Once a month, the Women’s Cycling Association showcases an inspiring team from the women’s cycling community. This week we’re excited to introduce Strive Racing, a junior team based out of Southern California.

Women’s Cycling Association: Do you really have 5 kids, including 4 daughters, that all race?
Richard Swan: Yes I do. Their racing ages for 2014 are Hannah 18, Rachel 17, Moriah 15, Sarah 13, and Luke 10. They all race for Strive Racing.

WCA: How did they become involved in cycling?
RS: I was an endurance cyclist, usually training for the next double century. My rides were long and my kids missed me. So they started doing my short recovery rides, and eventually my longer rides, just to get more fellowship and fun time in with Dad. Moriah, who finished her first double century at age 12, had completed multiple century rides before she ever started racing her bike at age 11. Now, they all prefer the thrill of racing over those 8 hour endurance rides.

WCA: What are the challenges of having four teenage girls all on the same team?
RS: While things can get a tad hormonal at times, I am very blessed to have four girls that are absolute angels. They are sisters and they are teammates, but they are also best friends. They genuinely love each other, get along great, and have lots of fun together. It makes my job as Coach very easy.

WCA: What are the girls’ greatest strengths on the bike?
RS: Hannah is strong in every road discipline, but especially good in the TT. Rachel is our sprinter. She had some amazing finishes in 2013 that were very fun to watch. Moriah has the best bike handing skills on the team, as well as the most astute racing tactics. She is a very smart rider. Sarah is our animal! Her determination, tenaciousness, and ability to suffer are second to none. I cannot wait for her body to catch up to her heart.

WCA: What challenges have you faced in cycling?
RS: Well, getting 5 kids to 40+ races a year can be pretty challenging at times. Like most Dads, I have a full time job apart from cycling. My second job is serving as the Strive Racing Team Director, Coach, Mechanic, “Swan-yay,” and Bus Driver. In addition, we race a lot of crits, and all five kids have had some pretty violent crashes, which have been challenging. We have had 6 broken bones, 2 concussions, severe soft tissue damage, and a plethora of lost skin. The kids and I are used to the crashes, but it still turns my wife’s stomach to watch a final sprint.

WCA: How successful has the team been?
RS: How do you measure success? The Strive Racing team’s official goals place “Have Fun” ahead of “Win.” We have had tons of fun racing, and that really is our primary measurement of success. That said, winning is obviously more fun than losing. In just over 3 years, the team has tallied 118 victories, 17 of which are State Championships. In that same time, the team has amassed 315 podiums, 10 of which have occurred at the Road National Championships. 2013 was our best year ever, as the team won 44 races and 4 of the 5 local association divisions that we raced. With only four riders, the team finished 6th out of the 330 road teams competing in our State LA (SCNCA). In addition, Hannah won the Women’s 17-18 National Championship Time Trial at the bottom of her age division, and then went on to represent the United States at the World Championships in Firenze, Italy. It was an awesome year.

WCA: What has been your most memorable experience in the sport?
RS: There have been so many in the last three years. Watching Moriah finish a double century (201 miles, with 9,000 feet of climbing) at age 12 and then seeing her complete the Everest Challenge (29,000 feet of climbing in two days) at age 13, were both astonishing. Each of those accomplishments is a “Youngest Ever” record that still stands today. Moriah displaced Hannah with the record at the Everest Challenge. Watching Hannah win Nationals this year and then compete at Worlds was just surreal. Italy was an amazing experience that neither Hannah nor I will ever forget. While those four accomplishments were huge one time events, watching Rachel’s 12 victories this year were just as memorable for me, as she was by far the most improved rider on the Strive Racing Team in 2013. She had some breathtaking “come-from-behind” final sprints over some strong fields. Then, there is Sarah’s tear-jerking, inspirational, effort at Nationals this year. Sarah had made the Nationals podium twice the year before at the bottom of her age division, and she was favored to win Nationals in 2013. Unfortunately, three weeks before Nationals, Sarah broke her arm in a bad crash and her hopes of winning a National Championship were destroyed. Sarah begged us to still let her compete, despite the doctor telling her she would be in tremendous pain if she did, and would not do well, racing with essentially one good arm. For better or worse, we cut off her cast the day before we left for Nationals and put her arm in a “race-able” brace. She was in so much pain, but she competed with everything she had, just missing the podium in the first two races. Then, in her last race, she came from behind to pass three riders in her final sprint and grab the last remaining podium spot. We all cried happy tears! It was really cool. You can watch it on our 2013 video here:

WCA: What are the racers’ goals in cycling?
RS: The primary goal is to continue to have fun. Given that goal is being achieved, our additional 2014 goals are as follows. 10 year old Luke’s goal is to simply gain experience. 13 year old Sarah’s goals include upgrading to a Cat 3, winning the LA 10-14 division, and making the podium at Nationals. 15 year old Moriah’s goals include winning the LA Cat 3/4 division. Rachel won Cat 3/4 last year, and Hannah won it the year before. Moriah also wants to get her Cat 2 upgrade and make the podium at Nationals. 17 year old Rachel’s goals are to get half of her Cat 1 upgrade points, win Nationals, and make the Worlds team. 18 year old Hannah’s goals are to finish her Cat 1 upgrade, win Nationals, and then go on to win Worlds. Win Worlds? Yup, they are aiming high. Long term, Hannah’s goals include racing professionally and making the Olympic team.

WCA: What changes have you seen in women’s cycling in Southern California?
RS: On the Junior’s side, in 2011 there were a total of 26 young ladies that competed across the two Junior Women divisions (10-14 and 15-18). In 2013 there were 32 young ladies, which is a 23% increase. On the Category side, for 2014 the Women’s 1-3 division will see the return of 18 races that had been previously struck from the calendar in prior years. The President of our local association (SCNCA), Eric Smith, has been very helpful in encouraging race promoters to treat women with equality. This last year, the Elite State Crit Championships had equal prize money for men and women ($4,000 each) and the races were broadcasted on the Time Warner Cable Sports Network. These are good changes and hopefully a sign of things to come.

WCA: What changes would you like to see in women’s cycling?
RS: We would love to see more media coverage for women’s races. We know that this will result in more women cyclists, more women’s races, more sponsorship for women’s teams, and eventually, more decent paying jobs for women who want to race their bikes for a living. We would also love to see some UCI Women’s races get firmly established on US soil, and more NRC-level one day classic road races with tons of climbing. Finally, we would love to see more support from the Women’s Domestic Elite and Women’s UCI teams to help provide a better transition for 19—22 year olds who want to go Pro, yet still want to get a college degree. For example, this last year Amber Neben invited Hannah and Rachel to ride on her Dare To Be Project composite team at the San Dimas Stage Race. All four of the US based UCI Women’s teams and approximately 10 more Domestic Elite teams competed in a starting field of 78 ladies. It was an incredible opportunity where Hannah and Rachel got to taste the next level and race against the Pros. They eventually got blown out the back on the last day’s Crit, but they were the only two Juniors to beat the time cut on the previous day and make it to the last day. It was an amazing experience that inspired Hannah to go Pro. Case in point. Providing opportunities like this for younger riders is incredibly important to the future of women’s cycling.

WCA: What do you think you can do to help Women’s cycling grow?
RS: We do our best to be faithful in the little things, like supporting the WCA! We do as many women’s races as possible, both in the Junior and Category divisions, because at the end of the day, this is a business for the race promoters. If they do not have enough women showing up to race, they will strike the race for the following year. When we are at the races, our team strives to represent women with integrity, great sportsmanship, encouragement, and humble courtesy. We faithfully do the little things, like always finding the race promoter and thanking him/her for including women’s races, being courteous to the officials, and reaching out to the other competitors with friendly encouragement. The more fun ladies have at a race, the more they will want to race. Finally, we try to get women excited about racing by writing a detailed racing blog, making fun racing videos, and writing articles like this one for various cycling publications. There are some very cool things starting to happen in Women’s cycling. We are excited to be a part of it and thrilled that WCA is here to lead the charge.

Richard Swan is the founder of Strive Racing and the father of the four Swan sisters and one Swan brother. You can support Strive Racing here: http://www.StriveCycling.com/id90.html

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