A 25-year teacher at the elementary and middle school level, Sue Lloyd is a lifelong cyclist - multiple-time Colorado State Champion, and National Champion in the Criterium. She owns Inspired Training Center, an indoor cycling studio, coaching and community center in Denver, Colorado. We caught up with her to ask about her work at Inspired, as well as her experience as a rider and a hub of the cycling community in Colorado.
Eli: Let’s get the least interesting question out of the way - how has the Airport Ninja worked out for you?
Sue: It has worked out great. I used it several times, at least a dozen. I’ve loaned it to friends probably ten times. I used to have a Ritchey Breakaway for traveling, but I’ve sold it because now I can just take my normal road bike.
What is your professional background?
I’m a retired teacher. I taught for 25 years at the elementary and middle school level. I retired from that about four years ago, and at about the same time I was finishing my teaching career I had become a cycling coach. So now I have an indoor cycling studio and cycling coaching business, with about five coaches on contract with us, and we do lots of outdoor camps and clinics, that sort of thing.
How did you first get involved in cycling?
I ski raced growing up in Minnesota, and that’s something my husband I had done from a long time ago… We actually met as ski instructors. I went to college at CU, and I had been a ski racer, and bunch of my ski racing friends picked up cycling. So I picked up cycling too, and I did my first racing in 1980 in Boulder and became part of the cycling community there. When my kids were little I became a runner, just because of the time it takes to be a good cyclist, it was easier to be a runner, but I picked it back up again in the late 90’s and got into multisport. In the early 2000s I got full-on back into racing.
Woah. I’ve been to Minnesota once. How could there possibly be anywhere to ski there?
We have a bunch of ski hills in Minnesota. I starting racing on Buck Hill south of Minneapolis, which is actually where Lindsey Vonn got her start. Her dad was one of my coaches years and years ago. In fact the head coach there now, his name is Erich Sailer, he’s in the ski hall of fame for his coaching. He’s produced a bunch of world class racers. So we had our own little hill. It would only take about maybe 20 seconds through a slalom course to get to the bottom. But we had our own hill, and we skied every night after school. And we just went up and down up and down four nights a week. And it’s icy there, so your technique has to be on to handle the ice.
Athletic competition has been part of your life from very early on?
Yes. I grew up in an athletic family - my dad was a three time ironman, and my mom was a World Champion at duathlon. They’re 85 now and they’re still riding. My mom did a bike tour this summer. They live in Minneapolis and still ride every week.
That’s incredible. We could write a story just about them!
Yeah they’re pretty impressive.
So you got your start bike racing in 1980. What was the cycling community in Boulder like at that time?
There were all kinds of names in Boulder that would show up on the group rides. We were going on rides with Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney. Connie was at the olympics at ’84. Andy Hampsten, Rebecca Twig, those were some of the names. There were a lot of folks riding back then.
It seems like it was a really exciting time for cycling.
Well those were the days of the Coors Classic, and the Red Zinger before the Coors Classic. So there were these races going on in Boulder that were just massively, massively attended. Way more than most anything you see now. It was more like what we see now on TV in Europe, where there are just thousands and thousands of people watching. There were athletes coming from all over the world for that. We were part of the community in town at that point, making all kinds of connections. There were always group rides, and there were different teams that were forming, and we were friends with the different people at the shops. Scott, my husband also got to be an extra, riding in the peloton, in the movie American Flyers. If you haven’t seen it you should check it out. It’s a great, cheesy 80’s movie with Kevin Costner. You’ll recognize a lot of the people in it.
Tell me how you got involved with Inspired Training Center.
About 12-15 years ago I started going to Computrainer classes that my friend who’s a coach was running at a local shop. They had eight trainers there. We would go one night a week, and immediately I saw an uptick in my fitness from that. So I was getting more active in the community at that point, and I was interest in coaching. I had been a teacher, and I had been a ski instructor, you know just helping people learn stuff is in my blood. And I started helping teach classes at their studio, and that evolved into, fast forward a year, the owner suggesting that I manage the studio. And I was getting ready to retire from teaching so I thought, well, why don’t I buy it from him?
Well that escalated quickly.
That deal actually fell through, but in the mean time I had met another coach at a USAC level 2 coaches clinic, and I ran into him at a race and told him what I was doing, and we ended up pooling resources and opening Inspired Training Center. We opened in November of 2013, so I had been a coach for a little while, but I didn’t have a brick and mortar at that point. Two years ago my partner Joe had to move to San Jose - his wife got transferred - so we ended up dissolving the partnership and I became the sole owner. At the same time we wanted to expand our services so I leased a new space, so we started teaching classes there last December 2016.
What does the new space look like?
The new location is 2500 square feet, and we have 16 Computrainers. We were able to expand services to include recovery services - recovery massage, compression boots, full-on sports massage. Michael [son] went to bike fit school two years ago, so he’s got a whole bike fit set up. And we’re able to offer people bike storage, which is very popular. Especially in the winter months when people aren’t riding their bikes outside and don’t want to ride them back and forth to the studio, they can rent a hook from us. We have space for team meetings, and kind of a co-working space. We have clients that will come in and just set up shop at a table upstairs and just do work. It’s very community oriented. It’s a very fun place to be.
I know your son Drew coaches kids. Is that part of his work at Inspired?
Yes, we coach three different junior teams. The high school mountain bike scene has gotten really big. I started a high school mountain bike team four years ago, and we coach that as a fall sport. We also have junior road team that started coming last january once a week to train in the studio, and when the weather got nice enough we took the training outside. So we support them at a number of races, and do two rides a week for training. And then we coach a mountain bike team for kids in the summer, for kids 7-17. There’s an elite level team that Michael is part of coaching, and then the younger kids are more at the recreational level. A few of them race, but the focus is much more on learning how to ride a bike well and to have fun. We go up on trails in Golden in the foothills, so they’re really doing real mountain bike riding. The mountain bike team this time of year we coach for cyclocross, and then support them at a handful of races.
I’ve always been wary of the idea of getting kids seriously involved in sports early on - how do you go about fostering a healthy mindset and approach to athletics?
Keeping it fun and keeping it light. We’re very big on getting the kids involved in leadership with each other, so they’re giving back to the sport through helping other kids learn and being encouraging. So there’s the whole social and emotional aspect of being an athlete that can help balance the nature that I think can be overly competitive. It’s also helpful to remind the parents sometimes to keep it balanced with the kids. They’re kids! they should be trying lots of different things, not just focusing on one thing. They don’t need to be scheduled all the time. It’s good to have some downtime too.
What disciplines of cycling are you involved in?
I started out as a road racer. That was my passion. I did time trials and criterium and road racing. I have a bunch of State Championships in Colorado, as I’ve gotten older in the different age groups that I’ve come up in. Criterium is probably my strongest event, and I do have a National Championship in the Crit in 2016. I’m cat 2 on the road. I usually race age groups for time trials and road races, and race category for criteriums. And I picked up cyclocross a number of years ago and do that recreationally. I race, because that’s what you do in cyclocross, but I have no aspirations with it. I just enjoy the community and being out there. It’s a fall sport, and it’s different than road racing.
So you’re saying you like being out in the freezing cold?
Yeah, it harkens back to my days as a ski racer in Minnesota.
What’s the next competition on the horizon for you?
I just learned to ride track bikes in the last few weeks. And the my next big competition is going to be Masters Worlds in LA in a few weeks. I’m going to compete in the 500m time trial, and then the 2km pursuit. So this is a new thing for me, to be in the Velodrome. I have a new track bike that I got for my birthday, Drew has been coaching me. And we’ve been learning a lot about pacing and the time splits.
Thanks again to Sue for sharing her story with us. For more information about Inspired Training Center, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/InspiredTrainingCenter/ and on Instagram @Inspiredtrainingcenter