Each week, the Women’s Cycling Association showcases an inspiring rider from the women’s cycling community. This week we’re excited to introduce Jessica Chong.

Women’s Cycling Association: How did you become involved in cycling?

Jessica Chong: I moved to the Lehigh Valley right out of college and started racing triathlons in 2008; my college mentor told me I’d have to do some group training rides with cyclists if I wanted to get faster on the bike. I live in the Trexlertown area (home of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center), so it’s kind of hard not to find a group ride. Once I got my feet wet in the cycling community, I got talked into trying my first bike race in 2010. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would or should be at first, but I stuck with it and fell in love. I’m a full-time teacher and also race as a pro triathlete, so mixing in cycling definitely keeps my life exciting and well-balanced.

Vital Stats
Name: Jessica Chong
Hometown: Livingston, NJ
Racing Age: 28
Category: 1
Primary Discipline: Road
WCA: What has been your most memorable experience in the sport?

JC: My most memorable experience in the sport was definitely winning my first bike race. After racing that first road race as a newbie, I didn’t want to do another race again because my result was nothing special. But, with some pep talks and encouragement from more experienced riders, I entered another race. It was a criterium this time around, so I was even more naive to the idea that the fittest person doesn’t always win a bike race. I ended up leading everyone out and finished out of the top 20. So, that was another disappointment. I was even more upset with this one, but somehow I got talked into entering more races. With each race, I felt like I was getting a better sense of race tactics, so I kept trying, and trying. Finally, I went for a race prime and never looked back. No one knew who I was at the time, so they probably didn’t think I’d be able to stay away. I won the race, and I felt so elated because I tried, and I tried, and I tried. I won a couple more races that season, so I knew my first win wasn’t just a fluke.

Featured Rider Jessica Chong

Jessica Chong on her way to winning her first bike race in 2010. Photo © Jan Curran

WCA: What challenges have you faced in cycling?

JC: As I moved up in the rankings, I realized that it was harder to win bike races. Racing at the elite level is definitely humbling. When you race triathlons, it’s you against the clock for the most part; barring illness or injury, the fittest person wins the race. That’s not the case for bike racing, so it’s something I’m still figuring out. I’ve been racing independently, so that has also been a challenge because I only have so many matches to burn during a race. But, I’m not willing to give up.

WCA: What do you enjoy most about the sport?

JC: I enjoy the camaraderie and the positive atmosphere the cycling community has to offer. When you ride with a group on a weekly basis, they become your family. Not everyone will quite understand why we ride bikes in lycra, but that’s okay because cyclists understand each other and that’s all that matters.

WCA: What are your goals in cycling?

JC: I’d like to continue to move up in the elite rankings. Cycling is definitely not an easy sport, but if it were easy then everyone would do it. That sounds so cliché, but it’s true. My goal race for 2014 will be Pro Road Nationals in Chattanooga, TN.

WCA: What are some of your goals outside of the sport?

JC: My goal is to make a positive impact on youth, to teach them to be ambitious and not give up on their goals and aspirations. As a teacher, I have a tendency of teaching kids that winning in life is not easy. Winning requires suffering, getting over bumps in the road, and continuing to try no matter what other people say. I feel that kids these days are losing the sense of what it takes to be successful; kids need to learn how to lose in order to win. If they don’t realize this at a young age, they’re in for a disappointment when they get out in the “real world.” I would also like to create world peace. Okay, that was a joke.

Jessica on the time trial bike

Jessica on the time trial bike

WCA: What do you like to do in your off season?

JC: Well, I recently got hooked up with my very first mountain bike thanks to my friend and mountain bike extraordinaire, Selene Yeager! So, I’m totally excited to use mountain biking for cross-training. I also like to work on the usual off-season activities such as weight training and eating bacon.

WCA: What do you think you can do to help women’s cycling grow?

JC: I work in the school setting, so it will be easy to spread the word to both students and faculty. I love sharing some of my racing stories with my students and fellow colleagues, hoping that some of them will be inspired to try cycling or get their daughters in the sport of cycling. It’s definitely a challenge due to the competition with other popular sports. However, I believe that with the force of the WCA and more support from the community, we can gain the respect that women’s cycling deserves.
Jessica Chong works as a teacher and races for the Morgan Stanley Cycling Team. You can follow her on Twitter at @j_chonger.

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