Kendall Ryan has been racing bikes since she was six years old. This year, she trained harder than ever — despite the dearth of racing — with a laser focus on the Olympic Games, for which USA Cycling has selected her as part of its track long team. Recently, Ryan signed with L39ion of Los Angeles, a move that guarantees her a racing outlet in some form for what she says is her lifetime-best fitness.
“L39ion is super understanding of my goals,” Ryan said. “They have said the Olympics is priority. Obviously, they want me to be able to fit in road racing here and there, and take on a mentor role to share my knowledge.”
After years of successful racing with Team Tibco — including the 2015 national criterium title — Ryan stepped down from the team because of the conflict between road racing and her Olympic ambitions and preparation.
“I left Tibco because there were a lot of schedule conflicts, and I really wanted to focus on the track and make the Olympic team. I would barely be able to spend time at team camp,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was really part of the team. I felt bad.”
Ryan’s connection with L39ion came about through an unexpected conversation with team founder Justin Williams, whom she has known for years since they raced together on the same Major Motion junior team.
“Those guys literally taught me how to ride, how to sprint,” she said of Justin and his brother Cory Williams. “Every city limit sign we’d be sprinting for that. I reached out to Justin and jokingly said, ‘hey, can I come ride for your men’s team?’ I was just messing with him. He said, ‘funny you should say that, Skyler [Schneider] just hit me up. Let’s do this.'”
For 2021 Ryan, Schneider, and Avry Howes will compose the women’s portion of L39ion’s co-ed domestic team.
“I am super excited to be a part of it and the growth,” Ryan said, pointing to how the men’s team started small but quickly built itself up into one of the most popular teams in the United States.
Olympics, or ‘super fit and angry on the road’
Ryan has been training both at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and at home in Ventura, California. She is aiming for an Olympic spot to race the Madison and the team pursuit, an event the U.S. women have dominated in recent years.
“I am aiming for Madison, but I think for them to consider me for that spot, I need to be able to be strong for the team pursuit, too,” Ryan said. “The team pursuit makes you so friggin’ strong. I have definitely reached a new level of fitness training for that. You have to dig so friggin’ deep.”
At the USOTC, the riders were only able to do team pursuit training together and then do individual interval days.
In addition to hitting the weights, Ryan has been doing intense workouts like 30-second sprints where the ‘rest’ intervals consist of riding at threshold. “So I sprint for 30 seconds, sit at threshold, then sprint again,” she said.
The net result of having no racing but the promise of the Olympics on the horizon has resulted in lifetime best fitness — and hunger.
“This has been such a weird year,” Ryan said. “We have all been training our asses off. I am the fittest I have ever been. Come June [when she will know whether she is going to the Olympics or not] it’s either all track and I’m all in, or I will be super fit and angry and using both of those things to race on the road.”
In the meantime, Ryan is continuing to train and hopes to travel with the national team to Nations Cup races in Newport, GB and Hong Kong.
Qualifying for the Olympics is at the discretion of USA Cycling, and Ryan said the criteria “has a lot has to do with consistency, medal capability, and how well you work with the team.”
In 2021 with the USA squad and L39ion of Los Angeles, Ryan will have two teams to work with.