Senior Erica Grief competes during Saturday’s races. Grief finished fifth and was second in the Road Race. Juliana Bledsoe/Nevada Sagebrush
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Nevada Sagebrush on April 16, 2013.
By Alexa Ard
At the starting line of the University of Nevada, Reno Campus Criterium on Saturday, Erica Greif, a senior in the Nevada cycling team, glanced at the women surrounding her. There were only 12 of them in the Women’s A — 15 less than the Men’s A group. However, these 12 women all had something Greif did not: a teammate.
The announcer’s voice boomed, “fifteen seconds to start.” Greif locked her eyes on the road below her. The seconds ticked down as she fidgeted a bit more with her hands. Just a few seconds before go time, Greif gripped the handlebars tightly. At the sound of the whistle, her orange shoes found their way to the pedals, and off she went.
“A frustrating issue is I don’t have any teammates,” Greif said. “A lot of times the larger schools — UC Davis, Stanford, Berkeley — they’ll usually bring three or four. It’s kind of learning to work with that and let that be helpful rather than hurtful.”
Greif stuck near the front of a group of about seven while the other five gradually dropped behind.
After 50 minutes, the Women’s A race was coming to a close, and amid the group, Greif made it to her favorite part of the course for the last time — a sharp corner leading to a hill that brings cyclists to the much-anticipated finish line.
“It’s darn scary watching these girls corner that corner down there and skid off,” said Greif’s mother, Trish. “Apparently another guy today for UNR ended up with a broken collarbone, and he’ll be out. But it is exciting. It makes your stomach turn up in knots as she turns and gets around that corner.”
Greif lingered near the front of the cluster throughout the race. During the second-to-last lap, she hung back in second. However, during the final stretch, cyclists in the back seven sprinted their way to the front. Greif finished in fifth place.
So far in Nevada’s road season, Greif has competed in 18 races. In these past races, she often placed second and third. April 14, during the Road Race, she placed second. One of her best performances yet was in the first race of the season, the UC San Diego Race, where she took first. Greif cycled with the Reno Wheelmen and some USA Cycling events, but she has only been racing collegiately for a year. At the 2011 Wheelmen Banquet, Scott Waters, a UNR alumnus and Nevada cyclist, encouraged Greif to join Nevada cycling after seeing her performance.
“She was racing with the guys primarily — there’s only a few girls — and she was hanging in there,” Waters said. “So over the last two years, she went from being in the back of the group, or maybe staying in for a while, to the front group.”
Waters lauded Greif’s quick improvements — especially in her bike handling. The lack of a teammate forced Greif to practice with the Men’s B team.
“I can hop in with the Men’s B, which is great for training and getting that speed and getting ready to go to nationals,” Grief said. “And there’s going to be sixty of the strongest female collegiate racers in the U.S.”
This lack of female participation in yet another male dominated sport is a bit disappointing to Greif. However, Dani Griffo, a Nevada cyclist currently recovering from injury, strongly believes the sport is growing for women with companies like Trek promoting women and sponsoring more female cyclists.
“They’re just trying to get women out there and join the sport because it’s a great sport,” Griffo said. Nevada cycling coach Scot Ferguson said Grief is one of many unsung female athletes. “Not only is cycling an underappreciated sport for men and women in this country, but for women, all sports are marginalized,” Ferguson said.
For now, Greif will trudge it out as the lone wolf representing Nevada women and continue to prepare for her appearance at the Collegiate National Championships in Ogden, Utah on May 3-5. Greif’s odds look bright with her current standing at second in conference omnium.
“I only hope that I can encourage other women to race and other girls to get involved,” Greif said.
Alexa Ard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.