UT Dallas Cyclist Overcomes Setback to Clinch National Championship
June 24, 2016
UT Dallas cyclist Flora Yan BS’16 (center) dons the stars-and-stripes jersey at the 2016 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships.
Despite needing a last-minute, emergency bike repair, Flora Yan BS’16 captured the women’s individual time trial for Division II in the 2016 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, held recently in western North Carolina.
She competed in the mid-May event with about 400 other collegiate riders from 100 schools in 40 states. Yan took the gold medal for her event with a time of 29:56.49, more than 30 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
But it didn’t come easily. Yan, who has served as an officer in the UT Dallas Cycling and Triathlon Club, had to overcome an unexpected obstacle to nab the win.
When she landed in North Carolina for the three-day competition, Yan discovered a major snag: the hanger for the rear derailleur — the part of her bike that shifts the gears — snapped off right before her second race, a criterium.
Yan figures the hanger may have gotten bent when she shipped it from Dallas to the race site. Race organizers provided her with a neutral support bike, a spare bike used for such emergencies, but it wasn’t the same as using her own equipment that she had trained on for countless hours.
“I took it out to ride, to get comfortable on it. There was a long downhill, followed by a 45-degree turn in the race that I was worried about. I didn’t feel the best on it, but tried to make do,” Yan said of the substitute bike.
Yan called her bike mechanic at Sun & Ski in Dallas for help. He contacted a counterpart at the Sun & Ski shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, to find a replacement part for Yan’s bike.
“I came to UT Dallas for the biology program, but I didn’t know how much I’d be involved in the cycling club. It’s really been incredible seeing the club develop and seeing people grow as riders and individuals”
Meanwhile, Yan said she made a tactical error in her first race event. Coming into the final 800-meter stretch of the road race, she was part of a group of eight competitors in the lead when one of the cyclists began to sprint.
“You usually want to wait to sprint at about 200 meters. For some reason, I immediately chased a flier at 800 meters, and was able to pass her. But in the last 50 meters, others started to pass me by,” Yan said.
Using the substitute bike for the next day’s criterium, Yan came in fifth. Her confidence shaken, Yan decided to drive two hours to Charlotte to have her own bike repaired.
Back in her familiar saddle again, Yan went on to win the individual time trial at 29:56.49 on the final day, beating her 2015 time by three minutes.
“I felt like I still had something to prove. It was unbelievable. I’m super excited and happy,” Yan said.
Yan, who graduated through the UT Partnership in Advancing Clinical Transition (UT-PACT), will head to UT Southwestern Medical School this fall. The program, a collaborative effort between UT Dallas and UT Southwestern, provides an enhanced curriculum so that students complete their bachelor’s degrees in biology in just three years before starting medical school.
With a heavier course load coming up, Yan expects to scale back on her riding time, but it’s hard to imagine her ever giving up cycling. She’s been riding since she was a teenager, has participated in numerous races, helped build the UT Dallas cycling club and is still active with Park Place Dallas Racing.
“Riding my bike keeps me sane. I really can’t function without it,” Yan said. “I’ll probably be riding on the trainer more often, doing more high intensity work with less available time, and I will definitely have to be more selective about races, because of all the travel time.
“I came to UT Dallas for the biology program, but I didn’t know how much I’d be involved in the cycling club. It’s really been incredible seeing the club develop and seeing people grow as riders and individuals,” Yan said.