Taylor Allison rolling toward World Cup
By Brian Sweeney
Some people figure out at a young age the career path they will follow. Taylor Allison counts herself as a member of that group.
The 17-year-old, who will be a senior at Roxbury Central School in the fall, was raised as part of a family whose parents, Billy and Tammy, are bicycling and fitness enthusiasts. She and her two siblings were introduced to the benefits of cycling at an early age, with Taylor starting riding about eight years ago. She immediately took to the sport and, when she got her first taste of downhill mountain bike racing, Taylor was hooked.
“We all started racing and, when I got my Pro Card a few days after my 15th birthday, I knew that it was meant to be,” she recalled.
When she began entering amateur cycling events, Taylor’s primary competitors were usually women much older than herself. The relative lack of experience didn’t deter her, as Taylor piled up numerous victories.
Inspired by her success, Taylor’s dad contacted the USA Cycling (USAC) organization, documenting her success and requesting authorization for pro-level racing.
“That’s when I found my real competition,” Taylor recalled.
Since qualifying for the professional circuit, Taylor has stepped up her commitments, racing an average of two times per month, up and down the east coast.
Among the best
She no longer wins every event against professional racers, but has more than held her own, consistently finishing in the top three or four spots in nearly every competition.
Taylor is a member of Team Drop, a developmental squad for pros aspiring to get to the sport’s highest level — the World Cup. She will get her first taste of World Cup racing on August 11 in Canada. Prior to that, Taylor will travel to Angel Fire, NM to compete in the Nationals on August 2.
If she achieves success at the World Cup in Canada, Taylor’s biking skills will take her on a much longer trek — to South Africa for another World Cup competition on August 31.
Her racing success has led to a whirlwind lifestyle for Taylor, but she is thoroughly enjoying that path she’s riding down.
When she’s not racing, Taylor dedicates much of her week to other types of cardio training such as running, cross-country riding or road cycling. Ironically, it’s the 25-mile training sessions on a road bike that she enjoys the least. She also uses her “leisure” time to sharpen her skills on her “home” course, Plattekill Mountain.
Races are fast
It’s a lot of conditioning for races that are measured by their vertical drop and typically take only three-to-five minutes to complete.
“It’s all downhill – you go up on the lift and aim and go!” she laughed.
Taylor explained that, no matter where events are run, the courses are set up differently for every race. Competitors spend the initial day of an event practicing to familiarize themselves with the course. The first two hours on Sunday are also dedicated to practice before the racing occurs during the remainder of the day.
Hurtling down the side of a mountain at speeds reaching up to 45 mph carries inherent dangers. Taylor said she’s not really troubled by the fear of injury. A broken arm is the most significant mishap she’s sustained, along with countless cuts and bruises. In addition to a helmet, gloves and kneepads, she wears a Leatt brace to reduce the risk of neck injuries, but refuses to let the fear of crashing hold her back. Ironically, her most serious injury was a torn ACL suffered while playing on her high school soccer team.
Not an issue
“I never think about it. If I crash, I kind of get up and hope that I everything is OK,” Taylor explained. “I’m always thinking about my fastest way to get through an obstacle, rather than thinking about falling.”
She added, “It gets a little sketchy from time to time, but it’s so much fun. Since I started racing when I was so young, it just seems like a routine now. It’s like tunnel vision – I can’t tell you what I think about (before I get ready to ride).”
In addition to the adrenaline-fueled thrills of competing, Taylor loves mountain bike racing equally for the many friendships she’s made along the circuit.
“I have met so many different people, from so many different places. I have made really great friends – I think that’s the best part,” she commented enthusiastically.
Competing for prizes
As a professional racer, Taylor earns prize money for every finish in the top five, but the winnings don’t come close to covering the considerable costs associated with equipment and travel to competitions. As a result, she has started a funding website (gofundme.com/taylorworldcup) via which supporters can make donations to help defray costs.
“It’s hard to get sponsorships because of cutbacks that people have made because of the economy. It’s really expensive to try to keep up with it. All the help you can get is really good,” Taylor explained.
While she plans to continue her racing career professionally, Taylor’s success has also drawn the attention of several colleges that have mountain biking race teams. Because (USAC) and the NCAA do not overlap, there is no conflict with her professional status and competing on a collegiate level. Colleges that have offered her scholarships are Lees-McRae in North Carolina, Fort Lewis in Colorado and Lindsey Wilson in Kentucky. She is leaning toward one of the first two places and hopes to make a decision soon.
In the meantime, Taylor is ramping up her training for the major competitions coming up next month.
“I would really love to go world level. That’s why I’m so excited for my first World Cup in Quebec,” she stated.
Even with a big chunk of her time dedicated to her racing, Taylor still manages to engage in activities normally associated with high school students.
Best of both worlds
“I feel like I live a double-life,” she laughed. “I’m doing normal teenage things with friends, shopping — and then lots of training.”
Despite her success and career goals, Taylor is also philosophical and hopes her hard work helps pave the way to empower others.
“My main goal — even if nothing else happens (with her career) is that I want to be able to inspire young women – I want to leave the sport with an impact.”
Spoken like a true champion.