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Dotsie Cowden - Part II
 
By Staff
Date: 11/11/2003
Dotsie Cowden - Part II
 
Dotsie has always been athletic

- by Marianne Werz Obrien

T-Mobile rider Dotsie Cowden is more than just a fast woman on her bike. She has also risen from the amateur ranks to pro racer in an amazingly short span of time. How did she do it, you ask? How could she possibly have progressed from recreational rider to professional racer in just four years? How did she do it considering that she essentially started from scratch after overcoming anorexia and bulimia? You can read part I of this extraordinary interview here.

Dotsie has always been athletic.  She rode saddle-bred horses competitively, nationally and internationally, from the age of five through seventeen. In college she was part of the crew team. After her recovery from anorexia and bulimia in 1998, Dotsie began cycling. Her friends convinced her to train for the 600-mile California AIDS Ride. Dotsie fell in love with cycling and the following year she decided to try racing.

To get ready for her first racing season, Dotsie trained with friend Jamie Paolinetti. (Paolinetti wrote, filmed & edited the feature-length documentary film "The Hard Road," which followed the NetZero team throughout an entire season of racing.)  Jamie coached Dotsie, rode with her, and pointed her in the right direction.

Just the Facts:

Date of Birth: March 6, 1973

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 133 lbs

Hometown: Louisville, Ky.

Trains: Santa Monica, Ca.

Favorites:

Book: Thinking Body, Dancing Mind

Movie: Wild at Heart

Pre-Race Music: Hip hop, rap

Coffee: Peet’s

Jeans: Wax

Never one to do anything halfway, Dotsie’s very first race was none other than the Sea Otter Classic in Northern California. She raced as a Cat. 4 and after the race, she vowed never to race again. This was a vow she made several times in her first season and never kept.

She met Katie & Jim Safford, her “awesome” mentors, after her second race when they found her unceremoniously vomiting in the bushes.   It had been a particularly tough race for Dotsie. She explains: “I was so sick and I couldn’t breathe.  I called my mom and cried to her that it was the hardest thing I’d ever done and that I never wanted to do it again.”  Inexplicably, the Safford’s thought she had promise so they brought her into their amateur cycling team (Team Earthlink). 

Dotsie trained diligently, honing her skills as a racer even while working full-time. Dotsie worked for an internet company, and she feels fortunate that they were so supportive, allowing her a flexible schedule. In 2000, the Safford’s star pupil proved that their faith in her was justified: she won the California State Time Trial Championship! 

Dotsie was totally dominating the California racing circuit by 2001 and after she won the California State Road Race Championship, she decided to try racing on the national level. She finished an amazing 4th in the Elite Nationals road race, after which she was recruited by T-Mobile for the 2002 season. How did Dotsie react when contacted by T-Mobile? She was stunned. She didn’t believe it was happening. “I was totally taken aback with shock,” she says. “It was like, whoa! Would you please repeat that?”  It was an offer that was just too good to pass up, so, even though she was a bit nervous, she joined the T-Mobile team. Dotsie still had to work at another job to support herself during her first season with T-Mobile, but then she got “super lucky.” She was chosen to be one of the athletes picked for the Home Depot Olympic Job Opportunity Program. This allowed her to work part-time in the interior design department while being paid a full-time salary.

 “In all ways, adjusting to life as a pro was a huge transition,” Dotsie admitted.  “My first year was made more difficult by a nagging back injury. Also, most of the girls come from other endurance sports.  I didn’t, and the difference in competition between amateurs and pro’s is unbelievable. It’s not only physically much more difficult, it is also very stressful.  There is constant travel, pressure to win, and almost overnight cycling went from a passion to a job. It was really a wild transformation, and I had a rough time of it at the beginning. In fact, at the end of the first year I had to sit down and ask, ‘do I still love this?  Would I be happier back on a smaller team like Earthlink?’ We always wanted to win on Earthlink, don’t get me wrong, but win or lose, we still had fun.  On T-Mobile, there is more pressure to perform and win. But in the end, I still love the sport. I love to train. I love to ride, and I love to race!”

The 2003 season was easier for Dotsie. She had trained hard in the off-season and with one season as a pro already under her belt, she had a much better idea of what to expect. Overall Dotsie was pleased with her showing in 2003. She had good individual results in the Liberty Classic in Philly, where she won the Queen of the Mountains jersey, and at the Vuelta de Bisbee, in which she placed 3rd in the GC. She won the California State Road Race Championship, and provided solid support for her team throughout the season. As Dotsie puts it, “I had some really great races, and some really bad races, too.”   Her primary goal for 2004 is to be more consistent - to have the really great races more frequently. To this end, she has changed her training regime for the winter, but she prefers not to go into detail about the changes so as not to giveaway her strategy.  One thing she will share is that she purchased a beach cruiser at the end of the season to help her “chill out!”

Dotsie used to be a personal trainer (model, interior designer, personal trainer, pro cyclist, now coach – this girl can do it all!) and she decided to start coaching female cyclists. Over the past year, Dotsie has been mulling the idea of how to help grow the sport, how to help women who were just starting to race. “I believe that women deserve and require specialized training that takes into consideration their desires, uniqueness, abilities, and lifestyle. As a woman, I am sensitive to the dreams and needs of women beginning to ride and race bikes.”  Racing can be intimidating, especially for beginners. There can be a lot of negative energy and criticism in the peloton at the local level. Instead of helping girls to advance and mentoring them, this kind of behavior can turn girls away from racing, sometimes sending them home in tears. “It would make a huge difference if the more experienced racers would take time to approach the new girls after a race and explain what they did wrong in order to help them learn from their mistakes.  Also, it’s important to tell them what they did right.  Positive reinforcement is important.”  Dotsie hopes that by providing personal coaching and classes in basic skills such as high speed cornering, that she can help beginners gain the knowledge and skills to race with confidence. She coaches beginners and Cat. 4 & Cat. 3 women racers. Dotsie says: “Guys can explain something and break it down and still women don’t quite ‘get’ it. Women process things

Community Service:

Dotsie serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused or neglected children in the county of Los Angeles, and spends a significant amount of time with her 6-year-old CASA child.

 differently than men.” 

“It is so awesome to watch someone grow and improve. Currently I’m working with four local (Los Angeles) women. I think it’s important to coach locally so that I can ride with them and watch them race. I absolutely love coaching.  It’s great to be able to see people progress and move to the next level.”  Dotsie was given a new lease on life when she conquered the eating disorders that nearly claimed her life and she is determined to do what she can to help other women achieve their dreams. Whether by advocacy on anorexia, or by helping to further the sport of women’s racing, Dotsie Cowden is driven to make a difference and to help others reach their full potential.

Selected Palmares

2003 T-Mobile International – 17th

2003 Manhattan Beach Grand Prix - 6th
2003 Nature Valley Grand Prix - 5th - stage one; 7th GC
2003 Vuelta de Bisbee - 3rd GC

2003 Liberty Classic  - Queen of the Mountains

2003 California State Road Race Championship – 1st
2002 USCF Elite National Time Trial Championships - 13th
2002 Gracia Cez-Ede (Czech Republic)- 23rd G.C.
2002 Sea Otter Classic - 23rd, G.C.
2002 Redlands Bicycle Classic - 23rd G.C.

2001 California State Road Race Championship – 1st

2001 USCF Elite National Road Cycling Championships - 4th

2000 California State Time Trial Championship – 1st

 
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