Cyclist Keeps Circling Challenges on Road to Stellar Results
June 19, 2015
Flora Yan competed at the 2015 USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals, placing sixth overall. Earlier this year, she won the women's overall championship for Division A at the South Central Collegiate Conference event in New Orleans.
As long as she can remember, Flora Yan has loved the freedom and fun of riding a bike.
“I rode a Wal-Mart mountain bike as a kid. That’s how I got around,” she said.
Now as a UT Dallas student, she has become a standout cyclist, finishing this past season in May with strong results at the 2015 USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals in Asheville, North Carolina.
Yan placed third in the criterium and individual time trial events, sixth in individual overall, and 13th in road race, a tight battle in which she led for 40 minutes and ended up only a fraction of a second behind the leader.
She was the only cyclist from UT Dallas who qualified for Women’s Division A, the top level of women’s collegiate cycling, and competed against other universities that have varsity teams.
Her national accomplishments came on the heels of the South Central Collegiate Cycling Conference event in New Orleans in April, where Yan won the women’s overall championship for Division A, beating cyclists from schools in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
As the overall points leader in her division, she retained the green jersey throughout the competitions.
“That was my goal for the year — to get the jersey,” Yan said, adding she may eventually give it to Richardson Bike Mart, a supporter of the UT Dallas Cycling and Triathlon club, to display on its wall of champions.
Yan’s cycling accomplishments took place while she carried an intense academic load. A biology sophomore in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, she has been accepted into the UT Partnership in Advancing Clinical Transition (UT-PACT) program, a collaborative effort between UT Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center that provides an enhanced curriculum to allow students to complete their bachelor’s degrees in biology in just three years before starting medical school.
Yet Yan still found time to serve as an officer for the cycling club, and put in 11 to 15 hours a week of training and weekend group rides around Dallas, Richardson and Fort Worth.
“Basically I bike, go to school, eat and sleep,” she said. “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like it when I don’t have anything to do. I’m supposed to take a day of rest now and then, but I’d rather go for a spin.”
Her long hours and miles of training came in handy when she faced the challenging hills in the national competitions in North Carolina.
“For 60 minutes in the criterium, you go around the lap as many times as possible. This one had sharper than 90-degree turns, then went uphill for 500 meters, then plummeted,” Yan said.
Yan (second from right) finished third in the individual time trial event at nationals. She was the only cyclist from UT Dallas who qualified for Women’s Division A, the top level of women’s collegiate cycling.
The road race consisted of two laps of 25 miles at altitudes much higher than Texas.
“You feel it on the climbs. I was off the front for about 40 minutes, but they caught up with me on the second lap,” she said.
Last fall, Yan joined Park Place Dallas Racing, an elite racing team that provided her with a bike, cycling outfit and covered her competition fees. She has raced most weekends since January.
The cycling community in Dallas-Fort Worth is “awesome,” Yan said. “There are lots of riders and events every week. DFW is known for criteriums or ‘crits’ (multiple-lap races on a closed short loop). There’s a large cyclist community here.”
While attending the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at the University of North Texas as a teenager, she learned about an area cycling club that was seeking female riders.
Yan already had purchased a road bike for $300 at a pawn shop on the square in Denton, but had little experience in the dynamics of cycling.
“I told them I knew nothing about it, but I really wanted to give it a try,” she said. “I was just 16 years old, hanging around with college students.”
“Basically I bike, go to school, eat and sleep. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like it when I don’t have anything to do. I’m supposed to take a day of rest now and then, but I’d rather go for a spin.”
The cycling team organizers took her under their wing, giving her cycling shoes and shorts, and fixing up her bike. Yan signed up for local criteriums, and before long, she was hooked.
Her goals for the UT Dallas cycling club include developing more Division A riders and participating in other racing disciplines, such as mountain biking and cyclocross, which includes laps on pavement, wooded trails, grass and steep hills that force the rider to dismount, carry the bike over obstacles and then continue.
At the conference competition in New Orleans, the club finished second in its division and third overall. Yan’s older sister, Stella, a May graduate in neuroscience and healthcare studies, placed first in the individual overall in Women’s Division B. Ryan Weeks placed first in the individual overall in Men’s Division D.
No matter the challenge, Yan finds it hard to beat the camaraderie of being on the road with other cyclists and the opportunity to master road tactics.
“Cycling is more social and dynamic of a sport than other activities I’ve pursued. Even in racing, many riders say it’s not always the strongest person who wins, but a combination of smarts and strength of the individual,” she said.