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UCI Road World Championships: Skylar Schneider ‘inspired’ by return to world championships

The 24-year-old is enjoying road racing again and eyeing a potential return to Europe in the future.

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WOLLONGONG, Australia (VN) — Skylar Schneider’s elite debut at the UCI Road World Championships has taken longer than she may have expected, but the American is excited to be back.

Schneider last raced a world championships as a junior back in 2016 when she finished second to now defending elite champion Elisa Balsamo in the road race. Since then, the 24-year-old’s career has steered her away from road racing and into criteriums, but she still loves the discipline.

Given her limited road racing this season, Schneider may have been a surprise addition to the seven-woman squad in Australia, but she’s confident she can play a part and believes the crit experience could help her out.

“It feels really good to be here. It’s really inspiring. Just being on a team was such accomplished riders and being surrounded by the best in the world,” Schneider told VeloNews at her team’s hotel in Wollongong just a few hundred meters from the circuit she’ll be racing on Saturday.

“I’ve always trained for road races, even while focusing on crits, just because I liked the challenge of it, and it’s kept me able to be competitive in road races. The course here is really technical, so I think having a lot of criteria and experience will be an asset, especially with positioning and maybe helping my teammates with that.”

Schneider primarily races with the L39ION of Los Angeles squad in the USA, but she has spent some time racing in Europe in the build-up to the world championships with Cynisca Cycling, a women’s development team run by USA Cycling.

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She raced a handful of events in Europe through May, finishing second to Marie Le Net (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope) at the La Picto-Charentaise 1.2 event, before going on to win the national-level Wielerronde van Dirksland.

The trip to Europe has helped her build up her road endurance and she’s hoping that the work she’s done in recent months will pay off.

“It’ll be the longest race I’ve ever done. Fortunately, the build to this has been well, I was doing more endurance to prepare for Europe, and then had some longer races there,” she said. “And then had three weeks at home where the endurance was the thing I needed to work on the most, I had three weeks at home to do that. Hopefully, it was enough.”

The worlds in Wollongong have long been a goal of Schneider, even though her career has taken a very different path from when the event was first announced.

Despite spending much of the past two years racing criteriums, she decided to take a chance and put herself in the running for selection.

“I feel like when Wollongong was announced a few years ago, it immediately became a goal. I don’t really know what about it specifically stuck out to me, I think just the timing of it and where I was at, then it seemed attainable,” she said. “Of course, my career has had some ups and downs since then, but I figured I’d put my name in the hat either way.”

Schneider is set to play a team role in the race Saturday but she is also a backup plan should the race unexpectedly come down to a sprint finish.

A false start in Europe

Following her standout performance at the 2016 world championships in Qatar, plenty was expected of Schneider. She rode for a season with the American squad Team Illuminate before signing a big-ticket deal with Boels Dolmans, the undisputed strongest team in women’s cycling at the time, and headed to Europe.

She notched up some good results early on, including a stage win at the Healthy Ageing Tour, but it was a big move for Schneider and there was lots to learn. Her racing in Europe had been fairly limited at the time and she struggled.

By the end of her third year with the team, which was completely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, she didn’t know if she wanted to continue racing. In the end, she returned home to the United States and signed up with L39ION, a move that has helped to reignite her love of racing.

She was tentative about coming back to race in Europe after her time away, but she really enjoyed the experience.

“I think the time away, and being with L39ION saved for my career,” she told VeloNews. “When I left Europe, it was nothing to do with the team, because the team was amazing. It was more being young and being away from home where I just needed to reset.

“Coming back in August and having the chance to do that with the national team, I knew it would be I would either love it or hate it. And then it would kind of determine the rest of my career. But I did love it again. And just being here I feel really inspired and, and dreaming about racing in Europe again, one day.”

After a couple of seasons of griding inside the peloton, getting back to winning ways helped Schneider find her spark again. Two years older and wiser, Schneider has also returned to European road racing a different rider and a different person.

“I’m definitely more confident. I know who I am now and what I want and how to say no and how to ask for help,” she said. “I think just being happy really these past two years and finding my love for the bike again, which L39ION helped with has definitely yeah, meant a lot to me.

“I did Joe Martin last year. Other than nationals, that was the only road race I did all year and I went in with no expectations, but I had been training for it like, really well. In May, I had told my sister like, ‘do you think I could win Joe Martin this year’ and she said, ‘yeah, maybe’ so I said ‘okay, I’m going to really try’ and it was more just a way to prove to myself that I could set really big goals again and achieve them.”

Schneider is going to race again with L39ION next season but she’s hoping that the worlds will be a chance to show how far she’s come in the past few years.

“I hope it will keep my foot in the door for the future and hopefully, whatever my job it just shows that I’m going back in the right direction,” she said.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.