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Words: Ruth Winder | Photos: Kevin Scott Bachelor
I am not just a professional cyclist.

It’s so simple, but it feels great to be able to speak – and understand the meaning behind – these words. Surprisingly, I haven’t always believed or been able to say this. When I started in the sport at the age of 15, I didn’t stop, relentlessly pursuing the step of my cycling journey. It took me years of wondering who I was beyond just the cyclist I wanted to become.
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Last year was the first time in 13 years where I haven’t raced constantly. Over my career I’ve been fairly lucky, with very few injuries taking me out of the sport for any extended periods of time. I really just never stopped, never had a break, and just raced my bike.
One memory that has always stuck with me – which is a bit of a funny coincidence, as it involved Kiel, my former teammate and current gravel companion – came from a question Kiel asked when we met at camp many years ago: “So, what do you do? Who are you?”

I’m not even sure if Kiel would even remember this, but it was when we were teammates on UnitedHealthcare, and I had just signed on with my first big pro team! I was feeling so excited to be there and ready to do everything to race my bike and prove myself to the team, and then Kiel posed this seemingly strange question.
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I was a little confused, and think I replied with something along the lines of “I’m Ruth, and I race bikes...”, thinking “duh dude; I’m not sure what you’re doing”. But then he replied kindly with “No, tell me who you are”.
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I honestly don’t remember the rest of the conversation from that point on, but I remember feeling bad about myself, guilty that I didn't know what else to say. Maybe I wasn't that interesting because all I did was just race bikes.
It turns out I just didn't understand his question. While it didn't take me 8 years to figure out the true meaning behind the question, it is only now – some 8 years later – that I feel so happy and confident with how I would reply to that question if asked today.
I’d answer Kiel that "I'm Ruth, and I live in the mountains of Colorado with my family. It's a life I never saw myself having but it's totally fantastic. My husband pushes me to try new things and be the happiest version of myself, which is sometimes hard and scary but totally worth it. And I love cycling; not just racing but the sport, and I love to watch it and race it and talk about it. I love the people and the life it's given me. I’d choose it over and over again, given the chance, and it's given me confidence that has helped me in so many other aspects of my life."
No matter how much I’ve tried to leave the sport or to not even like it, I’m finding ways to reincorporate it in a new – and fresh – way. I feel proud and lucky that l love cycling. I’m not embarrassed that it could come off as boring or shallow because I know now that I'm not just a cyclist, but by being one I have been given so much more than I could have ever hoped.
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