Interview with Beatriz Rodriguez – From Wolfpack Hustle to U23 National Criterium Champion caught up with Beatriz Rodriguez, who rides for the SC Velo/Empower Coaching Systems Women’s Team, and races both road and cyclocross. Bea got her start in cycling by riding with the Wolfpack Hustle through the streets of LA on Monday nights. A few years later, she went on to win the U23 National Criterium Championships in Anaheim, then went back to her roots to win the Wolfpack Hustle Drag Race a few weeks ago, which was held in Downtown LA’s iconic 2nd Street Tunnel. How did you get into cycling and how long have you been riding for?

Bea Rodriguez: I’ve been riding bikes for as long as can remember, but up until about 2006 they were all Magna’s and Huffy’s. That’s when I purchased an old 7-speed, downtube-shifter Diamond Back Expert TG (made by Centurion) and was hooked on skinny tires. Shortly after, I got a Specialized Langster fixed gear and soon jumped into the LA bike scene. There was no going back. The guys at a shop in Fullerton called the Bicycle Lane took me under their wing and set me up on one of their back up cross bikes and I went on my first off road ride. They were betting on how far into the 14 mile loop I would give up, but I made it the whole way. I did my first cross races and ended up with a Bear Jersey in my first racing season. It was AWESOME! You won the Wolfpack Hustle Drag Race a few weeks ago, tell us about your win and your riding history with the Wolfpack Hustle.

Bea Rodriguez: When I started racing, Wolfpack wasn’t just another night ride. It was a training ride. In LA, there are social rides (beer drinking, music, etc.), social awareness rides (i.e. Critical Mass which promotes bikes on the street), and then there’s Wolfpack! Wolfpack is the fastest night ride in LA. The people that ride Wolfpack want to go as fast as they can. Track bikes, carbon road bikes, vintage NJS and vintage Italian road bikes, bib shorts, cut-offs: it’s all good as long as you can make it to the next stop on Roadblock’s crazy routes. The Wolfpack Hustle it the weekly race for a lot of people that are just trying to push themselves as hard as they can. In the morning,g everyone goes back to their regular lives, but on Monday nights the streets of LA get lit by the lights of a speeding paceline.

[SlideDeck2 id=3367] Do you prefer Crits or Road races and how do you train for them?

Bea Rodriguez: I will take a Crit over a Road Race any day. Crits are fast and technical, with moves happening in the blink of an eye and strategy always at play. A typical training week has long rides, as well as short, more intense efforts like sprint and short interval workouts. The best training for Crits is racing Crits! Racing every weekend and doing training crits like El Dorado or the Pomona/SC Velo Tuesday night crit definitely sharpens your skills. You won the U23 National Criterium Championiship in 2008,  how has that changed you as a role model for women’s cycling?

Bea Rodriguez: 2008 was a very exciting year for me. It was my first full season of racing and I feel like I had learned so much thanks to all the people on SC Velo, especially Betsy Bloom and Dom Galenti. I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again, I wouldn’t be where I am and I would have never found myself sprinting for that National title if it wasn’t for all the people that helped me along the way. I never thought of myself as a role model because of that title because it happened so early in my career. I am always willing to give feedback to people that approach me, but I also realize I still have so much to learn. What are your favorite rides to do and do you like to train alone or with someone?

Bea Rodriguez: I love doing long rides that really challenge me. I love riding in the San Gabriel mountains. Climbs like Mt. Baldy and Crystal Lake are extremely challenging, but they are also so beautiful (and you see a good amount of wildlife if you get out early enough). I have a group I ride with on Wednesdays and I sometimes ride with groups on Tuesday nights and Saturdays, but for the most part I ride alone. With a lot of the women that race working and/or going to school, it hard to get together and train. You have gotten to race some of the NRC races, such as the Cascade Cycling Classic and the Redlands Classic the past few years. How do these races compare to a local women’s race and do you have any tips for riders looking to make the jump to competing in the bigger NRC races?

Bea Rodriguez: National Race Calendar races are at a different level. The majority of the women at NRC races are professional athletes. This means they are the best of the best and as soon, as a race starts, everyone is racing. Locally, a lot of women have work, school, and family to attend to on top of training and staying in shape for the weekend races. For most of the women at the NRC level, riding and racing is their job. A day on the bike is a day at the office. NRC races push you to the limit, inspire you to keep training, keep working harder and harder. I really feel that we are very fortunate in SoCal to have such a high caliber of athletes in the local race scene. It really is awesome to be far from home and see some of the local girls, suffering, pushing themselves so hard to compete at such a high level. You have ridden with the SC Velo Women’s Team for quite a while, tell us about the program and why it is a good fit for you.

Bea Rodriguez: When I joined SC Velo, Dom Galenti, one of the owners of Incycle was the first to offer me advice and mentor me through some of the racing strategies and made sure I “rode in the drops.” He introduced me to Betsy Bloom, who was a Category 1/2 racer. She was absolutely key in my first full season of racing. She taught me to race smart and showed me how much strategy and mental work goes on even during a short 45 minute Crit. The whole of the SC Velo club has been a blessing for a new rider. They also have a very strong Junior program, and all the parents and supporters of that program are great. What are your long-term goals in cycling?

Bea Rodriguez: I would like to take cycling as far as I can. I have been very fortunate and have had so many people help and guide me all these years. I’d like to continue to develop as a cyclist and compete at a higher level. In the next couple years, I hope to be part of a professional team. I would also like to see the sport grow, especially the women’s peloton. I hope that I can show others that you can follow your passion and do something great for yourself and those around you. What riders influenced you to race and who has been instrumental in your success?

Bea Rodriguez: When I started racing I didn’t know any of the professional riders. I was inspired by the group rides in LA and LA messengers racing alley cats. Soon after, I stopped in at the now closed Bicycle Lane bike shop and they convinced me to race cyclocross. Marty Taylor, Jesse Sims, and Rich. During cyclocross, Dorothy Wong offered me a spot on her team and mentored me through part of the cyclocross season. Dom Galenti and Betsy Bloom mentored me and taught me a huge deal about racing. My boyfriend, Dennis Gonzales, has been the biggest supporter of my cycling career. He has been there for me since the beginning, He’s been there for me through the good times and the bad times. What would you like to see to improve in women’s cycling to get more women into racing?

Bea Rodriguez: I would simply like to see more women racing on the weekends. I would like to see a race scene where young new racers are not intimidated by the older, more experienced riders. There are some truly amazing women racing today and there is so much to take from their experience. I was one of those young new riders and I was so lucky to have been mentored and guided along the way. The season is winding down, how do you plan to stay fit but still have fun in the off-season?

Bea Rodriguez: I plan on doing cyclocross in the off-season. It keeps me in shape and helps with handling skills. It’s painful, but it is so much fun. There’s really nothing like it. I’ll also mountain bike and hike, as well as do some fun bike rides, the kind with no real training purpose, but enjoying the ride. Thanks for your time Bea and good luck with the ‘cross season!

Top Photo © Christy Nicholson /

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