Interview: Amber Rais
Interview with Tour of the Gila & Cascade Classic stage winner Amber
Can you introduce yourself?
Hello My Name Is: Amber Rais.
Why did you choose cycling as your sport? As you started
I remember the exact moment I chose cycling. In 2004 at collegiate nationals,
after having been lapped and pulled from the women's criterium, I watched the
men race their crit through sheets of rain, after dark, in a thunderstorm. Watching
those guys battle at their limits under the streetlamps, I thought: I want to
be able to do that. Before that moment, I had refused to take training or racing
seriously, because I'd burned out on competitive sport as an undergrad. From
that moment forward, however, I committed myself fully to cycling and came back
to win collegiate nationals in 2005.
What kind of rider is Amber Rais?
This is a tough question to answer without feeling (or sounding) at least a
little awkward, and I have to resist the urge to say something like 'smooth
and balanced with notes of hops and a clean finish.' I've won races in bunch
kicks, on mountain top finishes, from breakaways, and on solo attacks. I haven't
yet fully developed my potential for climbing, sprinting or time trialing, so
don't pin me down just yet. There's a lot more to come from me.
Which hobbies do you have next to cycling?
Living out of a bag; cooking and gastronomy in general; beer tasting; coffee
tasting; wine tasting; eating; stretching (Helen Kelly taught me everything
I know); reading classics, analysis and philosophy; film; writing; web design;
environmental research (part of my consulting work, but I enjoy it enough to
call it a hobby); travel (duh); cartwheels (Mara Abbott taught me everything
I know); sarcasm (too many mentors to thank); shopping cart fights with old
ladies in the grocery stores; packing; unpacking; avoiding cankles on transatlantic
flights (thanks Stacy); poaching unsecured wireless Internet signals; bolstering
Skype stock; texting on my BlackBerry; plotting to save the world; and perfecting
the art of kicking ass.
Amber at the start of the Reading Classic
Photo © ActionImages
How do you look back on the 2008 season?
It was a good season - some great racing and lot's of laughs. And of course,
I'll note the obligatory (but true) observation: I learned a lot.
What performance/achievement you are the most proud
It's yet to come. I'm proud of many achievements in my life, but I know there
are more to come - bigger, better and badder. If I had to pick one major achievement
in my life thus far, I'd choose The Wyf of Bath Award (10 points to those who
can name the reference), won during my senior year of high school for the Most
Inappropriate Comment of the Year. No further comment.
You are riding for Team TIBCO. Can you explain more
about the team?
We've got another powerhouse roster this year with a slightly different mix,
which will keep things interesting. Our Associate Director Jeff Corbett is also
new, and from what I can tell, he'll bring some real fire and brimstone to the
What do you prefer the most in racing?
I like it all, and in a way, I think a cyclist needs to like it all - good weather
and bad weather; sacrificial work and leadership; terrain that suits and terrain
that doesn't suit; feeling good and feeling bad. It's all part of the game:
you can't pick and choose courses or schedules or weather; you've got to embrace
it all willingly and believe in the worth of what you're doing. Short answer:
Amber in action during one of the 2008 races
Photo © ActionImages
What race has been a favorite of yours?
The Annual Stanford Mudball Race. It's a stage race. Stage One involves a pub
in Half Moon Bay and time bonuses for food and drink: the greasier and fouler
the food, the bigger the time bonus, and each MudBall - a pint of Guinness with
a scoop of chocolate ice cream - is worth one minute. Stage Two is a mass start
hill climb up Tunitas Creek (5.7 miles, 5-11%). Results are posted as your hillclimb
time minus your accumulated pub-binge time bonus. Puking is a disqualification.
Clearly, this event is not part of my regular schedule, but it was some of the
most fun I've had on a bike.
You rode a few times in Europe the past season… will your schedule include
more races in Europe in 2009?
What races would you like to race in Europe if given
Classics and World Cups - Flanders, Drenthe, Fleche Wallone. Crazy hard stage
races - l'Aude, Thurigen, Giro d'Italia, Holland Ladies Tour. Hopefully I'll
have the opportunity to cut my teeth in more of these big races this season.
What race will be the 2009 debut for you and the team?
And how does your schedule more or less looks like.
I'll kick off the season with TIBCO at the Tour of CA criterium in Santa Rosa,
followed by some early season Cali racing, including the Redlands Classic. From
there, it's back to Europe for a while, then back to the states for some racing
in May, June, July and August, after which I hope to cap off the season with
more national team projects in Europe.
Who has inspired you, or currently inspires you to
race. (Or in the present)?
There are many athletes who have inspired me, but the person who inspires me
most is my fiancé, David. Let it suffice to say that he makes me want
to work harder and be better all of the time. Inspiration like that isn't easy
Cascade stage winner Amber Rais
Photo © ActionImages
What does your ideal preparation look
like for the new season?
Apparently it looks cold! I don't think I've trained in weather warmer than
+3 C in two months (except indoors), and this week has averaged -5. Immer im
You are living a big part of the year in Austria. Did
you consider to join a European team so you can compete more in the European
I want to race full time in Europe next year. We're adapting well to life in
the old country, and racing full time on this side of the pond is what I want
for my career.
Now you are living in Graz, Austria. Do you and your
boyfriend adapt well to the European culture in comparison with the American
We anticipated it would take about a year to find our feet enough to truly enjoy
living in a new country without feeling completely discombobulated, and that
assumption has proved roughly true. David and I have been taking language courses,
which have helped enormously. Speaking the language creates a connection with
the country and community that can't otherwise be replicated. The immersion
also casts other ideas in starkly different perspectives. I feel more acutely
aware of American politics living here than I did living in the states, perhaps
because I now see myself as an ambassador of our country and culture on a daily
basis. History also takes on new meanings and contexts, especially when we see
architectural and historical landmarks spanning four centuries throughout our
neighborhood! To gain this perspective is exactly why we moved.
What are your goals for the 2009 season? and if you
don't mind…. long term career goals as a person and cyclist?
This season, my coach and I want to build the physiological groundwork for some
of my bigger goals. For now, this translates to busting my tail in training
and cutting my teeth in bigger and harder races. Long term, I've got an eye
toward World Championship and Olympic medals. As a person, I have ridiculously
unrealistic goals, like saving the world. It's important to me that what I do
has some kind of positive impact on people's lives, on policy, on climate change
and ultimately on the human condition. On what scale I can actually accomplish
my personal goals remains to be seen.
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