A pair of distinctive, Pippi-like braids poke out from beneath a flipped-up cycling cap, announcing Mo Bruno Roy’s presence at the front of yet another elite cyclocross race. Fans urge the cyclocrosser through New England’s autumn mud. “Geaux Meaux,” they yell, cowbells in hand, waving signs with the same catchphrase.
Next year, there will be no more Meaux — Bruno Roy’s nickname — in elite American cyclocross. No more “Geaux Meaux” signs, no more Pippi braids on UCI podiums. The New England native announced her retirement last week, ending a 12-year career as a professional cyclocross racer.
“It’s been a few years coming,” she told VeloNews of her retirement. “I feel positive about it. I don’t feel sadness about not being able to do it.”
Bruno Roy’s career spanned 301 races, 106 podiums, five national titles, and two world championship appearances, each stop peppered by those “Geaux Meaux” signs and cheers, lining course tape from her native New England to the muddy slopes of Namur, Belgium. Along with her husband, manager, mechanic, and “partner in all things,” Matt Roy, she established a loyal following at home and elsewhere, celebrated for an endlessly positive outlook, humble interaction with fans, and undeniable work ethic — through it all, she was working full-time or near full-time as a muscular therapist.
Her path through the sport was somewhat unconventional. Bruno Roy entered the sport late, toeing her first elite start line at age 28, following a track-and-field career at UMass Dartmouth, where she still holds the outdoor 400 meter hurdles record. She’s mostly ridden without the support of a major team, fostering individual sponsorships with SRAM and Mavic, and later, Seven Cycles and Bob’s Red Mill. She built racing programs and sponsorships around her own strengths and goals with the help of Roy.
Bruno Roy still can’t quite believe the last 12 years. Incredulity, she said, is the overriding emotion as she steps away from top-level racing.
“I can’t believe I got to do all this. This person got to be a world championship bike racer? It seems a little absurd to me,” she said. “People care about what I did?”
They do, of course.
The former runner quickly announced her presence at the top of American cyclocross 10 years ago, when she placed third at U.S. nationals in Providence, Rhode Island in her second full season of racing. That race is still the highlight of her entire career, she said.
“It was a shock,” she said of the race and result. “It was my second real season. I had some sponsorship, I was doing pretty well, and all of a sudden I got third and got sent to worlds. Just the podium presentation at nationals was amazing, everyone I knew, all my friends. They were screaming so loud that they couldn’t announce first and second. I could never replicate that experience.”
Retirement was a few years in the making, a gradual slowdown following a big, ultimately unsuccessful, push to make the U.S. team in 2013 for world championships in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I was certainly seeing the limits of my physicality, but also my emotional attachment to racing and training year-round,” she said of that season.
The 2014/2015 season was, unbeknownst to fans and competitors, something of a goodbye tour.
“I made a conscious decision at each race to make note: Would I miss this? I wanted to be present with the decision I was making,” she said. “I exceeded my [career] expectations tenfold. Doing the same race you’ve done 22 times, you’re not going to wish you could do it again. It was nice to say a private goodbye to each race, and be ready to approach it as a spectator.”
Bruno Roy won’t hang up the bike completely. Her Seven Cycles singlespeed will likely see a bit of mud at local races next year. But UCI racing, she insisted, is no longer in the cards.
“It’s so easy to get to just throw one more [UCI race]. ‘I’ll just do one more, I’ll see how I feel.’ But I really think for the physical and mental preparation of a professional-level cyclocross season … to take the weight off early, I think I can really enjoy what’s ahead for the summer and for the fall next year,” she said.
“If Matt and I say, ‘Let’s grab the bikes and to Vermont,’ we can do that without ruining a training plan,” she said. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”