BEING PRO — NATALIA FRANCO

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Team:  Twenty24 Pro Cycling

Age: 25

Hometown: Medellin, Colombia

When did you start cycling and then racing?

I started riding bikes when I was 5. My dad took my sisters, my mom and me on weekend rides, and I have never stopped riding since then. I was the only girl in group rides with my dad’s friends, and I kicked more than one butt climbing. Then I was invited to train with a local team in Medellin, and I started to build my way up in the national cycling ranks. 

 

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My first race was a mountain bike race in Colombia in 2010 when I was 14. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but it had a big climb where I dropped all the women, then I got into the woods and I was trying to stay on my bike and follow the guys. When I made it to the finish line after three hours, I did not know I had won until I saw the second girl crossing the line 20 minutes later.

One pivotal point in my journey becoming a pro was getting out of my comfort zone and traveling to another country to look for more opportunities and develop as a cyclist. In Colombia there were not that many races or a high level of racing. I raced in the U.S. for a year, and then I was offered a scholarship to do my undergrad in psychology at Colorado Mesa University in 2015. Following that I went to complete a master’s degree in sports psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2019. I was able to complete my education throughout those six years and also develop as a well-rounded cyclist in different disciplines like mountain bike, track, road, crits, Zwift and gravel. 

What keeps you coming back to the bike? What is the goal for your cycling career?

The positive sensations I am able to feel on the bike is what keeps me motivated. Results are definitely a nice incentive, and it feels good to accomplish goals, but sometimes they are not under our control. Whereas the feelings of freedom, the endorphin rush, and all the cool places I get to see and meaningful connections that a bike ride can bring are everyday things we can do to enjoy the bike on a regular basis. My goal for my cycling career is to race the European calendar and be part of the Colombian national team for the World Championships and the Olympics. 

Can you explain Team Twenty24’s mission and goals? How has the team been affected by the events of 2020? 

The team pivoted really well in 2020. It gave the team founder and general manager Nicola Cranmer an opportunity to think about how she wanted the team to look moving forward. Nicola sprang into action immediately when
the pandemic hit and activated the entire team into a strong social media campaign. 

We were recently at a gravel camp in Arizona, and she explained how the volatility of women’s cycling prepared her to be adaptable when things took a turn last year. The team historically has been focused on supporting Olympic athletes and juniors. While we still have four team members slated for Tokyo, we are refocused on big gravel events this year, and after the recent cancellation of Redlands, Nicola made a smart choice.

What are your goals for the Olympics this year? What event(s) will you be competing in?

Colombia has only one female spot for the Olympics, and there are already two girls on WorldTour teams, which they will get the priority to fill the spot. I am targeting the following Olympics after I have had a solid development in European racing.  

How did you and the team use Zwift in the last year? 

Zwift was a lifesaver during the pandemic. Not only was I able to take it as a challenge and learn from each trial and error to keep me motivated, but also, it helped me satisfy my competitive drive with competitive races such as the Premier League, the Virtual Tour de France, the first-ever Esports World Championships and making the final for Zwift Academy. I found that I was able to improve my 20-minute power by 0.4 watts per kilogram and definitely my mental toughness during the hard, long efforts on Zwift. I could clearly see how it transferred to road racing when I raced with the national team in Vuelta a Colombia and got fourth in the Queen stage. 

Do you cross-train at all? What is one workout you prefer to do besides cycling?

I like doing yoga on my rest days, and during the week I do some core and upper body twice a week since it helps me feel strong on the bike, and this really helps with gravel racing!  

What’s one place you’d recommend every cyclist should ride?

Medellín, Colombia! Amazing views, epic climbs, delicious coffee stops with fresh pastries and food, cyclists everywhere, nice weather year round, and friendly drivers. 

Where can people follow you online? 

I started my private practice of sport psychology in English and Spanish! You can find me on Instagram @OptimalPerformanceMinds where I share motivational phrases, sport psych tips, and content related to performance and well-being. People can reach out to work one-on-one or have group workshops on different sport psychology topics. Otherwise, you can find my athlete profile as @nataliafrancov and follow my journey balancing cycling and my professional life.

The post BEING PRO — NATALIA FRANCO appeared first on Road Bike Action.


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