support and backing to help me get back to where I was. I believe a lot of people expect me to fail, give up, and never comeback. People show a lot of support and encouragement at first, but now, three months after my big crash, that has all faded away. Unfortunately, I don’t have a year to take off and show back up on the scene like some people have. I have to push through it and try to prove myself, with my boyfriend as my coach, a once cracked and now repaired bike, repaired wheels, and the dwindling savings I have to pay for it all.
I don’t think my story is anything special. But track cycling is also never covered by other media outlets, unless it involves Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins. So the story dwindles, and they move on to the next show.
I hope my story can prove that you can do anything you set your mind too. I hope I can prove the doubters wrong, and come back to defend my world cup medal from last year, and do even bigger things. And I hope that other people who are going through similar situations read my story and find hope for themselves, and dream even bigger than they had originally thought possible.

Editorial note by Race Vista – We asked Missy how our readers can help support her.  In the interview she mentioned the challenge of securing funding necessary to pursue her dreams, yet she included no request for support.  Although she has not asked for additional help, after all she’s been through, and all she faces in the road ahead, we’re hopeful that anyone who reads this interview will want to help her.  If you know of a company that would like to support a WINNER, tell them about Missy, and let them know that they can sponsor her – getting your brand on the wheels or helmet of a future Olympian may be well worth the investment!!  For those who want to help, but can’t sponsor Missy through a corporate sponsorship, you can still make a difference!  Help Missy through a contribution in any amount you can offer.  WE took it upon ourselves to find the page on Missy’s website that explains how you can help her, and we hope that you’ll click the link and contribute what you can: https://missyerickson.wordpress.com/donate/

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