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Interview: Brooke Miller
 
By Bart Hazen
Date: 12/5/2008
Interview: Brooke Miller
 

Interview: Brooke Miller

Interview with American Champion Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO).

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Brooke Miller and I am a professional cyclist with Team TIBCO women's professional team and I also race on the US National team. I am 32 years old and hold a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz. I grew up in Southern California playing volleyball and had Olympic ambitions in that sport. I managed to get a scholarship to play VB at UC Berkeley, where I competed for all 4 years, but then realized that I had reached my potential in that sport and turned to focus on academics, enrolling in graduate school.

Why did you choose cycling as your sport?
I got lucky in discovering cycling. After finishing with my vb career, I found that I struggled to stay in shape and workout for the sake of working out alone. I got out of shape since I didn't have a goal to work toward. Running was too hard on my body and I think that I had too much of a short attention span to get into swimming. I have always loved bikes and love the outdoors. I started riding when my best friend and I thought that it would be a good idea to do a bike tour of New Zealand as a good way of seeing the country side. That got me hooked and I realized that I was getting exercise by accident, doing something I loved- riding my bike.


Brooke Miller winning the Tour of Missouri criterium in the stars and stripes
Photo © 2008 Dan Elavski

What kind of rider is Brooke Miller?
I am a pure sprinter, but more of the European style. In other words, I like the races to be as grueling, fast and hard as possible and THEN sprint. American style sprinting often has slower finishes where I am not always purely the fastest rider. For me, I stand out when the races get harder. The harder, the better! I like dangerous, aggressive and crazy finishes. I might not always be the fastest, but my strength is getting up there and not being afraid to fight aggressively.

Which hobbies do you have next to cycling?
I am a sucker for outdoorsy activities but have put most on hold for my cycling career for the time being. Backpacking, skiing, hiking... if it is outside (especially if it involves adrenaline), I am on board! But with my career focused on the 2012 Olympic games, I have mostly sidelined anything where I can get hurt. So now, my time not on the bike is spent cooking, walking, working on team stuff, writing, reading, doing some software development- more of the nerd variety activities. I don't watch any TV really, but still manage to find that there are simply not enough hours in the day!

How do you look back on the 2008 season?
With shocked amazement. My career really only started in earnest in 2006 and I keep being amazed at how each year has gotten better and better. With such a strong 2007 season, I had thought that there was really no way to follow it up. I had moved to Cleveland and spent my winter training in snow, ice and gray/gloom. I had thrashed myself on my rollers and nearly cracked with the indoor solo training. The whole time, I felt that I was only breaking even too. I had not expected to be able to come into 2008 so strong after such a hard off-season. The season was made harder by a separation from my husband, who I had been with since I was 19. I had an incredibly emotional and personally hard season that took a lot of out me. Emotions were sucking as much, if not more, energy from my body than my training and a lot of the time, I was just trying to keep my head above water. So, to be able to pull through a successful season was made all that much more important to me. I really still am a bit shell-shocked.


In action during the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium
Photo © 2008 Action Images


What performance/achievement you are the most proud of?
I am most proud that I finished my PhD. I graduated after 7 long, hard years of grad school, in May of 2007. The November before I graduated, I had decided to leave academia and pursue cycling full time. I had decided that I didn't need a PhD and had been SO discouraged that I had been planning on dropping out. I had not realize that I was so close to finishing and really was completely ready to pull the plug. I decided to keep pushing and finish that and I am SO glad that I did. It is my most proud achievement, by a long shot. It was not an easy road.

You are riding for Team TIBCO. Can you explain more about the team?
Team TIBCO is a Silicon Valley based women's pro team. It was started by Linda Jackson with the goal of becoming one of the top teams in the world and to grow the next crop of Olympic and World Champions. The team grew out of the popularity of cycling in Silicon Valley where all the top brass ride bikes. In addition to our amazing industry sponsors (LOOK, SRAM, HED, Ritchey, Sella San Marco, to name a few), we have brought on board a lot of very successful Silicon Valley companies from all industries. Silicon Valley Bank, Goldman Sachs, Greenberg Traurig, Monitor Ventures and Jazz Pharmaceuticals all joined TIBCO last year in supporting our team. We also have a lot of private angel investors, local cycling enthusiasts who have been so instrumental in building the team. It really is quite a grassroots organization with a big family!

What do you prefer the most in racing?
I love so much about racing that it is a hard question to boil down. But for me, I guess the simple answer is I love competition. I love pushing yourself to the limits and pushing your competitors to theirs. There is something raw and visceral for me in the passion of competition. I am, without question, a competitor.


On the podium of the Liberty Classic
Photo © 2008 Action Images


What race has been a favorite of yours?
Flanders. There have been a lot of great races, but Flanders is special for me. It was my first race ever in Europe and it is just epic. Between the course, the rain, the history and the fans- it is a special race. I had a crash in the bunch sprint finish in 2007 and the stomach flu in 2008. For me, that is a race that some day, I want to win.

You rode a few times in Europe the past season… will your schedule include more races in Europe in 2009?
Absolutely. I had actually been a bit disappointed to not have raced over there more this year, but that is sometimes how the cards fall. I LOVE racing over there and have been working on my schedule to include more racing over there fore 2009.

What races would you like to race in Europe if given the opportunity?
Flanders is first and foremost on my list of races that I want to do. There is a whole block of great spring races in Holland after Flanders, including the World Cup in Drenthe I hope to do that block of racing as I love the fast and powerful Dutch race environment. I also have my eye on the late season races as prep for Worlds, which I hope to race again.


Doing a post-race interview (Liberty Classic)
Photo © 2008 Action Images


Besides the local races in NorCal what race will be the 2009 debut for you and the team? Tour of California?
Provided that all goes well, I hope to cut my teeth this season with the Tour of Qatar with the US National team and then head back for Tour of California. I got some very, very upsetting news yesterday that ToC is cut down to only one stage for the women. This was a huge blow to me since I had been really focusing on that series.

Speaking of the tour… what will be your and the teams goals there?

Well... before it was cut to one race, our team goal was to win all three races. We wanted to flex our strength in that early season and show that we have done our homework. We have built an incredible roster and we wanted to show off there. Now that it is only one race, we are going to try and put on one hell of a show and then win.

Who has inspired you, or currently inspires you to race. (or in the present)?
The first rider who really inspired me to try and take my cycling seriously was Alison Dunlap, who I met at a talent ID camp in 2005. Listening to her story made me decide that I wanted to try and focus on cycling. Since then, I have been very inspired by many riders- Kristin Armstrong is an amazing rider, athlete and person and she has been a big role model and inspiration for me. As is my biggest advisary- Ina Teutenberg. Ina is the rider that I model myself after, as she is the best sprinter in the world and is aggressive, selfless as a teammate and unpredictable: never "a sit in and wait for the sprint" kind of a rider. She lays it out on the line and throws it down. And, of course, Linda Jackson has also been an incredible role model, mentor and inspiration in every step of my career.


Sharing a smile
Photo © 2008 Action Images

How does your ideal preparation look like for the new season?
First and foremost, I have moved to Santa Cruz and left the gray, snow and cold behind in Cleveland so that I can train better! Ideally, I start my season in late November (the last week) and I spend the first couple months building my base and getting in some lifting. This year, I have been having a TON of fun mountain biking as part of my off-season cardio. It is hard to get in the cardio I need without buring out on the road bike. Since I don't run, the mtn. Bike has been fantastic! I try and focus on the "BikeLove" for this time of year- having fun and not stressing numbers or intervals. That comes later!

What are your goals for the 2009 season? and if you don't mind…. long term career goals as a person and cyclist?

For 2009, my goal is to help my team become the top in the US. With our expanded roster, there will be more opportunities for me to help as a teammate and I am really looking forward to that. There are some specific races that I am focused on from a personal goal point of view. Flanders, Philly Liberty Classic, & Tour of Montreal are all races that I am specifically focused on. My goal for 2009 is to make the World's team again. That was a huge honor and a huge learning experience last year and I want to grow from that by racing again in 2009. My career goals are twofold. Win an Olympic gold medal in the road race and win a World Championship road race.... why set small goals? My goal as a person is that I want to be a successful person and I have a clear definition of success... For me, success is when you can answer "YES" to two simple questions: 1. "Am I happy" and 2. "Do I like myself". As a person, my goal is to be as happy as possible and spread happiness to as many other lives as I can.

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