Joanne Grogan of Hinesburg has always been athletic. She is a runner and whitewater kayaker, and she had bicycled all her life but never raced. All that changed in 2010 when a colleague of her husband suggested she try cyclocross racing.
“I never looked back,” Grogan said.
She did so well her first season that she turned pro the following year. In order to help train for cyclocross, a sport that involves various surfaces and obstacles, Grogan began to race mountain bikes. By 2014 she had turned pro in that discipline as well, and won two national champsionships. Soon she added road cycling to her training tools.
As Grogan got more serious about racing, she hired Bobby Bailey of Essex to coach her. Bailey invited her to join his 1K2GO road racing team and soon she had another roster of competitive events. Grogan admits road racing is more a training tool than anything else, but that hasn’t stopped her from being successful.
Last month she finished eighth in the women’s category 3/4 division at the Green Mountain Stage Race and was fifth in the contest for the sprinter’s jersey. Her success was all the more impressive given that in late June she suffered a concussion and broke some ribs at a race, keeping her off the bike for the entire month of July.
“It was tough coming back from that, but having an injury makes you reevaluate your priorities,” she said. “I’m 39 and not getting any younger, so it was a good opportunity to sit on the couch and figure out what I wanted to do.”
What Grogan ultimately decided is that cyclocross is her true passion. “I love everything about how it works,” she said. “The season the races are in, the way the races work, the venues, and the people. I love road racing too, but it’s more difficult financially and the growth of the sport is stalled for women.”
By contrast, Grogan said the size of the field in women’s cyclocross races has doubled since she began racing. An added incentive is that the sport is less risky than road racing. That said, Grogan also loves road racing criteriums, which are multiple circuits around a short loop. “They suit my personality,” she said. “I like the cat and mouse games and the strategy and speed and intensity, although I don’t like the risk that comes with it.”
Grogan also enjoys multi-stage races because they require a high level of preparation and involve a variety of factors, including how well you travel, eat and recover at the end of the day.
Before she discovered cycling, Grogan participated in a number of running races and multi-discipline events like the Sugarbush Triathlon, which she once won, and the Tuckerman’s Inferno, a spring pentathlon in which she finished second. Running and multi-sport racing have both been preempted by cycling. “I really enjoy running but my training schedule doesn’t allow much time for anything except maybe yoga,” she said.
In 2000, Grogan came to the United States from Ireland at the request of the company she worked for, and she currently works full-time from her home as a software developer. Grogan moved to Hinesburg eleven years ago and is thrilled with her adopted home. “I love the seasons,” she said. “I love that I can go out in my backyard and ski and mountain bike. I love having the outdoors at my doorstep.”