Victory Brewing racer and reigning US U23 Time Trial Champion Lauren Franges has always been active in sports. She played softball, skied, and was on her high school basketball team. Her foray into bike racing was not, however, love at first sight.
Lauren grew up in Pennsylvania, close to the Lehigh Valley Velodrome where she first began her career as a cyclist at the age of 12. Lauren started riding at the track in T-town in the
Air Products program – a free introductory program T-town offers to anyone age 5 through adult who is interested in trying out track cycling. Each introductory “session” is three weeks long, with three classes a week.
US U23 Time Trial Champion, courtesy of Mike Tamayo
Lauren’s initial exposure to track racing came not out of any desire on her part, in fact she says she hated it! She was a basketball player with no interest in racing bikes, but her dad wanted to give it a try because he was riding recreationally to keep in shape for skiing. He dragged Lauren along to try riding the track with him!
“After 2 sessions of the program,” Lauren recalls, “people were telling me I had a natural talent for the sport and I should pursue it. Like most people...when you start to have success it is hard to give it up even if you don't enjoy it. As I kept going the results were getting better and better, that is when I started to fall in love with the sport.”
She really started to focus on track racing in the eighth grade. By then she was already getting to travel around the world for races, and as she says “What could be a better motivator?” She traveled to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, France, Switzerland and Portugal. Lauren had a very successful juniors career, winning five US National Championships and two Pan American Championships on the Track.
Was it hard for you to remain focused on training as a teenager?
Not really. Growing up riding and traveling has made me more of an independent person. I was and still am determined to make it to the Olympics and that has always been my driving force. My friends around me growing up really helped as well, because they were so amazed to know someone who has traveled like I have and the lifestyle that I was leading at such a young age.
How much of an impact did your racing and training have on your family in terms of support, both financially and physically/emotionally?
This sport is not a cheap one, but my parents were determined to help me reach my goals. For their vacation time from work we would travel to wherever Nationals were going to be. Whenever I needed to go to a race they would help me get there, without any question. They were happy I was doing something productive, and I was learning a lot.
Riding at the Worlds
Who was your greatest mentor as you were growing up?
Cassandra Ramirez. She is a racer who lives in Philadelphia right now, and races for the Tri State Velo Cycling Club. She has been racing for a long time, and has a lot of experience. I remember my first year racing for Tri State Velo we were doing a race together, one of my first Pro Women's races, I didn't know what to expect. She made me realize I really do have potential and I can make it in this sport, and that I will never forget.
Since turning pro Lauren has continued her winning ways. She has won the Meiji Roech title three times. Meiji Roech is an honor given to the first American U23 racer to finish the Liberty Classic race. Last season Lauren won the US U23 Road Time Trial Championships as well as the Bermuda Grand Prix, the Housatonic Criterium, and placed second in the American Criterium Championship Series.
Lauren Franges, courtesy of Cyndi Chapman
How was the transition from junior to pro?
I think I made the transition very well. I had already been racing in the senior ranks as a junior and I also had some experience racing in Europe so there was not much of a change for me. Actually I was really looking forward to getting out of the Junior ranks because I was getting tired of the racing style.
What is the "racing style" and how does it differ from pros?
When I was a junior we had some really strong fields and we are all pretty similar in strength. Junior racing is not the same as racing with a team, in juniors each girl was racing for herself. Which meant we all had to look after our best interest and how we could win the race. So anytime someone would make a move there would be a chase, turning the race into a cat and mouse game which usually meant riding at an average speed of 12-15 miles an hour until the end. Racing with a team changes the whole dynamic and keeps the sport fun and exciting.
How about the transition from track racing to road racing?
When I went from the track to the road I was ready to give the track a break. I had been going at it for so long I needed to do something else. As a track rider I was an endurance racer, I was not very good at sprinting and the really short events. When I started focusing on the road it required more time on the bike and that was the hardest thing for me to get used to. I love racing my bike...riding it is a different story! The one thing I didn't miss from the track is all the time that is wasted while you are waiting for your events, there is a lot of down time.
On to the present: In addition to racing for Victory Brewing I seem to recall that you are pursuing a college degree online? Have you thought about life after your cycling career?
I am currently taking classes online through The Art Institute. It is a great way for me to get my credits and still race and train. I am going for a Web Design degree. However, I see myself always being involved with the sport; it is what I have grown up with.
Lauren at ‘Toona, courtesy of MWO
What is your goal with cycling?
I have Olympic dreams, and in order to reach those dreams I believe you need to go over to Europe to race. I raced overseas as a junior, but have not had the opportunity since turning pro. So, in a sense I have a dream to reach every level in cycling that I can get to.
Do you ever return to T-Town and work with the younger racers?
Honestly right now I do not have enough time in my schedule to do that. As a team we do dealer events, where we travel to Specialized dealers and ride with their customers and afterwards we have free samples of Victory Beer. That takes up a lot of my free time.
Earlier this year you said: “This year I’ve changed my schedule some. I’m racing less than before. I think previously I raced too much, now that I’m racing less I feel fresher. Racing is good training for me, but I think it was good that we’ve backed my schedule off a bit, giving me a little more time to rest.”
Interesting quote – who decided to have you back off a bit? And why?
It was a decision that my coach, Andy Applegate and I talked about together. We thought it would help me recover better for the more important races. I am by no means a workaholic. I really do not like to train, so it was hard for me to make the decision to back off my racing...because I use some races to help me stay fit for the bigger races. But I think this did help my season last year, and I was really pleased with how everything played out.
How long did you have “off” between the end of the 2004 season and the start of training for 2005?
I took off for 3 weeks completely, and then for another 2 weeks I rode when I felt like it. I am the type of person who needs that break. I spend so much time traveling, training, and racing it really was a great mental break for me. It was also nice because I was able to take a vacation with my mom and I didn't have to think about riding or an upcoming race, and I also coordinated that trip with my break from school so it really was a vacation!!
Speaking of the 2004 season – what is your favorite race memory of the year?
Winning the U23 Nationals Time Trial. That one was special to me because my coach and I had sat down and planned my training specifically for the TT, and everything played according to plan. It was not a just a matter of planning my training, but we also had to keep in account the altitude of Park City and how that was going to effect me. It helped me see that with the right preparation, a solid team backing you up, and a coach who knows what they are doing you can accomplish just about anything. That race was even more special because in the past time trialing was never my forte.
What is a typical weeks training schedule for you in the winter months? Do you do any cross training?
My weeks change depending on what base week and phase I am on. But anywhere between 12-25 hours a week of training which includes 3 hours in the gym per week. The gym is the only thing I do besides riding my bike.
How does your winter training differ from training during race season? Or during the season are you mostly using races to train?
The winter is just more base miles, while during the season I usually have specific workouts to do. I also use a lot of races for training during the season, it helps keep my head in the game. During the winter I get to go out and enjoy myself riding with my female counterparts here in PA and we just have a great time together...It makes the 5 hours go by so quickly.
What helps you keep your motivation so high?
I love racing, so I am always looking for that thrill. Riding does get tiresome every once in a while, but I remind myself of my dreams and aspirations and that fuels me even more.
How do you track your training? Do you have a coach you work with?
Right now my coach is affiliated with Joe Friel and the Ultrafit associates. I use a website called Trainingpeaks.com and that is where I keep track of my training. I am still at the stage where I am working on getting stronger.
A Tour de ‘Toona question – you seemed a bit frustrated by the tactics of some of the teams at ‘Toona this year. On next to the last stage you broke free from the peloton and gained over a two-minute gap, which you held for 32 miles before being swallowed up into the pack on the first serious climb. It earned you recognition as most aggressive rider for the day, but what was your goal? Did you think you could stay away alone?
I was the sacrificial lamb for the team. We as a team knew that I was not going to stay out there for the entire stage, but we were hoping to set it up so our climbers could sit and relax until the climbs came.
Another day in the “office” at ‘Toona, courtesy of MWO
How much time do you spend on the road in season? Is it hard to juggle a personal life with the demands of cycling?
We do about 80 days of racing during the year, but that does not include the time spent traveling to and from the races. But sometimes it seems like too long of a period. My personal life is really wrapped up in cycling...that is where most of my friends are, but it is really hard keeping up with the ones who are not involved in cycling.
When you travel to races do you mostly stay in hotels or host housing? Is there a good mix between enough private space for a little time alone in peace & quiet, and companionship with teammates?
We usually have a mix of hotels and host housing. The girls on the team all know when to respect the privacy. It is usually obvious when we are getting cranky with each other. But we have a great group of girls and that doesn't happen very often, we usually look forward to the time we spend with each other.
How much of a factor is “luck” in winning races?
Luck plays a huge part. If you don't have luck on your side it can make for a painful race. Some examples...I am cursed at San Francisco...I have crashed both years I have done that race and the first year I was never able to make it back to the field, last year I did regain the field but it took a lot of energy that would have been nice to have for the finish. In this sport there are so many things that can go wrong, and can easily change the outcome of your race whether you planned it or not.
There’s also timing and the smarts to know how to race your bike...there are not many women out there who have that talent and there are many that are trying to improve on it, but I believe a lot of it can't be learned.
What advice would you give to women who are just getting into racing?
Listen to yourself and not what everyone else is telling you, sometimes to many opinions can throw you over the edge and make you wonder what you are doing. If you have the drive go for it and follow your heart.
On the practical side - Are you able to earn a living wage riding? And is racing as a pro all you had hoped/dreamed or expected?
Livable wage, not really, I have to rely on working part time over the winter. Prize money helps sustain me over the summer.
It is all it is cracked up to be, but there are not a lot of opportunities out there for female racers so I am grateful for what I have and I am really looking forward to the 2005 season and racing with the team we have put together.
Lauren Franges, courtesy of MWO
Have you found a balance between training/racing and life?
I am still working on this one, it is hard to balance everything and be happy with it all. I am really enjoying what I am learning in school, but there is only so much time in a day. When you have to go out and ride for 3- 5 hours and then spend another 2-3 hours on schoolwork. I still have to find time to eat and sleep and get my other random things done during the day. It really does not leave a lot of time for much else. But that is the commitment I made to my team and myself.
Favorite way to relax?
I am a big fan of movies. Also my favorite author is James Patterson, and I was a big fan of the Harry Potters books, not the movies.
Thanks for talking with us Lauren! Looking forward watching you race in the coming season.
Please visit the team website at VictoryCycling.com and check out her title sponsor at VictoryBrewingBeer.com as well!
The 2004 Victory Brewing Team Preview
Bermuda Grand Prix Stage 3