LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) — It’s quite possible that Rebecca Fahringer is the busiest woman in pro cyclocross. On the morning of a major race, such as the US Cup-CX finale in Derby City, her rivals focus on pre-race nutrition, warm-up rituals, or gear. Fahringer, on the other hand, manages a team of four riders. She drives them to and from the venue and oversees the various logistical tasks involved in a team.
And at some point, during those various tasks, Fahringer prepares for her own race.
“The biggest challenge is trying to take care of myself in my own race without sacrificing my team manager role or vice-versa,” Fahringer says. “I’m always the first one to wake up and make sure things are prepared, first one to the course, even if I’m the closest, just to make sure I can do airport runs. On race day, making sure that I’m at the venue when I need to be but so is everyone else without somebody being too early or too late. It’s those little minute details that you don’t think they matter until you realize you have one car and we have women and men.”
After two years riding for the Amy D. Foundation team, Fahringer this year took on management responsibilities of the Stan’s NoTubes team, which also houses the Amy D. program. It’s a lot of work. Yet despite the added duties, Fahringer is still visible at the front of national-level races, often contending for the podium. She finished the fifth overall in the US Cup-CX series, just 11 points shy of the final podium.
The managerial duties represent the next step forward for Fahringer, 28. She has been competing on the national cyclocross scene since 2014. During the first year of her two-year stint with the Amy D. Foundation, Fahringer traveled with the Raleigh-Clement team and saw firsthand how the national-level program functioned. During that time Fahringer finished on the podium four times in UCI races. She also sponged up the information of how to operate a team.
Fahringer raced with the Amy D. program in 2015 and 2016. In her second year, she teamed up with the Stan’s NoTubes Team and its manager Jake Wells. When Wells stepped down from that position after 2016, Fahringer saw an opportunity for a full-time job in cycling. Once a Ph.D. student in geology and physics at Brown, Fahringer had been working as a bank teller. That job’s rigid schedule was too much for a committed pro cyclist. She quit the bank job this summer, on her birthday, August 4. “The best gift a girl could get,” she jokes.
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of stress,” she says of her new role as manager. “It’s fulfilling, and it’s definitely a learning curve worth taking for me, but I wouldn’t ever recommend somebody do it.”
She thinks the workload of managing a team has stunted her personal progression.
“I have more time to train, but I’m not as mentally sharp as I’m being pulled in a lot of directions,” she says of the demands the dual role presents. “The stress may have some physical manifestations, but I think I just haven’t been fighting hard during the race mentally, so I’ve just been at the back of the front group.
“It’s been a lot at once, especially since I consider myself — not like a developing rider — but a very early stage pro rider,” she adds.
Wells noticed a similar tension between his drive to get results and obligation to run the team. Eventually, he started to prioritize the team. “I think it was a little more challenging than she thought it would be — just managing time,” he says of Fahringer.
She also recognizes that, after earning good results in the early years of her career, including a UCI win at NCCX in 2016, expectations are higher.
“It’s nice if you’re a development rider and people don’t expect anything of you. It’s kind of easy to float to the top,” Fahringer says. “When everything’s riding on it, you go, ‘Oh shit.’”
Wells points out that Fahringer is still relatively new to the sport. He knows how elite athletes can get caught up chasing near-term results. “If you can, look at it from a bigger perspective and say, ‘This is a project and it’s gonna take me a few years to get to my potential,’” he says. “Really she’s still so new to the sport. She’s only been racing for about four years.”
Sometimes, Fahringer second-guesses herself when the whistle blows for a major race like Derby City. In the cutthroat midsection of a pro UCI ‘cross field, everyone is jockeying for a chance to break out and land on the podium — or win.
“Who’s to say that I’m any better than the girl next to me, but I need to think that I am or know that I am to take that place,” she says.
Having worked with her closely in 2016 — previewing courses, dialing in tire pressure, planning tactics — Wells thinks Fahringer is just beginning to tap her potential as a racer. But 2017 is about much more than grabbing more podium results or UCI points.
“This is a good test this year,” Wells says. “Being able to handle the stress of not only racing and training but running this program and working with the Amy D. development riders. Whether she continues to manage the program or not she’s going to benefit from that. It is a big test at the time, but she can handle a lot more.”