Women’s Wednesday: Things you never knew about pro cyclist Cari Higgins and MTB Champ Becky Batizy

It’s February in Colorado, which means we just rode 4 hours in shorts and short sleeve jerseys, and now we sit in a coffee shop watching the snow dump! 303cycling asked former pro cyclist Cari Higgins and MTB State Champ Becky Batizy a few cycling and “non-cycling” questions to get to know them and learn more about the new Melton Design Build/Cari Higgins Real Estate Junior Cycling Team…

First, let’s start with a couple fun random questions…

Road, Cross, Mtn, or Track?
Becky Batizy: Mountain, but a cross adventure day is a close second. I just really like to get lost in the woods with two wheels, good food, and good company.
Cari Higgins: All of the above? I love the speed of the track and discovering the mountains on a road bike. I’m discovering my love for dirt again too. So, really, any bike is a good bike!

Baggies or Lycra?
B: Lycra if I am racing or training and baggies if I am coaching or riding with friends. I have been known to match my outfits head to toe even when I am the only one who notices. Looking good translates to feeling good.
C: I’m not cool enough for baggies. Maybe one day Becky will teach me how to fit in with the baggy crowd. Until then, I’ll stick to lycra.

If you weren’t a cyclist, what kind of athlete would you be?
B: Well, I have been a swimmer, soccer player, climber, mountaineer, snowboarder, and triathlete, so I would say if it involves the outdoors and adventure, count me in.
C: Growing up, I played every ball sport available and ended up getting a scholarship to University of Alabama playing soccer. I think I was built for speed skating but growing up in the deep South didn’t really open those doors. I like speed and fast twitch.

Ok, more serious now, how did you land in the sport of cycling?
B: My roommate in college let me borrow his mountain bike and ride Miller Rock. I got lost and crashed so hard I needed stiches, but I was hooked. It was not until I met my husband at 22 that I really got into cycling, but I was awful. I used to sit on the top of the trail in tears, because I was so terrified of going down. It took me years of solo riding to just feel okay on my bike, but racing really helped propel me to where I am now. I found that I was willing to ride way more when I did not know it was coming or when I had people hot on my tail.
C: Like Becky, meeting my husband, Greg, in my early 20’s was the entry to a sport that forever changed the path of my life. Greg grew up racing his bike and continues to do so today. Together we started by adventure racing. Years later, he brought me to a “Learn to Ride the Velodrome” clinic down in Colorado Springs. The clinic weekend ended with a local race and I won! I won the beginner category and they moved me up to the next category…. and I won again! Long story short, the national team coach happened to be at that race and two weeks later I was at a national team camp at the OTC. That was the life changer! Two years later, I was quitting my corporate job and traveling the world as a professional cyclist. I spend 8 years on professional teams and the national team for both road and track. It’s been quite a journey.

Does that mean that you didn’t grow up in bike racing?
B: No, not at all. I remember my Dad teaching me to ride my blue Schwinn Fair lady in the Acme parking lot, but I have no other memories of riding as a child. We lived in areas that just were not conducive to cycling and once you were over the age of 10, no one rode a bike anymore. I look around Boulder today and these kids have no idea how lucky they are.
C: Right? The culture in Colorado is amazing! I see these little, tiny kids at Valmont Bike Park and I’m amazed. I had no idea that kind of stuff existing when I was a kid. I’m not sure I even owned a bike until college. Even then, that was meant purely for riding to class but it ended up permanently locked to an outside bike rack and disintegrating into a pile of rust.
Again, growing up in the South was all about ball sports. The culture was all about football, a side of more football, and a dash of baseball.

Ok, Cari, what’s your favorite football team?
C: Roll Tide! Do you guys out here in Colorado even know what that means? I’m a college football fan and University of Alabama is my team. But, it’s similar to liking Tom Brady or Lance Armstrong back in the day. You are either the biggest fan in the world or a hater.

Becky, do you know how to even throw a football?
B: No, but I can swim a 200 butterfly. Fast.

Ok, what do you both do when you aren’t riding your bike?
B: I want to have a more exciting answer, but most of the time I am sitting inside and working. I also have two boys at Boulder High, so they keep me pretty busy as well. I also love to read, cook, bake, and work in my garden.
C: Adulting! I own and run a real estate business (team’s name sake!) which keeps me busy 7 days a week but I feel pretty lucky to live in Boulder and try to take advantage of that as much as possible with hiking, skiing, and drinking coffee.

Dang, with all the things on your personal and professional plate right now, why are adding more?
B: I always tell people that riding fills my soul, but giving back fills my heart. Mountain biking is much like life, you try your hardest and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but you get up and dust yourself off and try again. As women, we tend to be paralyzed by the fear of failure and what others might think of us, but you never fail by trying. Talk to anyone who is successful and they will tell you that failing was what pushed them forward. I want to inspire other women and young riders to view failing as part of the journey. We need to try hard things, regardless of the outcome.
C: I’ve always been passionate about using sport to build confidence and life skills in kids and young adults… and in a huge way girls. Growing up as a total athlete gave me so much and I can’t imagine not sharing that. I think I’m in a unique situation- I’m old enough to be a adult figure in these kids’ lives without being a parent, I come from the world of professional cycling and want to inspire that next generation, and my philosophy is different than some others in that I think kids can have fun while working harder than they even know they can.

Why does a town like Boulder, that seems inundated with youth cycling programs, need another junior cycling team?
B: There was a need that was not being met. I was coaching for Boulder High and a number of the girls expressed their desire for a new program. They felt that had outgrown the program from their youth and did not feel ready for what they viewed as a high pressure race oriented program. They wanted a developmental program where they would be pushed, but also get to enjoy riding with their friends. It is not uncommon for me to watch our riders learn from and encourage each other. We are developing lifelong cyclists and community leaders and my hope is that each of our riders will continue to excel on and off the bike for years to come and that we have given them the tools and self-confidence to be successful.
C: My days of being involved in junior cycling in Boulder goes way back! My husband, my first coach, and I started Flatiron Flyers about 10 years ago because we saw a need not being met here in Boulder. Those original kids like Maxx Chance, Spencer Downing, Eric Brunner, and Margot Clyne, to name a few, were the sparks that lite my fire to give back. For me, I feel like this is a way to give back to a community of sport that gave me so much. I’m passionate about what sport does for the minds and bodies of young adults.

The difference in what I’m trying to create on the skinny tire female side is an environment where we can take all the top talent in the area, have them learn to race and enjoy the team aspect of cycling, so they don’t move on to more “social” sports like volleyball. The talent is here but the girls have all been spread out across the front range on different teams. I’ve been there… climbing the ladder and wondering how to get to the next level of this sport and I want to help take the the mystery out of it. On the boys side, I’ve got the philosophy of using the different disciplines of cycling to make a more complete and competent athlete. Let’s build the general bike racer first and then funnel them into specializing in a certain discipline.

Favorite place to ride?
B: Lake Tahoe rim trail or anywhere in the high country in the summer. There is nothing like riding through fields of Columbines.
C: I can’t say anything beat racing on the Champs Elysees in front of hundreds of thousands of fans! But, I’ll also take a long day in the saddle around Mallorca anytime.

What about here locally?
B: I love escaping to the hills. Taking the bus to Ned and spending the day riding with friends makes my summers seem endless.
C: Boulder Valley Velodrome tops my list of favorites!! But, I’ll also take dirt farm roads any day of the week to make me happy.

I hear you have some more plans with getting more ladies on the dirt, can you elaborate?
B: Panache cycle wear does a great job with their Day in the Dirt and Rowdy Rides, but it did not take me long to observe that not many women were showing up to the rides. We are working with Panache and some of their female ambassadors to have some women’s only Day in the Dirt events this summer with the objective of getting more women comfortable with riding on dirt.

Ok, if kids are looking to get involved, what do they need to do?
B: We have a team event this Sunday, March 4th at 5:30 at Melton Design Build, 3082 Sterling Circle, Boulder. You can also reach out to either of us HERE

C: Get in touch! The doors are open. Email me directly if you want: runcari@mac.com … Yes, that says “run”… past lives and still an occasional way to get on the trails.

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