By Marc Witkes, In Durango, Colorado
It’s not an overstatement to say that Rebecca Much is something of a hot commodity these days.
In October, Much earned a silver medal in the time trial at the 2004 World Championships in Bardolino, Italy. In December, she finished up her racing season with an under-23 victory at the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships in Portland. And with the ink just drying on a new contract to race for the T-Mobile women’s professional cycling team next year, Much seems poised for even greater success in cycling.
No bad for 18, eh?
Much dabbed in triathlons while still in high school in Chicago but soon discovered that her real passion was racing bicycles. After a short stint as a bicycle sandwich delivery gal, Much entered a few bicycle messenger races. By the time she got involved with a Chicago bicycle advocacy group, Much was making biking a large part of her life and raced with XXX Racing Team and was sponsored by YoJimbo’s Garage.
This year, Much moved to Durango, Colorado, to start school at Fort Lewis College. With 350 days of sunshine each year, Durango is a long ways from the cold of the Windy City. Much received some financial help from FLC and the newly established Tom Danielson Scholarship Foundation. An FLC alum, Danielson helped start the fund that has handed out six scholarships to the school.
Much is enjoying school, racing and training in Durango and now considers it home.
“Durango is so pretty and it’s such a great bicycle racing community,” said Much, from her cell phone while she was en route to Costa Rica.
She was getting ready to enjoy a sunny family gathering and was looking forward to some rest and relaxation while on winter break between semesters.
“I’ll take the week off from cycling and maybe I’ll just run a little and do some swimming,” Much said.
When she returns to FLC in January, Coach Rick Crawford will put her on an intense base-building program. By the end of February, she’ll be riding 30 hours per week.
Much said her silver medal in Italy came as “a shock.”
“I had no expectations,” Much said. “I was just over there getting to know the USA team and finding my way around Italy.”
While in Italy, Mike Engleman, then manager for T-Mobile, approached her and helped her get started towards her first professional contract. Engleman, a former pro, lives near Durango in the small town of Hesperus.
Though devoted to riding, Much maintains a full class schedule at FLC.
“I wake up in the morning and do a core workout and some strength work before class,” Much said. “I try to schedule all of my classes before 12 so I can ride in the afternoon. I catch up on homework on the weekends.”
Sometimes it’s a challenging schedule but Much talks to her teachers all of the time and keeps them informed of her racing days.
“Luckily, all of my teachers are pretty cool,” Much explained.
Since FLC’s cycling program is only club level, Much will be riding with the collegiate team this spring while she is also part of T-Mobile.
“We have a training camp in February and I’m a little nervous,” Much confessed. “The people I’ll be riding with are amazing.”
Fellow Durangoan Brooke Ourada is also part of T-Mobile.
After training camp, Much will be focused on the collegiate road nationals in New Haven, Connecticut May 13-15.
When she’s not traveling with T-Mobile this summer, Much will have an opportunity to participate in the Tuesday night Durango Wheel Club “World Championship” road bike rides. Joining Much will be the likes of Todd Wells, Ned Overend and her roommate downhiller Leanna Gerada.
“I did one club ride and those are fun and hard,” Much said. “It’s crazy riding with all of the pros but I’m getting used to it. I’m excited to learn more but I really have to concentrate and keep focused.”
Wells, who finished third in the Men’s Elite Division in Portland says that Much is “phenomenal talent.”
“Her results speak for themselves,” Wells said.
If a professional cycling career for Much doesn’t work out, it won’t be that bad. She’d like to work as an outdoors guide or in the restaurant business.
“I’m thinking about a pancake house,” Much mused.
Apparently there is life besides cycling.