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The summer of Skylar Schneider

After years of competitive cycling, Schneider has found her stride with L39ION of Los Angeles, blossoming into one of the most promising riders in the United States.

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Skylar Schneider, who races for L39ION of Los Angeles, has punctuated nearly every race she’s entered this season with an underline and an exclamation mark.

In early June, the 22-year-old announced herself at Tulsa Tough, winning three out of the events’ four races (at Arts District, the only event she didn’t win, she finished second to teammate Kendall Ryan). For the nearly three months after that, Schneider racked up victory after victory. From Boise to Littleton to Spartanburg, Schneider’s dominance in the crit scene has resulted in notoriety she hasn’t had since her junior days.

Yet even after another successful solo flyer, an unmet goal nagged at the back of Schneider’s mind.

“Coming back from Europe I just needed to prove to myself that I could still be at the highest level,” Schneider said. “I know crits are really challenging too and I’m proud of how we’ve done, but I needed to prove to myself that I could do a lot better than I did in the last Joe Martin, to show I’ve improved as a rider and that I can set a goal and really go after that one goal and really focus on that.”

Schneider had been waiting all summer long to win the Joe Martin Stage Race. And then she did.

Schneider won two stages and the overall at the 2021 Joe Martin Stage Race. (Photo: Kit Karzen)

Set against her prolific season of crit racing, Schneider’s victory last week in Arkansas was even more significant. In the five years since her last appearance at Joe Martin, one of the last remaining UCI-sanctioned events in the U.S., the young rider had considered walking away from racing.

Schneider started her pro career very young and at 13, won her first set of national championships. She and her sister Samantha spent years on various development squads, including Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, and by 2018 Skylar had earned the opportunity to race in Europe.

From there, her cycling career didn’t necessarily follow a traditional trajectory.

“When I was in Europe the first year, 2018, everything went really well and then I signed a two-year contract with Boels [Dolmans; now, SD Worx]” Schneider said. “The second year didn’t go so well, and suddenly it was like, ‘What am I gonna do? Maybe I’ll just stop racing.’ Now, I really have my passion back.”

Schneider found her passion back in the U.S. racing for Justin Williams’ L39ION of Los Angeles.

She joined the squad in the fall of 2020 after mutually agreeing to end her tenure on Boels-Dolmans. L39ION’s mission of a more inclusive and diverse peloton appealed to her, as did the blank canvas to form a robust women’s program. But it wasn’t until the squad’s first training camp in March of 2021 that her instinct about the move was validated.

“That’s when I knew I was in the right place,” Schneider said. “We all stayed together and did all these big trainings. Kendall couldn’t be there, so it was just me and all the guys. The way they supported me and built me up to do 120-mile rides with them —  I knew then that the support would make this team really special. As we’ve traveled and spent four weeks on the road together at a time, it’s been really fun off-the-bike, as well. We do the men’s and women’s meetings together for a good reason — everyone gives input. Everyone cheers for each other at the races. Being in such a positive environment like that has been a really nice change.”

While L39ION has established itself as a criterium powerhouse and will continue on that path, Schneider says that team support also goes beyond racing crits. 

“The riders are really encouraged to go after their goals,” she said. “For Kendall, it was the track this year, and the team did what they could to support her. Freddy [Ovett] is really into gravel. As we talked about the schedule for next year I made it clear that I wanted to do some more stage races. That’s important for me and my development and my career because I think one day I would like the option to go back to Europe.”

Schneider began riding BMX bikes at four years old and transitioned to the road at 12. (Photo: Kit Karzen)

Schneider’s performance at Joe Martin — two stage wins, a second-place, and the overall — may see her moving back across the pond sooner than she imagined. She’s received a few calls from other teams since then, which, given her dominance all summer long, she finds mildly amusing.

“I think everyone in Europe was kinda watching and they see crits and they’re like ‘oh it’s just crits,’ and suddenly there’s a road race and they’re like, ‘let’s talk,'” she said.

Yet Schneider’s current focus is on the off-season that awaits after this weekend’s Gateway Cup. After that, it’s home to West Allis, Wisconsin where she has more unfinished business. In December, she and her sister Samantha purchased commercial real estate where they planned to open a bakery. COVID complications caused months of hold-ups, but the sisters hope to get The Bread Pedalers up and running before the end of the year.

Schneider hopes to be on the bike with L39ION in 2022, with more crit and stage race victories on the horizon. But given her propensity for setting — and achieving — long-term goals, the summer of Skylar doesn’t stop there.

“I’m already thinking 2024 maybe those Olympics, or maybe 2028,” she said. “I think I’ll eventually go back to Europe one day, but I want to take my time and do it right. Be patient. Be happy. Because if you’re not happy then none of it’s worth it.”