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Leah Thomas is an American cyclist currently riding for Movistar.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Cupertino, California, in the Bay Area.
Where do you live now?
During the off season, I live in a small town in the Santa Cruz mountains called Boulder Creek. While in Europe, I am located in Girona, but I enjoy spending time in other places in Europe. In previous years, I’ve spent significant time in England and I am currently in the Italian Alps.
How did you get started in cycling?
I started riding my bike during my first year teaching on the Navajo Reservation in the Southwest United States. There are only a couple of paved roads where I lived, and I spent most days biking into a ferocious headwind on interstate I-40 (it’s legal to ride on interstate highways in Arizona). I did my first races out there and have been racing ever since.
At what point did you realize that cycling was more than a hobby?
A few friends of mine convinced me to race the national time trial in 2015. I was still teaching full time, but took a few days off work to fly to Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the race. I ended up placing sixth in the time trial. It was at that point that I realized I should pursue cycling more than just a hobby. I ended up joining my first professional team, Team Twenty16, the following year.
What’s your most cherished memory in your sporting career to date?
My most cherished memory in cycling is placing third at Strade Bianche in 2020. I knew I was strong going into the race, but didn’t know how the rest of the peloton was riding. On top of that, it was an incredibly hot day. I crashed early in the race and then after attacking the break and getting a gap, I had a mechanical. Despite those mishaps, I stayed collected and ended up riding onto the podium. It was such a good moment to share with the team and one of my favorite cycling memories.
What are your goals for the Olympics?
I haven’t yet been officially named on the Olympic team. I am currently on the long list for the United States, a list that is filled with strong riders. If selected, I would represent my country to the best of my ability, hoping to play a key role in earning my country an Olympic medal.
What will your training look like as the Games approach?
I think one of the most important aspects for the Games will be preparing for the heat and humidity. I know I race well in the heat with proper preparation, and am looking forward to incorporating this into my training in the weeks and months leading up to the Games.
Which athletes inspire you?
I find athletes that focus on process and building up those around them while still reaching the top levels of their sport inspiring. Two of my favorite athletes who embody these traits are Mikaela Shiffrin and Jessie Diggins.
What keeps you motivated during difficult times?
Throughout my life I have had many unique circumstances that have challenged me. These experiences have taught me that while things may look bleak and difficult in the moment, inevitably they get better. Having family and friends help keep things in perspective is also a huge help.
Advice for younger riders striving for the Olympics?
I think the biggest advice I’d give is two pieces of advice to younger riders:
1) Create measurable goals. If you want to go to the Olympics or continue to develop in the sport of cycling, it is helpful to create small goals along the way to help you measure your progress. Make sure that these goals are within your control and that you put a time frame on when you would like to accomplish them.
2) Start to build a support team around you. Cycling is full of ups and downs and you need people you trust around you to encourage you when times are hard and to celebrate with you when times are good. Create a group of people whose judgement you trust and who have your best interest at heart.
If you weren’t a pro rider, what would you be doing now?
If I wouldn’t be riding professionally, I would most likely be teaching sixth grade or maybe ninth grade science at a local middle or high school.
Favorite coffee ride snack?
Back home, there is a coffee shop that serves individual sized pizzas right by the coast. They are quick and delicious and definitely a quick snack that I like to pick up on my long rides.
Favorite coffee ride stop?
My favorite coffee ride stop is at a place called Jenna Sues in Boulder Creek where I live. They have tasty lattes and coffee cake. They are always welcoming and friendly and the walls are covered in photos of the mountains and town. I love looking at pictures of my home through other people’s lenses and always enjoy spending a little bit of time there.
What’s your spirit animal and why?
I’d say my truest spirit animal is the wolf. They tend to be a little reserved but are observant and in tune with how others are feeling. They take a little time to earn your trust, which is very much how I am. They value the deep connections and friendships they have formed and foster those relationships.
I also have a goofy, mischievous side around people I know well and sometimes am told I am like a raccoon!
One thing you can’t live without on the road?
As cliché as it sounds, I can’t live without my cell phone. It’s hard living away from home for so many months per year and my phone keeps me connected to friends and family back home. I also have a travel mug that goes everywhere with me. Many European countries have smaller tea cups, but I like a big mug of tea in the morning.