Spotlight on a local racer: Renee Engelhardt


Name: Renee Engelhardt
Category: 2
Racing Age: 33
Current Team: Radical Media
Day Job: Data science in digital ad tech

How you got into cycling: Just after high school graduation, there was a sprint triathlon in my town that a friend and I decided to do on a whim, so I bought my first bike – a hybrid.  I played all sorts of sports growing up, and in college, after 2 years on the crew team, I still wanted to do some sort of sport, just not crew, so I joined a triathlon group and the cycling club (having since upgraded to a $600 road bike with spd pedals).  I did a handful of collegiate races, and looking back at it now, I had no clue what I was doing.  When I graduated college, I moved to NYC and the bike went back home to my parents’ basement.  A few years later, I got into running with a group from work, which soon evolved into triathlons, so the bike came back out from the basement and I did triathlons for 2 years – olympic and half-ironman distances.

How you got into racing:  Triathlons were fun, but I often trained alone since people from work lived all over and in the suburbs and none of my other friends were into biking.   One Saturday in October of 2008, I was riding up 3rd avenue, headed to go ride on 9W alone.  I passed a guy somewhere in a stretch of green lights, but when I hit the red light at 57th street, he caught back up to me and asked me what I was doing that day and if I was interested in joining his group ride to tryout for his team.  I figured “sure, why not?” and the rest is history.  That guy was the one and only Alex Ostroy for the NYVelocity team (back in the day when it was called NYVelocity).

Favorite local course and why: My favorite course is the Tour of Somerville.  The course is pretty smooth with wide roads and turns, and the atmosphere is the best part!  The homestretch is lined with restaurants and spectators, and the backstretch is lined with people bbqing and chillin’.  The atmosphere and energy at those larger races always excites me.

Greatest Achievement Racing:  Getting 3rd at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup crit in 2013 in the Women’s 3/4 field.  I realized in the middle of that season that I had accumulated a bunch of points and a Cat 2 upgrade was actually a possibility and in reach.  The season was winding down, and I found myself 1 point shy of the 30 points needed.  TD Mayor’s happens at the end of the season, so I was starting to get burned out mentally and physically and didn’t really want to do it, but I struck out at a race the previous weekend, so I knew that this was my last chance before having to wait until the next year.  No other teammates were at the race, so it was all on me.   I was so nervous at the line, but once the whistle went off I sprang into action.  It was a lively race but ultimately came down to the field sprint.  1st and 2nd place already had a big jump coming out of the final turn, so I put my head down and went as hard as I could for the line to hold off everyone behind me.  Crossing the line in 3rd was such a great feeling and a great way to cap off that season and earn my Cat 2 upgrade.

Worst Memory of a Race: Hilltowns back in 2010.  It was a typical summer day – hot and humid and passing thunderstorms.  Our race started under blue skies, but at the halfway mark there was a torrential downpour for 15 minutes and the roads became soaking slippery wet.  I was in a group of about 6 riders in a rotating paceline, and as I rode over the white shoulder paint line, my wheels slipped out right from under me.  I landed on my butt somehow and went sliding down the road.   My bibs ripped and I was showing more of my butt than I’d normally be comfortable showing in public.  Luckily, we had just passed the feed zone.  Ass-essing my options (pun totally intended), there was nothing I could do except hold my shorts and retain as much of my remaining dignity as possible and walk the 500 yard walk back to the feed zone.  I was then driven back to the start in a windowless van (ed. Penman was there????), sitting in the back in a camping chair with some other random guys who had got dropped from their race.  This might not have been my “worst” memory in a negative sense, but it was definitely one of the more odd memories I have from racing.

Goals/Aspirations:  I’d like to earn my Cat 1 upgrade in the next year, but more importantly keep having fun and enjoy riding and training, the journey, my teammates, the community, the 5am alarms, and the gorgeous views from the GWB and all around!

What is the most fun thing you’ve missed out on for a bike race:  I can’t recall ever missing out on anything fun for a bike race.  Since I’ve been doing this for a few years now, I like to think I have a good balance between racing and life.  I’ve also learned that I can actually function pretty well on little sleep, so a ‘late night/early morning’ combo isn’t really that bad.  The early race sometimes actually works in my favor as an excuse to leave those “not much fun” nights early rather than doing an ‘Irish goodbye‘ (ed. example #2).