Augusta native Becca Phelan went from being a casual bike rider to a champion cyclist in two years.
Her rise, which has featured a blend of intense training and a little luck, helped earn her win the Greater Augusta Medals for Excellence in Sports award for top Amateur Star.
I was very surprised. I had no idea that was going to happen, Phelan said. I felt so honored just to be nominated, but when I found out I won, I was ecstatic.
Phelan competes in cyclocross. One part mountain biking, one part cross country race, the sport has been described as bicycle racing with a steeplechase.
Cross is a crazy race, Phelan said. I think cyclocross is definitely one of the hardest, but most rewarding disciplines I have ever been involved with.
Phelan, who teaches indoor cycling at Health Central, took a trip to the mountains in 2006 with her husband, John. At a bike shop, they picked up water bottles that included scratch-off tickets that offered a mountain bike as a prize. Her sons bottle included a winning ticket.
When the Trek 1500 bicycle arrived, the Phelan s became avid cyclists. They rode frequently, mostly around the Augusta Canal, and attended local races as spectators.
They heard about cyclocross from friends who are members of the Augusta Cross Coalition and were invited to compete in the 2007 race at the Augusta State Athletic Complex. The Phelans had the passion to compete, just not all of the necessities.
I didnt even have a bike to ride. I was going to ride my mountain bike but its just so heavy, said Phelan, referring to portions of the race where carrying your bike is required.
Phelan found a ride and became hooked on the sport.
The couple trained together before joining the 2008 Georgia Cross Series, where Becca became an instant star.
Competing in the Womens B category, Phelan won five races, finished second twice and placed third once. She won the overall series title.
While Phelan says she didnt expect to do as well as she did so soon, she attributes most of her success to her steady training regimen as well as her career.
I do ride a lot, but I think teaching has helped some because an indoor cycling class is very interval-related; you get your heart rate up and you do hard work in a short amount of time, Phelan said.
Phelan received her G.A.M.E.S award at a ceremony on May 22.
She plans to compete in the series again when the 2009 season starts this fall.
Phelan says she will move up to the Womens A category, the highest level, and hopes to soon compete on a national stage.