Spotlight on a local racer: Helen Hatch


Name: Helen Hatch
Category: 2
Race Age: 28
Current team: CRCA/Stan’s NoTubes p/b Velo Classic Cycling
Day Job: Sotheby’s Auction House

How you got into cycling: I played tennis and ran track in college, so the transition to cycling wasn’t entirely expected. During my senior year I had switched gears slightly and trained to run the Long Island Marathon. As the weekend rolled around, however, the library and the studio beckoned to finish my thesis and final art show. Suffering from weary legs, Anouk Dey (soon to be on the NYC scene!) suggested that I give cycling a try. Her sense of athletic limitations is nonexistent, and she gleefully tossed myself and three of our friends onto Williams College Cycling Van Dessels and led us north to the Blue Benn in Bennington, VT for blueberry muffins and a much needed rest. From that moment on, my love for cycling and muffin stops with good company was sealed. You might say this was a precursor to River Road rides.

How you got into racing: This is a two part story. After graduating from college I shipped overseas for a Masters in Art History at the University of Cambridge. My mom had accompanied me on the journey over, and as we were familiarizing ourselves with Cambridge city and focusing on establishing the basic necessities (a bank account and cell phone), my eye caught a white Orbea frame hanging in the window of a local shop, Primo Cycles. Somehow I convinced her that this was a relevant diversion, and I went in to inquire about the bicycle. The shop owner was a strapping young englishman with a charming grim and a very convincing sales pitch. We started riding together shortly thereafter, and he encouraged me to pursue the Cambridge University Triathlon and Cycling teams. It wasn’t until my second year at Cambridge that I went out for the intercollegiate Time Trial competition, placing second behind Hayley Simmonds (now the British Time Trial National Champion). Myself, Hayley, and Sarah Gallagher (a Yank, a Brit and a Scot) became the Cambridge TTT team, ultimately taking the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) victory.

Cambridge came to a close, and I came back to the US without any sense of the bustling cycling scene here. I was living at home on Long Island for the summer following graduation, and visited the Kreb Cycle in Bellport to pick up a new bike. The owner, Chris Joinnides, mentioned that they needed another woman for their Friday night race series Team Time Trial. I teamed up with and subsequently blew up behind Jennifer Solomon, who somehow thought I had enough grit to make it through the Tour of the Catskills that summer. Although I promptly DNFed from the Catskills race after walking up Devil’s Kitchen on Day 2, I ended up bottling with an injured BrittLee Bowman on Day 3. Britt and I compared notes in bathing suit tops by the side of the road, and the rest is sort of history.

Favorite local course and why: In 2012-13 I helped to create the Women’s Woodstock Cycling Grand Prix. The goal of this race was to establish a course of international caliber for women to test and prove their mettle on in a fully supported environment. Although I’m slightly biased, this is probably one of the best road race courses on the East Coast. It also has most committed group of directors, sponsors, officials and volunteers, and keeps its mission of giving back to greater Ulster County close to its core.

Greatest achievement racing: After the above mentioned walk of shame up Devil’s Kitchen, I’m tempted to say that my greatest achievement in racing was winning the Women’s 3/4 Tour of the Catskills stage race in 2013. If greatest achievements can be measured in tears, however, then I would have to say the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau UCI Road Race in Canada last summer. The Stan’s NoTubes team has come a long way since I first joined in 2012, and with the support of many incredible individuals we found ourselves on an insanely competitive circuit last year. Although my performance in each race slowly improved, it wasn’t until Gatineau that I actually crossed the finish line as a timed and placed participant. I had wiped out in a roundabout with two laps to go, and I’ll never forget crossing the finish line, seeing Britt, and collapsing into her arms, a bleeding, sniffling, sobbing mess. I’ve never been so overcome with relief and joy in my life. Her kit has never been dirtier.

Worst memory of a race: Well, there was the one time that I crashed in Giro del Cielo Time Trial, and the time in the Tour of the Catskills when our lead break group was led off course, but I actually think last year’s Tour of the Hilltowns, or my final race of the 2014 season, gets the nomination. Following our early season race schedule I started to see my energy, performance and mood plummet. As I embarked on the second half of the season with high hopes for solid local and regional performances, what I experienced was completely the opposite. Getting spit out of the back of the Hilltowns race within the first four miles confirmed that despite how much I wanted to convince myself and my coach that I should just train a little harder or rest a little better it was really time to pull the plug. It’s taken close to a year to fully hit the reset button, but I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off. Also, everyone who tolerated me during this time deserves a medal of honor.

Goals/Aspirations: The goal was to ride on the National circuit, chase the Cat 1, accumulate a solid list of palmarès. After last year, however, the goal has been to get back to a place where I love being on the bike and can use it to complement and enhance my health and my life. I’d also like to give CX a try, take better care of my bikes, and try not to be such a wimp about descending. Oh, and to climb the Col du Tourmalet, but I’ve already checked that one off (see photo). #unitedcolorsofCRCA

What’s the most fun thing you missed out on in order to do a bike race: Although not for a race, I missed much of my 5 year college reunion to ride up and down Jiminy Peak a few times. In retrospect this was a little impulsive, albeit perhaps not so unpredictable given where it all started. I’ll chalk it up to nostalgia, but I wish I’d had more energy for the afterparty.