Erickson earns two national titles
Alexandria’s Missy Erickson won’t know for almost two years whether or not she will make an Olympic roster, but every win adds to her confidence and takes her one step closer to that goal.
Erickson, a 2008 graduate of Jefferson High School in Alexandria, further established herself as the best female sprint cyclist in the U.S. right now after winning two national championships at the 2014 USA Cycling Elite Track Championships in mid-August.
Erickson won the women’s keirin title on August 16 after winning the women’s sprint title a day earlier.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Erickson said. “Olympic qualifying actually starts this year, which is the Pan-Am championships, so winning nationals kind of means I’m on the right track.”
Erickson was selected to the U.S. National team to compete in the Pan-American Continental track championships that run September 8-14 in Aguascalientes, Mexico. There, she will test herself against other top sprint cyclists from Canada and South America.
“Racing in the U.S. I think I’m very comfortable,” Erickson said. “This whole year I haven’t been beaten by anyone in the United States yet, so I’m going into the international season this year ranked pretty well. I think it’s still a little intimidating knowing there’s still a lot more I do need to learn.”
That’s natural for someone who is still relatively new to track cycling with less than three years of experience. Before that, Erickson won more than 35 individual national championship medals for top-five finishes in track, mountain bike, cyclo cross and road races at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.
It wasn’t until after college that she focused all her energy on sprint cycling, a form of racing where cyclists have no breaks and one fixed gear on bikes designed to reach 40 miles per hour. It’s proven to be a perfect fit for Erickson, as she quickly made her way up the list of best track cyclists in the country.
Erickson was in Colorado Springs, Colorado training at the Olympic Training Center in the spring of 2013 before making the move to Los Angeles, California after that summer. That’s where she currently resides and trains with other top cyclists from all over.
“Colorado Springs was great, and being able to train with all the Olympic athletes was a great experience,” Erickson said. “I didn’t really adjust to the altitude very well, and here in L.A., I get to train with guys from Trinidad, Canada and South Africa. It’s a lot of fast, really talented people, so I just decided to move because it’s a lot better fit for me.”
Erickson has taken advantage of that training and continues to see improvements. She has raced across Europe, Canada and in Japan in the last year alone. That experience has been invaluable as she continues to learn what it will take to be one of the top track cyclists in the world.
“I think it’s kind of all around,” Erickson said when asked where she has improved the most over the last year. “I’ve always been really confident racing, but I think I’m getting faster and stronger. I moved back to L.A. and I’m living back here and training with a really good group. Just traveling a lot and racing a lot and getting that experience so that when I do go to big events, I’m not scared to do everything.”
Erickson knows there is still a lot to learn between now and August 5, 2016. That’s when the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil kick off. There is a lot to accomplish in the next two years if Erickson is going to make the U.S. roster and compete in those games.
That’s why she is keeping things in perspective as she continues her climb toward trying to become one of the top track cyclists in the world.
“I obviously celebrate every win, especially two national titles,” Erickson said. “That was a big step for me. It’s hard to kind of look at it and say, ‘I might the best in the U.S., but I need to be the best in the world if I want to go for a medal in Rio.’ Anything could happen. I could get hurt. I could have a bad race and miss some qualifying points, so I have to be on my game 24-7 until the Olympics games.”