Ready For Her Closeup

As a veteran of the women’s professional peloton for over a decade, Meredith Miller has been known as the consummate teammate. Whether riding out front for the Danish-based Team S.A.T.S and the defunct TEAm Lipton, or serving as a role model and mentor during her time with Aaron’s Women’s Professional Cycling Team and currently with Team TIBCO, the former University of Wisconsin soccer player has always done what was needed and what was necessary to ensure her team’s success, even if that meant sacrificing some of her own ambitions.

But recently, the spotlight has shined brightly, and perhaps deservedly so, on the out-going Miller. During her 2009 campaign, the Alabama native soloed to victory in front of a top-notch field at the US Elite National Road Championships. She would follow up that stellar performance later that same year by representing the United States at the UCI World Championships on both the road and in cyclocross.

Yet, despite her more recent successes, the peloton’s newest leading lady has never viewed herself as bigger than even the minutest part of her team; a fact that is being highlighted this month as she embarks on another cyclocross season.

During the month of October, Meredith has chosen to turn the spotlight on a larger team of women, those who have been diagnosed with and survived breast cancer. Adorned in the familiar pink, which unfortunately has become commonplace in cities around the world, Meredith has partnered with a local Ft. Collins, Colorado breast cancer foundation, Hope Lives!, to raise money and awareness for the disease.

In Part I of my conversation with Meredith Miller (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized), we look back at her soccer career, find out if she still jumps around, and discuss her ultimate goals as a racer.

Lenny B (LB): It has been well chronicled that you were a soccer player in your previous sporting life; do you still have visions of crossovers and nutmegs?

Meredith Miller (MM): I miss soccer, especially while I was watching the World Cup this summer. Whenever I see games being played I get that nostalgic feeling and want to play again myself. Just last week while I was in New England I was riding with a friend past several soccer fields and commented about how nice the fields looked. He kind of gave me this puzzled look until he remembered that I had played soccer for years. He still thought I was a little crazy for talking about how nice the soccer fields looked but it’s things like that that make me want to go out and slide tackle someone (I was a defender after all).

LB: As a “Badger,” is it mandatory to have House of Pain’s “Jump Around” in your playlist?

MM: Of course! I “jumped around” with Badger football today, as a matter of fact. I wish I could have been in Camp Randall when the Badgers beat the Buckeyes. That would have been “Jump Around” worthy for sure!

LB: Please tell me that wasn’t while wearing red and white striped overalls?

MM: Ha, I can honestly say NO.

LB: Is soccer still your first love? Who were your sporting heroes growing up?

MM: I’ll always love the sport of soccer. It drives me crazy when people talk about how dumb a sport it is because there is so little scoring. Of course goals are exciting but I see so much more when I watch a game that makes me go “wow, wish I could do that.”

Most people would never know it but my hero when I was really young was Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves. I started playing fast pitch softball when I was 7 growing up in Alabama. My nickname has always been ‘Murph’ so I guess it was just natural that Dale was my hero. Being so close to Atlanta we went to baseball games quite often to cheer for him…and the team, of course.

LB: How did you get into the sport of cycling?

MM: After graduating from college there weren’t many options for women to continue playing at a highly competitive level in the US. You either had to be a member of the US National Team (which I was not) or go to Europe. Living in Europe never crossed my mind at that time so I had to look for something else to do to fuel my competitive drive. My husband (boyfriend at the time), Ben, had started racing my last season of playing soccer. After watching just a handful of his races I thought cycling looked hard and competitive enough so I decided to give it a whirl…and the rest is history.

LB: You have been crowned a National Champion, ridden at Worlds in both road and cyclocross, what is your ultimate goal as a racer?

Meredith Miller (MM): On the road, I want to be the best teammate I can be by being a mentor to the young riders and representing my team and sponsors with integrity. I want to be an integral part of the team’s success both on and off the bike.

I’ve been fortunate to have success on a ‘cross bike in the two short years that I’ve been racing ‘cross. Given that I’m still learning how to race ‘cross I want to see myself continue to build on that success. In the next year or two I want to win nationals, and of course I want to return to the World Championships. Ultimately I want to keep developing as a ‘cross racer so that in 2013, when Worlds are in Louisville, I am vying for a podium spot.

But whether it’s road or ‘cross I’m talking about, it has to be fun.

In Part II of my interview with Meredith Miller, we find out what changes she would make to the sport of cycling, whether women’s cycling should take a tougher stance, and the plausibility of a women’s only cycling league.

Part II – We Can Do It | Part III – Mud Bug

To follow Meredith as she dances with mud, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Photos: Dave McElwaine/Trail Watch (top); Leonard Basobas/LB Photos (bottom)