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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.
Like all organizations across cycling, USA Cycling felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In the days after racing was shut down USA Cycling laid off or furloughed 40 percent of its full-time staff in an effort to dramatically cut costs. The racing shutdown hit just as the organization was gearing up for its biggest projects of the year: the 2020 Olympics, as well as a new membership program.
Former pro Lindsay Goldman had a front seat for USA Cycling’s hard pivot. Goldman, a mother and former racer and team director, joined the federation as its director of marketing and membership this past fall, and was focused squarely on the new membership program when the pandemic hit.
Since then Goldman has worked long hours to keep the federation moving forward, while still raising her daughter and finding time to ride.
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?
Arizona is under a stay-at-home order until May 15. We’re allowed to go outside for exercise with appropriate physical distancing measures. Playgrounds are closed, however, which is problematic because my toddler considers them an essential business. If I had a dollar for every time she yelled “PARK??” I could start my own women’s professional cycling team, again.
What events or projects were you working on that have been postponed or canceled?
The pandemic took a substantial turn for the worse in America right as my season was about to begin with The Mid South gravel race. I decided to skip the trip two hours before my flight was departing for Oklahoma. While I have zero regrets (COVID-19 risks aside, I’m fine missing nine hours of mud), now it looks like that was the last race in America for the foreseeable future. Disappointing, for sure, but I’m not going to pretend missing my race schedule matters in the face of this catastrophe.
The impact at work has been far more troubling. As the Director of Marketing & Membership for USA Cycling, I’d just spent six months working nonstop with the whole organization to redo our membership structure, pricing, value, and sales process. So much effort and excitement went into the project, and the system went live exactly when the pandemic took hold across the U.S. It wasn’t a good time to launch anything; it was a time to be somber and supportive, to lean into helping the community in any way we could. So we did that, but it meant our plans (and sales) came to a screeching halt. We also suspended permits for all USA Cycling races across the country, hit pause on our National Championships, pulled back our staff and athletes from abroad, shut down our office, and recalibrated all Olympic plans. We’re a non-profit carrying out a big mission on a lean budget in the best of times, so canceling all events and losing membership revenue has been crippling.
Everybody around the world is facing huge setbacks and losses, so I know it’s not like ours is more unique or painful. Everybody is hurting. But that doesn’t make it any less terrible. People don’t work at USA Cycling to get rich; and we do it because we love cycling and believe in this work. When the bottom drops out and the viability of the company is threatened, it’s devastating, and terribly hard choices have to be made. Roughly 40 percent of USA Cycling was furloughed or laid off, and it was crushingly sad — these aren’t just coworkers, they’re friends. We had an organization-wide Zoom meeting that day and when people said their goodbyes, the screen was filled with crying faces. I still can’t think about it without tearing up.
What projects that you’re working on are still going on?
On one hand, it feels like everything is on hold. But the reality is I’m busier than ever trying to work, train, parent, and work some more. USA Cycling isn’t shut down, even though events are on hold. We’re trying to take care of our members, help our events and partners navigate this crisis, and support our athletes both with training and general wellbeing, and we’re doing it with [less] staff, and a substantially reduced budget. Everybody across the organization is working together on new projects to support our community, help rides and races return safely, keep our members happy and motivated, and bring in the revenue we need to survive this crisis. I’m not going to lie; it’s a huge amount of pressure. I get the previous day’s sales report at 4:30 a.m. every day, same time as I read The Economist’s morning briefing. Both tell me the same thing: it’s a bad time to be selling. But I can’t give up because I work with the most incredible people who care so much about making this sport better, and they keep me motivated each day to keep trying, in between bouts of crying and joking about day drinking. It’s been hard. We’re all working crazy long hours. I look a few years older than I did in February and can’t even pay a stylist to dye away the new grey hairs.
At home, we’re working on potty training. It’s refreshing to grapple all day with overwhelming high-stress issues and then find yourself sitting in front of a small person on a teddy-bear shaped toilet seat asking, “Can you push one more time to see if a poopy will come out?”
How are USA Cycling staff staying connected during this time?
Zoom, Slack, email, text, phone calls. If I had a fax machine, we’d be using that too. We spend all of our waking hours meeting or planning to meet or talking about the meeting we just had. It’s a good thing I really like these people. It’s also a good thing they’re gracious about watching me eat nonstop through Zoom meetings, because we never have breaks and I am a very hungry person.
Are you doing workouts? If so, what specifically?
Oh hell yes. Workouts are the only thing keeping me sane (well, that, pouring a drink every day at 5 p.m. and also crying a lot). I’m riding six days a week with a mix of road or gravel outside and some trainer time when I need to get work done or dial into meetings. Have you ever selected a base layer and bibs specifically to appear more put-together for a video meeting? I did that today.
My coach is keeping me somewhat tied to a normal training schedule, but we both understand the reality of training through total uncertainty so she’s willing to let me push the boundaries a bit. Oh, you said rest week? We’ll just consider this a restful 4-hour ride up a mountain today. It feels like I can afford to throw caution to the wind, get overtired from too much riding, eat too much or too little, drink that extra beer or add in extra sprints. Why not? It’s not like it’ll make me slower at a race next week.
It’s a strange mindset for somebody who has built a life around training and racing. It’s weird to figure out who you are when you take away the thing you used to define yourself. Am I still a racer if there is no racing?
I did try to add weightlifting back into my routine a few weeks ago and did it religiously for three days. Now the weights are collecting dust in the hallway. There are limits to how much misery I’m willing to endure right now.
What indoor gear are you using?
I’m a loyal Saris user, so when I’m riding indoors it’s on a Hammer smart trainer. I’m also making the most of my kitchen table. It’s become my home office, Zoom meeting central, and the place where I bang my head when things aren’t going well. Those dumbbells are also waiting to be used, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up.
What is your motivation to train right now?
I love the routine of training, the feeling of suffering through a challenging ride, and the delicious fatigue you carry by the end. Also I wouldn’t know what else to do with myself if I wasn’t using riding as an outlet. I’m addicted to the endorphins and perpetually nursing a minor eating disorder that requires exercising enough to ‘earn’ or ‘pay off’ food. Yes, I know that is unhealthy; yes, I’ve looked into fixing it; yes, anxiety is a lifestyle I’ve accepted. Even on the days where I’d rather eat the bicycle than pedal it, I still go forward with the training plan because I need that structure to keep me grounded.
There have been times during this pandemic when I’ve wondered if we’ll lose the ability to ride outside here in Arizona and, while I don’t think that’ll happen, it’s not an unmanageable thought. I rode indoors six days a week for six straight months when I was pregnant. It was terrible, but not more terrible than not riding at all. You can do anything you want if you’re willing to tolerate it.
How are you communicating with friends and family?
Let’s be honest: I spend so much time in meetings that, once the workday is done, I struggle to find the desire to speak to another human. (A challenge, considering I live with several people, including a chatty toddler.) I’m texting my friends and FaceTiming my parents occasionally to avoid being a reclusive hermit but sometimes I fantasize about a world where my internet connection is decimated and I’m totally unreachable.
Have you received any helpful advice?
“Wash your hands and don’t touch your face.” This is a hot take for 2020, but also I remember covering something similar in preschool 30+ years ago. Let’s all keep this up even in the post-pandemic world.
When do you think you’ll attend a race again?
I’m deeply hopeful for the chance to race the 2020 Colorado Classic or USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships later this summer, but have no idea what to realistically expect. The Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego in early November seems like the safest dream to pin my race hopes on. It’s been years since I’ve tried to be “fast” in autumn, but this year is all about accepting unusual circumstances and adapting. I’ve yet to see somebody propose racing in a mask but the cycling Twitterverse never disappoints.