Having an extra year in the national champion’s jersey due to the pandemic might have felt strange for Ruth Winder, but she’ll be wearing the stars and stripes for a bit longer now.
“I hope I’ve been able to do the jersey proud by wearing it another year,” Winder said during the USA Cycling Olympic team announcement. “Nationals and the Olympics combined are two huge goals, so to achieve them both is just really cool.”
Winder will headline a road squad comprised of Coryn Rivera, Leah Thomas, and Chloe Dygert. It will be her second trip to the Olympic Games; in 2016, she went to Rio with Team U.S.A’s track team although she wasn’t selected to ride in the team pursuit final against Great Britain.
Since Rio, Winder has amassed an impressive palmares on the road, joining Trek-Segafredo in 2019 and winning the U.S. National Championships that same year. While the goal of Tokyo has been omnipresent since the last Olympic games, Winder says that she’s also been just as focused on the journey to get there.
“I think I’ve been applying things from my track experience to my road experience ever since it happened,” she said. “The Olympics are a huge goal and a massive achievement, and there’s no denying that, but it also taught me that it’s just a day and I have to enjoy the process, as well.”
Like all professional athletes, Winder struggled with the challenges of the pandemic in 2020 and earlier this year. One way of learning how to weather the uncertainty was to focus on her mind just as much as her body.
“I put a lot of time into my mental fitness, my mental game, as well as my physical, and I think that’s been really helpful,” she said. “I’ve learned how to put pressure on myself when I needed to and not when I didn’t. When you race 60 times a year it’s really mentally fatiguing so cherrypicking my mental preparation helped me be better at races I really wanted to do well in.”
Another part of Winder’s mental fitness plan included knowing when to ease off on the bike and prioritize having fun. Whether mountain biking with her fiance in Boulder or baking up a storm, in the past year Winder stayed motivated by striking a balance between intense focus and having fun.
With the Olympic games less than a month and a half away, Winder can rest easy knowing that she’s already done the work.
“I’ve tried to focus on being my best athlete in all the races that are important to me, and being my best teammate I can be when that’s my role,” she said. “Going into the Olympics, understanding that I’ve been doing all the right steps and making the right decisions and then putting the right pressure on myself to represent the U.S. the best I can.”