Liz Hatch Gets PEZ’d!
Liz Hatch became a professional cyclist when she was 28 years old in 2008; she has done more in four years than most riders do in a lifetime. From 1 hour US criteriums to the Giro d’Italia in a matter of weeks, then off to Belgium and more recently life in Spain. The past, the present and the future of Liz Hatch and how to pack in as much as you can in a short time. This is life according to Liz!
It was a warm, sunny October day when I met up with Liz on the terrace of the Cafй Nostro in the seaside town of Javea. It was a great chat with a beautiful woman in sunny surroundings, delicious coffee and the best carrot cake ever. Work can’t get much better than this.
PEZ: You’ve raced all over the place, what are the differences between the US, Italy and Belgium?
Liz Hatch: Well, in the US it was mostly Crits, it has grown there but it was mostly Crits. The teams I was on were geared up for them. I would say it was more relaxed then, there could be the chance of a party! You raced Saturday and Sunday, some of the races were very well attended– you could get 30 or 40 thousand spectators at some. I liked racing in Belgium, it was balls to the wall, head banging racing! It’s a different culture there. It depends if you are riding UCI races or kermises, but both are great.
I can’t compare racing in Italy to racing in Belgium, but I can compare racing on an Italian team and racing a Belgian team, as we raced all over Europe, each race has its own feel, they are all different. Racing on an Italian team? I would never do that again! I really like Italy, I love Italians and I loved being there, but they just have a very different mentality from Americans. My experience on the teams made me feel like they owned you, they would tell you where you could ride, who you could ride with, it was ridiculous! When I was racing there I was 28 and I’d lived on my own since I was 17 years old, so it was a little strange to be told where I can go and where I can’t go. Where as in Belgium they didn’t care what you did as long as turned up in shape for the racing. Maybe the Belgians think more like Americans, but they definitely treat you like an adult.
Cafй Nostro – the best carrot cake on the Costa Brava.
PEZ: How has women’s cycling changed since you started?
Liz: The level has gone up a lot, to be honest I only started racing when I was 26 in 2006 and became a professional when I was 28, so I’ve spent two and a half years racing in Europe. The sport is hard. It’s not like you can train a couple of hours a week and jump into a race and expect to do well, you have to dedicate your life to it, just like the men. At the beginning of the year I was doing nearly as much training as my ex-boyfriend (a Pro rider) to get ready, obviously our races are a bit shorter, but you could say our races are more like a junior men’s race, constant attacking, they don’t have the same ebb and flow as a men’s race.
The level has gone up a lot and I see lots of talented girls coming up from the juniors and younger, but unfortunately the financial support isn’t there. Most women get to a point where they have to give it up, they have to make a living.
PEZ: So you don’t think the women are being looked after by the teams?
Liz: No, I wouldn’t say that, but there is not enough money. They have good intentions; it’s simple – there just isn’t the financing.
PEZ: Do you think all the Pro men’s teams should have a woman’s team?
Liz: Yea, it’s a shame more people don’t see the value in woman’s cycling. I see so much support for woman’s Triathlon, which is obviously a very hard sport as well. I don’t understand the mentality that people think (woman’s cycling) is a joke.
PEZ: How could the UCI help women’s cycling?
Liz: They could acknowledge that it exists! First thing is that McQuaid (UCI President) needs to wake up and realise that there are women riding bikes and racing! They could do so much, but they don’t do anything that I can see. I think more and more of the women that are racing are becoming more vocal about it. I feel that before no one ever said much, but now they are getting angry. In general I think the UCI needs to get its act together. It’s embarrassing trying to explain to people who are not cyclists about women’s cycling. They’ve heard the doping stories, but that is just a small, unfortunate part that gets publicised, people just don’t know about women’s cycling. I think it’s at a point where they either have to do something or let us go.
Last year when they changed the race radio rules, that affected us (women) also, they made this blanket decision for all of cycling, but they don’t look at how it affects women’s cycling. Last year you couldn’t race a 1.2 or lower with ear pieces. A 1.2 is a big race for us, it’s a middling race for the men, but not small. For us it’s an important race. It’s just frustrating that they make changes without thinking about us.
PEZ: Did you watch the women’s Worlds road race? It wasn’t a great advert for women’s cycling.
Liz: No, I actually didn’t see it because I was travelling to a bike show in Italy; I walked in just as Bronzini won and the place went crazy! So I literally saw just the last 8 seconds. The course wasn’t brilliant. To honest, I only saw a bit of the men’s race and it wasn’t great. That really bothers me. Everyone says women’s racing is really boring…well, the men’s race wasn’t exciting either! It’s a strange mentality that says a man’s race is “tactical” but a woman’s race is “negative” and like the women don’t know how to race. It had nothing to do with men or women, it was just that course, and they have to give the sprinters a chance sometimes.
PEZ: Which riders have impressed you?
Liz: Vos! Marianne Vos, she is incredible! I used to be a fan of Musseuw also. I was always a fan of the sport. There were never any riders I was crazy about. I just started watching and then riding a bike and then found out I was quite good at it. I just love cycling because you can see how hard it is and I’m just happy for whoever wins. It’s not like some team sports where you have one against the other, it’s a different dynamic.
PEZ: So how did you get interested in cycling?
Liz: I guess there was all the Lance thing, I didn’t ride then, everyone knew all about him in town and then when he came back from cancer and won the Tour, then cycling became much more accessible in the States.
PEZ: Will you be racing next year?
Liz: No, I will never ever race pro again. When I started I didn’t set out to be a pro. When I started cycling I didn’t even know that women raced. Sadly, I wish I had started earlier. I started cycling when I was 25 and racing at 26 just for fun. I wasn’t an athlete before, so it was a steep learning curve. One thing happened and another thing happened and then I found myself racing in Europe. I was really excited about doing it, but it wasn’t a life time goal. It just came about. I really appreciate the experience it has brought me, the travel, and all the great people I’ve met. Coming from nothing it’s a pretty cool thing to happen, but I just realized this year you just can’t make a living doing it. Also, there comes a point, I’m 31 years-old now, when you see there is no future in racing for me. Cycling is in my future, but not professional racing. Professional by definition it is something you make a living doing. It was becoming too much of a struggle to stay at a good level and live a life. For example, the team I was on; we weren’t paid and we had to pay our own travel. This was one of the best UCI teams, so there was no reward for all the effort. I still love riding my bike, but I stopped loving racing because you have to be fulfilled emotionally, spiritually and financially. It got to the point where I don’t want to risk my health and my life anymore for nothing. I don’t want that to sound ungrateful, it’s just a fact.
It’s such a shame because I can see so much talent wasted. You hear the men asking for 3 million a year, and well that’s great, I feel happy for them. Then you see us and the chasm is so large, it’s like two continents with oceans between. I had a conversation with someone at the UCI, asking how things could be different with contracts etc. They look at women’s teams like they are just clubs, so there is no minimum wage, it’s not a profession for them.
I will ride some Gran Fondos though.
PEZ: You now work for Ridley bikes (and Lazer helmets?), what does that entail?
Liz: Yea, I am “The Face of Forza” that’s Ridley’s components range that they fit to all their stock bikes; handlebars, stems, saddles, wheels etc. they are trying to expand the company. So I ride a Ridley bike! I’ve been so lucky with them. Anthony, the co-owner of the company, asked me if I wanted to ride their bikes. When I moved to Lotto they tried to have the team ride Ridley, but the problem was that Rochelle Gilmore is a really good friend of the Pinarello’s and she had ridden their bikes her whole career. So that ended not really working out. I kept in touch with him and when I “retired” this year I explained my situation and they supply me with what I need. Italy is a very big market for them, it’s their second biggest, and the Grand Fondo’s there are huge. I’ll be riding them next year, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve worn Lazer helmets for four or five years, the owner of the company, Sean, is a good friend and has always been supportive of me. I’ll always wear their helmets, they fit my head, so….
PEZ: You will be hosting a training camp here in this area of Spain next year, tell us more?
Liz: Yes, two weeks. One in February from 18th to 25th and then another in April 15th to 22nd. John Fegan, from Train in Spain, lives near here in Denia and asked me if I would be interested. Now that I’m not racing full time, I thought “why not?” I’ll be riding anyway, so I thought that would be good. The camps are aimed at riders of all levels who want six good days of cycling taking in all the different sorts of terrain in the area. Should be fun!
PEZ: Why does a girl from Texas live in this part of Spain?
Liz: I came here at the end of 2009. I’d been racing that year for an Italian team and living near Lucca which I loved, great roads for training. There were some Americans living there and always good groups to ride with. I needed to train because I was riding Qatar in February 2010, but the weather was so bad there (in Lucca) and I knew people here (Spain). I basically I came here for two months, but I ended up staying because I met somebody. At first I didn’t like Spain and I couldn’t wait to go back to Italy, but I ended up here and now my life is here so… I’ve lived here for 2 years now, I did think of going back to Italy, but I have friends here and I like it now, it took me a while, but Javea is nice. You can’t beat the weather!
PEZ: What’s it like making the Cyclepassion calendars?
Liz: Ah, they were fun; I’ve done two years now. Anke Wilken, the lady in charge, asked me if I would do it. I said yes but only if Veronica could do it also. Veronica is my best friend and we do everything together. It ended up a lot of fun. This year (for 2012) was really cool, we did the whole shoot at the Tour, and it was pretty funny. Some of the photos have the peloton going by. They are two sided this year, fashion on one side and the other is us actually on the bike. The one of me is funny because I’m not a climber, but there I am passing the KOM point! Anke has these great ideas and Daniel, the photographer, makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. They are for sale already.
PEZ: What about personalities who are not cyclists?
Liz: No, none really, I’m more interested in my friends than people I don’t know! I love lots of different music, John Hiatt is a favourite.
PEZ: When you are not working/cycling what is your favourite pastime?
Liz: I like cooking, I don’t know if I’m amazing at it, but I enjoy cooking and travelling also. I think that’s the great thing about riding, you get it all rolled in to one, travel, meeting people, and riding your bike! I don’t have any crazy pastimes, like fast cars, I just enjoy the bike and everything connected. It’s such a healthy life style. I’ll ride my bike until I can’t do it anymore, I can’t imagine not riding. It’s not like I have to any more, I just love it! I’ve been doing a bit of hiking here with my friend Inga, she used to race also. She and her boyfriend (Jurgen Van Goolen) live in-land from here. We ride together three or four times a week or we go hiking. We did a 14 kilometre hike last month that took us about four hours.
PEZ: Top holiday destination?
Liz: I think I live in it! I don’t have a favourite destination, I just like travelling. I really love the mountains, so anywhere like Italy or France, yea I love the mountains. It’s weird, I’ve always lived near the beach, but I’m not a beach person. I went skiing last year in Andorra, that was nice. It was my first time skiing. When we got there it was ice, but that night it snowed which was better. I was terrified; I couldn’t stop and was scared of going right off the edge of the mountain.
PEZ: Favourite food?
Liz: Oh man! All of it! Indian food and Lithuanian food. So fattening though, all comfort food with lots of potatoes and gravies. I don’t love Moroccan food. Three of us cooked a big dinner for a birthday last week and the food is OK, but to compare it to Indian, it’s quite thin. There are some similarities, Moroccan uses a lot of parsley, and I don’t like that a lot. There is a good Indian restaurant near here in the village of Pego, the people are from Nepal.
PEZ: Your best memory from the world of cycling?
Liz: I guess finishing the Giro, I had actually never ridden a stage race before! I only knew three weeks before that I was doing it. I had gone to Lucca in May 2009 and a friend there said you should meet the Fanini’s; you could probably ride for their team. I really wanted to ride in Europe for at least one year, so that was a great “in” because I didn’t come up through the national team. I really achieved everything that I’ve done, especially in the US, by myself. I didn’t start racing when I was young, so that was my way in to Europe. So Fanini said “Sure, you want to come in the summer?” It was a kind of a random thing, the invite in 2009. So he said “come back in June and you can ride Trentino and then you can do the Giro!”
Well, I had been racing in the US, in crits of around an hour! So I had about three weeks to get ready for it – it was hard. It didn’t help that we had a mechanic who told us at the start he was on vacation, so he wasn’t fixing our bikes. It was like his holiday to ride around Italy for free! The last day was a circuit race around Naples, my gears were stuck in the 15 the whole time and at one point I just couldn’t keep up any more. I called the mechanic and he said he couldn’t fix it, so with two laps (16K’s) to go I was in dead last on the stage. The team director said I should put my bike on the car and just get in! Well, I was going to finish, I was last on the stage, but it didn’t matter. It was a great experience and I had never done anything like that. It was fun.
I have great memories of hanging out with my best friend Veronica Andreasson, she’s engaged to Pro Gustav Erik Larsson. They’re getting married next month [ Ed. – just happened], and I’ll be a bride’s maid. I’ve met some great people, so it is a compilation of memories.
PEZ: What does the future hold for Liz Hatch?
Liz: Mmm! I’m working on the Cervo Rosso clothing, which is awesome! It’s a woman’s line coming out next year. I’ll keep pedalling around; we’ll see, I don’t know. I’ve learned not to expect anything!
PEZ: Would you go back to Texas?
Liz: My family live in Florida now, but no. If I were to go back to The States it would be San Francisco. I loved it there, but I love it here. I love the pace and lifestyle more here. Spain has taken some getting used to, but now I like it, I just need to learn more Spanish! That’s one of the things I don’t like about the US, Americans want things “right now!” but it’s better to relax. There’s a time to work, a time to relax and there is a time when things just don’t get done. I’ve learnt some patience here.
If you are interested in a Liz Hatch Training Camp, then check-out the TraininSpain web-site. Also Cervo Rosso clothing and Ridley Bikes. Thanks for your time Liz; woman’s Pro racing’s loss is Grand Fondo’s gain!