RM 10Qs W/ Cyclist Jessica Cerra

Pro cyclist, Harmony Bar founder, Professional Cook and immune to the confines of time

RM 10's W/ Cyclist Jessica Cerra

One of the fun things about starting RaceMill.com is getting to know the fascinating people we come across.  The weeks RaceMill 10 Q's is no exception.  Without spoiling the story, Jess has quite the resume:  Triathlete - check; Mountain Biker - check; Master's in Exercise Physiology - check; professional chef - check; author - check; launched her own nutrition company - check.  So while Jess is busy at Kona working as the chef for the Cervelo Team at Ironman Kona, enjoy the interview and be sure to remember that name, you'll be hearing it a lot more often at the top of the podium.

Jess Cerra

Hometown: Whitefish, MT and now Encinitas, CA

Age: 32

Social: Twitter.com/@fitfoodbyjess | Facebook.com/JessicaCerra

Website: www.fitfoodbyjess.com

RM: Athlete that inspires you?

JC: There are two ends of the spectrum on other athletes that inspire me.  I watch a lot of women's UCI races online and it's impossible not to be inspired by some of the dominant female cyclists in Europe like Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who just won the UCI World Road Race Championship, and Marianne Vos.  I raced against many talented women in the US this year, and as someone who is new to the sport of road racing, I aspire to be be like many of them.  On the other end of the spectrum are my friends that I've encouraged to try their first 5k running race or first road race.  Watching them go on this journey is definitely inspiration to continue to set an example of how fun and rewarding competition can be.

RM: How many years have you been competing?

JC: My first race was a mountain bike race in 2007.  While studying Exercise Physiology in grad school, I performed a cycling VO2 max test and produced numbers of an elite trained female.  A professor of mine encouraged me to start mountain biking, but after reading about XTERRA off-road triathlon in a magazine, I turned my focus to that in 2008.  In 2010 I won the overall amateur title at the XTERRA National Championship.

I raced my first year as a professional on the XTERRA America Tour in 2012.  That season I struggled with what I thought was a running injury, causing me to take a break from XTERRA to focus on the USAC Mountain Bike Pro Ultra Endurance Tour (UET).  I finished 2nd overall on the tour in 2012 but my running injury had now become a cycling injury.  Eventually, I a was diagnosed with Iliac Artery Compression Syndrome (my right iliac artery was almost 90% compressed).  At the end of 2012, I had a surgery to repair the artery with a vein graft.

At the start of the 2013 season, I was encouraged by friends to try some local road races to help get back up to speed.  While I thought my focus would the the UET and returning to XTERRA, I started to have some success at local road races and tried my first NRC race at the end of 2013.  I managed to finish 2nd again on the UET, but my heart wasn't in it.

This year I turned my complete focus to racing on the road, and had some great opportunities and support from the SPY Liv GIANT RIDE women's team.  My goal was to earn a spot on professional team by the end of the season.  A 6th GC finish at both San Dimas and Redlands (along with the overall amateur jersey at Redlands), made an impression.  In 2015, I will be racing on TWENTY16, a UCI level women's professional team.

RM: What fuels your competitiveness?

JC: For some reason I enjoy the struggle.  I actually feel more uncomfortable feeling comfortable.  I've had to work incredibly hard for everything I have in life: my education, my business, launching my energy bar company (Harmony Bar), and working through set-backs and injuries so I'm accustomed to pushing through discomfort.  The truth is I probably harbor some of these things and the only time I feel like I can release them is when I'm on the bike.  I think any elite athlete can relate to that.  The other truth is, I believe I can be the best, or one of the best.  When I get on a bike there is something that takes over, something that puts everything that I've overcome in perspective and pushes me through barriers, and drives me push for the best result no matter what the circumstance.  There is a Mohammed Ali poster in my garage that says "suffer now and live the rest of your life like a champion."  I practice this, so when the moment comes I will have my opportunity.

RM: Weekend trip... where to? what do you bring? Your car, pet and gear. Itemize it!

JC: Since so many of my weekends are spent racing, I'd prefer a staycation on the bike.  I would need my bike and riding gear, a bikini, and an appetite.  I'd plan a long day in the Laguna mountains on the bike and another day riding up Palomar mountain.  Lay on the beach after that, and then proceed to a local watering hole for a beer, preferably Sculpin IPA, then to my favorite artisan pizza place for pizza and red wine, and round out the night with ice cream.

A weekend trip out of town would be somewhere like Yosemite, where 'd plan for two days of riding and two days of hiking.  I'd take camping gear, outdoor cooking gear, cycling and hiking gear.  Whatever I'm doing on the weekends it's going to be fueled by the gluten free non-GMO energy bar that I make, Harmony Bar.  I designed them to taste like soft-chewy cookies, so they really don't get old.

RM: Lone wolf or training companion? Why?

JC: For the most part I enjoy company.  San Diego has some of the hardest/largest group rides in the country (swamis rides), mostly comprised of the strongest men in southern Cali.  I use these rides as intensity based training, and try my best to mix it up with the guys to prepare myself for the pro peloton.  Since these rides are so large, they are very similar to a race situation.  They help me learn how to position, gauge the wind, and be an efficient rider.  They also hurt like a race, and sometimes even more.

I often end up doing recovery rides alone or with one other person because I'm really particular about the ride being a true recovery ride. When prepping for specific racing, where I want to focus on something like sustained climbing or the TT, I will plan ahead to get small groups together to accommodate the training I need. For example, a group to ride to and from Palomar mountain to do a timed effort to the top, or pacing behind some of my male pro triathlete friends on the TT bike.

RM: Pinnacle racing moment so far?

JC: Winning the XTERRA National Championship (amateur title) was the first.  The emotion that day was overwhelming.  However, it really served as a source of belief that I could be a professional athlete.  When you accomplish a result like this, you are suddenly willing to make sacrifices, and to dedicate yourself to become a better athlete.

In cycling, that moment was a 3rd place finish at the 2014 San Dimas crit.  While this isn't a NRC race, it a large 3-day stage race, right before Redlands so all of the NRC and UCI level teams are there.  I had a 6th place finish in the uphill TT, and a 5th place finish in the road race, but nabbing a podium spot in a technical crit, against the best women in the country was a turning point.  This gave me the confidence I needed going into Redlands, which I was extremely nervous about since it was only my second NRC race and fourth stage race.  This was another pinnacle moment placing 6th GC, which I believe is the highest placing ever for an amateur rider at Redlands.  Ultimately, this is what got the attention of the UCI teams I so badly wanted to an opportunity with.

RM: What are you training for now?

JC: Right now I'm on a bit of an off season break which consists of a week completely off of any training, followed by 3 weeks of casual training.  This consists of easy shorter rides, trail runs, yoga, paddle boarding, or whatever I feel like really.

Toward the end of October I will start building my endurance base with long rides in zone 1/2.  I will do several training blocks with weeks of 400-500 miles and also integrate some big gear climbing to build strength.

I will spend a good amount of time in the off-season focusing on the TT, as this is the missing piece in stage racing, for me.  I hope to have a strong start to the 2015 season and better my results from 2014 at San Dimas and Redlands.

RM: Is there a dream race you would like to create?

JC: A late season stage race (July/August/September) in the greater San Diego area, which is prime for a race of this nature.   I envision 2 road races with TONS of climbing (maybe Palomar on one stage), a technical and punchy circuit race, a flat, fast crit, and a TT, potential an uphill TT.

RM: We Love It!


SPY Optic: Providing the most rad sunglasses and culture ever from a sunglasses company.   On a personal note, SPY has been more like family than a product sponsor, supporting and believing in me providing guidance and financial support

Liv Giant: Stepping up and proving that they truly are forward thinkers when it comes to supporting women's cycling by supporting the team with the Giant Envie, the most aero bike on the market.

RIDE Cyclery:  Our local bike shopped, owned by a local who races bikes.  I have an individual mechanic at this shop that goes above and beyond to help me.

SRAM:  Riding the new Force  22 components this year has been a great experience as they are mechanically sound and durable.  

Zipp Wheels:  Zipp 303's were a great wide, stiff, and aero wheel ideal for technical circuit and crit courses, while the 202's where light and fast for courses heavy on climbing.

MRI Endurance:  Hooking the team up with all our training and recovery drink mixes.  Specifically, I like to take the MRI Surge before a long ride because it really keeps me going and doesn't wear off like a cup of coffee.

Harmony Bar:  Gluten free, non-GMO energy bar, sourced from high quality, nutrient dense ingredients to provide nutrition that is as close to real food as possible.  Most importantly, it's made to take like a moist, chewy cookie.

Stage-One Custom Sportswear:  Hands down the most comfortable and best looking (always important) cycling clothing I've ever owned.  Two things that set this clothing apart 1) once you put the bibs on you don't think about them while riding because they fit perfectly 2) the jerseys and skin suits are made from aero material that is light and fast

Razer:  High quality headphones and watches are fun gear to have.

Skins Compression:  Helping us recover like pros, with scientifically engineered compression products.

Giro:  Protecting our noggins in style and comfort.

Clearview Investment Partners:  Financial infusion from a fellow teammate's company, which helped us do things like take the women's team to Redlands this season.

(photo by Tru Cycling)
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