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Interview: Amber Rais
 
By Bart Hazen
Date: 1/13/2009
Interview: Amber Rais
 

Interview: Amber Rais

Interview with Tour of the Gila & Cascade Classic stage winner Amber Rais


Can you introduce yourself?
Hello My Name Is: Amber Rais.

Why did you choose cycling as your sport? As you started with swimming.
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 of?
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 team's style.

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: Everything.


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?

Yes.

What races would you like to race in Europe if given the opportunity?
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 to find.


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 Kühlschrank trainieren!

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 races?
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 one?
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.

Links

Amber's Website

Amber's Blog

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