Women's History Month: Veronica's mentors
The American reflects on the women whose mentorship have made her the cyclist she is today
Growing up, Veronica Ewers wasn’t the type of kid who idolized professional athletes or celebrities. She didn’t need to. She has been lucky enough to be surrounded by a steady network of teammates she could look up to. And they, in turn, have been keen to mentor her as she embarked on her journey in sports.
When reflecting on her path to becoming an elite cyclist, Veronica is quick to give credit to these women who have helped her navigate the way. Read on as she opens up about the women who have played a role in shaping her life.
Have you always had mentors?
I always had teammates and people around me that wanted me to succeed in whatever athletic endeavor I was doing. From a young age, I’ve always been on teams, especially when I focused on playing soccer. A big mentor experience for me was being a freshman on varsity soccer in high school. I was one of two freshmen that were selected to be on the varsity squad which was really intimidating, but also really cool. It was the first time I’d really experienced being with older women on a team. In my hometown, the ninth grade was in a different building than 10th through 12th grades so when I was a freshman on that team, I wasn’t actually going to the same school that my teammates were at. It was a really fun experience to have those women to talk to about a lot of things and to help me prepare for going into the school the following year when I was in the 10th grade. Even before I tried out for the varsity team, there were morning training sessions in the summer time that could help us prepare for the tryouts. I don’t think I missed a single one. There were several older women there that really wanted to make sure that I kept going. They were super supportive in a way that kept me coming back. I had the same sort of experience when I went to college, being a freshman and having the upperclassman. Once I went to college, there were a couple of women that were really supportive not only in making sure that I was showing up to practice and doing drills and whatnot, but really focusing on getting better in every way, in my classes and just making sure that everything was ok. Checking in on me if I was homesick. Just making sure I was included and involved.
What did that 360 degree support mean to you?
It was huge. Because I’ve not had a lot of time in my life when I haven’t been part of a team, it’s kind of hard for me to specify how important that was because I haven’t been without it. But it really helped me feel like I had that sense of community. Actually, a moment in my life when I didn’t have mentors around me was when I first moved to Seattle. It was so lonely. It was hard. I was definitely missing having that sense of community and support system from a mentor.
It sounds like you’ve usually had supportive people around you, but you particularly appreciate the women who have mentored you. What makes their support so important?
It's really important just to have a group of women to confide in because there are so many that are able to understand what you're going through. Not to say that having guy friends isn't great because I love having guy friends and I have a good amount. But women tend to really understand you a bit deeper, even in terms of the day to day stuff. Even just talking about periods and dealing with that sort of thing, knowing there’s someone who understands you instead of feeling judged. And I think in sports specifically, there are so many barriers that women face within sport that most guys haven't experienced and won't experience and may not fully understand. I think that brings women together because it's just something that we have experienced. We have those same experiences and it brings us closer together.
Have you found mentors within your current teammates?
When I started out last year living with Lauren in Belgium for the first few months, she really helped me. I knew she’d gone through the same thing of coming into the European peloton so if I had a difficult moment, she was really willing to help me deal with that. And because of that, she has helped me become more of a leader on the team and she continues to want to help me be more of a leader on the team as well. I really appreciate that from her. There was a time when I was struggling with hitting certain numbers in training. At the time, it was really getting in my head, not feeling like I was hitting the power numbers I should have been hitting, feeling like I was smashing myself to hit a number that shouldn't be that hard. And she could tell how much that was getting into my head. She talked to me about it and just wanted to check in and make sure I was doing okay and sort of reassured me that regardless of what the numbers were, to just keep moving forward and doing what I could without doing my best to not let the numbers consume me. It was really nice to hear and she could relate and say how she has experienced that as well. She counseled me through that which was really nice because if I had been by myself in that situation, I think I would have just continued to get more and more upset. It helped me have some grace toward myself, which I struggle with anyway. But then I didn't put so much weight on the numbers. And also from that, I felt closer to Lauren and felt that I could go to her and confide in her more in the future, which I have done. I really appreciate that as well.
Beyond your fellow riders, who has played a mentor role in terms of your cycling career or seeing a future path within the sport?
Jennifer Wheeler of Fount Cycling. She believed in me, far more than I believed in myself. She knew that I could get to where I am now and pushed me to make that call. I honestly, really appreciate that because I didn’t believe I could do it. I owe her for that support. She really changed my life. Jennifer was someone who had taken that extra step to invest so much time and effort into building women’s cycling and I think she got some of that from Linda Jackson, our team owner, from when Jennifer rode for Linda’s team back in the day. Linda was someone huge in her life who pushed women to reach their potential. Linda continues to do that each and every day by having built this team and kept it going for so long and investing her entire life into the team. I think it’s going on 18 years this year. She’s dedicated so much of her life to this team and she’s an incredibly strong woman. I am incredibly appreciative of her having done so much for women’s cycling, and for an American team, a country that does not have the biggest following of cycling. I also really appreciate taking a chance on me at the end of 2021 and giving me the opportunity to guest ride and then officially join what then became EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. I think she is an incredible mentor that doesn’t get a lot of recognition at times but she has really built this team and has been a very positive character in my life, not only by helping me and giving me the opportunity to race for her team but also by being an incredible role model as someone that will dedicate their life to helping other women reach their potential.