Rider Profile: Kelli Samuelson
Interview by Anna Maria, Photos by Sisilia Piring
Kelli Samuelson is always on the move. Last time I saw her she was pulling triple duty, racing Red Hook for Team Cinelli Chrome, juggling LA Sweat tasks, and loading in to the massive New York Bike Expo for Zwift. It's clear that the grit and tenacity that brought her so much success in racing continues to drive her cycling industry life. Kelli and the LA Sweat team are Levi's Commuter ambassadors. We're stoked not only to be caught up on all things Kelli, but for this great photo story shot by LA based fashion photographer Sisilia Piring of Kelli in her Levi's Commuter jeans.
We haven't chatted much since Red Hook. That was a big race for you, you had just come back from a big surgery. How did it go, and where are you now in your recovery?
Red hook was hard to say the least, I came back two months early and gave it my all but i just wasn't ready. I've been training hard and doing a ton of physical therapy to do whatever I can to get my form back. Being an athlete, it's hard to have patience. I always want to make things go faster then they should. So mentally Red Hook was hard but at the same time it was good to see where I was and where I need to be.
What next in the pipeline for you personally? Any big trips? Big races?
LA Sweat has been traveling and racing all over the US recently. I'm actually in Boise, ID now writing this. Next we are headed to BC Super Week and then Tour of Utah. After that we are headed out to our biggest race of the season in Ireland called Rás na mBan. It's like the women's tour of Ireland, and then personally I'll have RHC Barcelona and Milan.
You run and race for LA Sweat. How is the inaugural season going?
The season is going amazing. I knew I had something special, but I have still been blown away by the amazing positive group of women that has been put together! Which was my main goal, bring together women who want to race their bikes hard, support others and at the end of the day have fun.
From racing, to running a team, to adventure biking, to your work with Zwift, few cyclists have the breadth of engagement you have with the cycling industry and community. What are you having the most fun doing these days?
The most fun... thats a tough now because they all have such different roles. In all honesty I'm really having a ton of fun with all of them. Zwift allows me to really challenge myself and jump into parts of the cycling industry I'm relatively new to, and also learn so much about the gaming industry that new as well. I'll always be racer first and foremost, and the challenge since surgery has really tested me at times, but each gain is so worth all the hard work.
Running a team gives me so much pride. I'm so proud of what these women have accomplished with our little team. It's so inspiring and motivating to keep doing whatever it is I can to provide them with more opportunities.
You've set up LA Sweat differently than traditional teams with a presenting sponsor. Do you think this can help make big strides for women's cycling?
I hope so, some people really get it but others don't, and thats ok. I know sponsorship dollars come from having a fan base, so when we set up LA Sweat we wanted to be something that people could really cheer for, for years to come. Make it person and not just a name on a jersey.
What things are making you the most optimistic about women's cycling? What's bumming you out?
Just seeing how the community is behind women's racing in general. Those are the things we need to help grow the sport into an equal opportunity career. Some things that bum me out will probably get me a lot of flack at the same time. I'm a firm believer in picking battles wisely. I am 100% a supporter in equal rights for women in sport, I don't see the need to bring more attention to the sometimes negative comments and actions of others. I'd rather just move forward and support women in general then go on a witch hunt at every person with a different opinion than mine. To me its wasted negative energy I could be using to encourage someone new to get out and ride.
You've just launched a fundraising campaign for a crucial part of LA-Sweat's 2015 season, can you tell us more about that leg, and the challenges you face getting there?
We are small, and new. So getting big sponsorship dollars is next to impossible because of that. Ireland is a huge part of our season, it grants us TV time for all our equipment sponsors which will only help us grow our program in the future. We understand you can't expect all to come out brand new and get a huge sponsor, but we are hoping with our success this year we will be able to find the right company to partner with and work with for years to come. For now we rely on the support from our friends, family and fans. Which is what makes this all possible!
You can read about and contribute to LA Sweat's European Race Fund here.