15-year-old Bellevue resident Megan Doherty scored two age-group victories at the USA Cycling Amateur Road Championships on June 30 – July 3, in Louisville, KY. Megan blazed the 21 km time trial course in 32:52.57, ninety seconds faster than the nearest competitor. She won the 54 km National Championship Road Race in Louisville’s Cherokee Park in a sprint finish.
Originally from Boise, Megan is currently a member of the Starbucks/SCCA Cycling Team. Megan is coached by Joe Holmes of Tête de la Course Cycling, who also coaches cyclocross phenom Logan Owen (Axeon Hagens Berman) and Chloé Dygert, who won the 2015 junior women’s world time trial and road races.
In addition to her wins this year, Megan won six previous age group championships:
07/04/2014: Amateur & Para Road Nationals Age 13-14 Time Trial
07/06/2013: Amateur & Para Road Nationals Age 13-14 Road Race
07/04/2013: Amateur & Para Road Nationals Age 13-14 Time Trial
06/22/2012: U23 Elite Road Nationals Age 10-12 Criterium
06/21/2012: U23 Elite Road Nationals Age 10-12 Time Trial
06/20/2012: U23 Elite Road Nationals Age 10-12 Road Race
How did you get into bike racing? Talk about your progression in cycling and how it led to racing bikes.
In 2007, when I was 7 years old, my parents decided to start running to train for their first half and full marathons. I started to ride a bike to carry water on initial 3-5 mile runs. Over the next few years, they got faster and ran longer. I liked riding and joined the BYRDS (Boise Young Rider Development Squad) a couple of years later. I competed in my first race when I was 10, and I was hooked.
How did you connect with the Starbucks/SCCA Cycling Team? What factors led you to join them?
After moving to Bellevue, I was looking for a team that did not solely focus on junior riders. I felt that in order to continue to progress, I needed to step up and start racing people that were pushing me in training and races. My Mom, Karen, and I went on a meet the team ride with SCCA/Starbucks Cycling and really liked the team. They are competitive, fun, and focused on making every rider better. I still have a great deal to learn, and riding with outstanding, experienced women and men will help with my development.
How did you connect with coach Joe Holmes?
When we moved to Bellevue, having someone coach me from a distance was difficult. Douglas Tobin (director of BYRDS) is outstanding, but he has a large team, and I felt that I needed a local coach. I asked SCCA/Starbucks Cycling teammates for their insight and researched local coaches. Joe Holmes was mentioned, and I understood that he has had success with Logan Owen, Chloe Dygert, and numerous other athletes. This led to my decision to follow up with Joe. We talked and got to know each other, and it has been a good fit.
Especially as a high school student doing an unusual sport, what kind of support are you getting?
My parents are the ultimate sponsors. Cycling can be quite a money drain, and they make sure that I have great coaching, equipment, can attend races, travel, etc. I would also like to give a shout out to my team’s main sponsors, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Starbucks, who help reimburse some travel expenses. In addition, NorthShore Bikes in Vancouver BC has given me a discount on both of my Argon 18 road and track bikes. All together my family has a total of nine Argon 18 bikes, but I am not currently factory sponsored.
You also swim competitively for Newport High School. Tell us about the role sports other than cycling play for you.
Swimming was my first love. I started when I was two years old and joined the year-round Boise Y Swim Team at age five. By ten, I was ranked high in the nine-state Western Zone, and I still hold a number of Boise Y Swim Team and Snake River Swimming records. As a teenager, it became apparent that I probably wasn’t going to be tall enough to stay competitive at the highest level. Female swimmers that specialize in butterfly and freestyle are generally 5’ 10” to 6’, and the men are even taller. Everyone starts a race at the same time, but height puts you that much farther ahead when the gun goes off. I will always love swimming, and I continue with high school and year-round swim team even as I have shifted my focus to cycling.
That being said, cycling is definitely my favorite sport. Over the past eight years, I have transformed from an eight-year-old, having fun on her bike twice a week, to a serious competitor. I train, race hard, and love to ride my bike.
I believe that there are pros and cons to competing in multiple sports. Lack of focus on a single sport could cause diminished performance, but the advantages of cross-training and preventing burn out outweigh that concern.
Triathlon is something that I am going to gravitate to. I ran my first half-marathon at age eight and my personal record is a 1:43:10 on a very challenging course at the Gorge in Oregon in 2013. This year I will complete in my first full marathon (because I’m turning 16, and I thought it would be cool). I had this scheduled for August, but I’ve been invited to the Olympic Training Center, so I’ll find a race at a later date.
I have competed in triathlon and placed in the top 25 at nationals (in my second competition 2 years ago). I intend on entering the National Championship next summer to see where I stack up.
Recently the NCAA has recognized triathlon for Women as an NCAA Division I sport. Arizona State University has a scholarship program, and I’m interested in looking into that possibility.
Do you do any other kinds of sports?
This is a funny question, because I’ve been focused on swimming, biking, and running at the detriment of what most people consider normal. PE has been interesting and fun because ball sports, such as football, basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, and tennis, are all new activities!
Given that cycling is not part of typical high school athletics, how have your classmates and teachers reacted to your success? Do they understand competitive cycling?
Cycling is not a popular sport in the US. It’s rare to find a classmate or teacher that understands competitive cycling. They may have watched the Tour de France or other races, but it really hasn’t been a topic of conversation.
In addition to excelling athletically, you maintain a 4.0 GPA. How are you able to do well at athletics and academics?
Academics and my brain are my future. I enjoy being an athlete and intend on competing for the rest of my life, but it isn’t going to pay the bills. Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of money in the female peloton. There are some professional triathletes who make a good living, but it is very risky. A single serious injury could end even the most successful career. I’m drawn to biology and possibly medicine. I believe that I will pursue a career in this field.
Have you thought about the role athletic competition will have for you after high school?
Athletics opens up an entire future for college scholarships that allow me to continue racing while expanding my mind. I’m committed to racing. I’m having a wonderful time and don’t want to pursue anything else.
What are some of your favorite rides in the Seattle area?
There are a number; I try to mix it up. Bainbridge Island is a great place to train. I enjoy riding with SCCA/Starbucks in Maple Valley and Black Diamond. Cougar Mountain hill repeats is a very demanding workout.
For other girls interested in cycling or racing bikes, do you have any recommendations about how to get into it?
I would recommend to start with a group intro ride. (Seattle’s “Meet the Team” series begins September 10). Fortunately, I grew up in Boise and found the BYRDS program specifically focused on juniors. I have raced against RAD Racing and Cycle University athletes and these programs are very strong. Last year I picked up track riding (to help with leg speed), and this can also be a way to get into the sport. The Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome has bikes that can be rented, as well as summer track classes for juniors, and this is a great way to start to compete.