Pro Cyclist Sara Bergen Trains at the Mammoth Lakes Crib

Oct 20, 2020

Sara Bergen is pretty much your best friend as soon as you meet her. Or, you kind of wish she was. The 30-year-old Canadian cyclist is instantly disarming, sitting cross-legged on a stool in the kitchen of the Mammoth Lakes Crib, leaning into a conversation peppered with low key curse words, telling the story of how she found cycling.

Sara Bergen’s Accidental Cycling Career

“I’ve always been a child of the outdoors, to be honest,” she says with a hint of sarcasm. When Bergen was finishing her degree in architectural engineering in Vancouver, British Columbia, she had her accidental start to her biking career. “I used to commute on my hardtail mountain bike, which I thought was like, the coolest.”

There was a Gran Fondo near Vancouver that year, and Bergen decided to compete, her only training being that commute to school (15.5 miles each way). She had a little bit of grant money left over from her studies, so she used it to buy her first road bike—a Canondale SuperSix—and entered the race.

“I literally had no clue what I was doing,” says Bergen, but “a part of me always wanted to race. I’ve always been competitive.”

She finished fourth.

After the race, Bergen started attending spin classes with a local triathlete (Canadian Rachel McBride). McBride asked Bergen what she was training for. “I said, ‘I don’t know, I want to bike race. Do you know where I could start?’” McBride suggested Bergen check out a group ride run by her boyfriend.

“I turned up,” Bergen said, “and the rest is history.”

Apparently, the mere fact that Bergen stayed with the group was a testament to her general badassery. “They said, ‘You’re still with us? Okay, come on, we’ll show you the ways.’” That was six years ago. Bergen’s been pro since 2017, according to her profile on Rally UHC Cycling’s website, the Minneapolis-based team she rides for. She’s represented Canada at the last three Cycling World Championships (with a fourth on the horizon in September in Yorkshire, England).

Cycling on an International Level

She’s kind of a big deal. Especially in Europe.

“The Belgians and the Dutch are huge, well, fanboys, for lack of a better term,” says Bergen. “You go to Belgium and people have literally printed out your face, and they’re like, sign your face! And sometimes the pictures they take are not the most flattering. So someone shows up with a photo of you looking totally disheveled and you’re like, ‘Okay, I’ll sign this.’”

Bergen has even been asked for her unwashed cycling jersey. “Like, can I have this? No, no, you can’t.”

Cycling fanboys: Totally a thing. “Host nations or host cities at the World Championships level do it as a big tourism draw,” says Bergen, who likens a course to one of those twirly rainbow lollipops. This layout makes the route especially spectator-friendly—all the better to wave photos of cyclists’ faces.

Cycling has taken Bergen to some really wild locations—her first World Championships was in Quatar, United Arab Emirates, where the course traversed a manufactured island. She’s slept in bunk beds at a horse camp in Europe, “posh dorm rooms” in London, and a beautiful Arkansas country home owned by a volunteer from a church group. “It’s lucky I’m really into random stuff.”

Finding Her Work-Bike Balance

All this and Bergen has still kept her day job at the architecture firm Perkins+Will. “It’s pretty sweet, because as long as I’ve been there, I’ve ridden bikes, so there’s been this evolution of ‘work bike balance.’”

Currently, Bergen is on hiatus. She’ll return to work in the fall, after the World Championships.

“They’ve been super supportive” of the second career she stumbled into, and, considering that training is a full-time job, Bergen is stoked her bosses are so understanding. “A big week [of training] would be like 35 hours on the bike. Then, the next week, you just nap!”

Life at the Mammoth Lakes Crib

During her time in Mammoth Lakes, Bergen has done some epic training at 8,000 feet next to the enormous snow berms that are the result of “Februburied”.

And her time at the Mammoth Lakes Crib was has been pretty luxurious—she’s been the only one staying in the condo, and the kitchen is way tidier than when the Argentinian Snowboard Team was staying in The Crib. She’s spent her spare time mostly eating (she raved about a decadent cookie from Dessert’d Organic Bake Shop) and “just literally walking around Mammoth Lakes.”

Bergen, who’d never visited the Eastern Sierra before, wondered at the end of her stay whether Mammoth Lakes would adopt her.

Mammoth Lakes would be happy to, Sara.

“I’m like, how do I move here? I feel like I’m just getting a taste of it,” she said. “Mammoth Lakes now holds a super special place in my heart.”

Sarah Rea

Sarah Rea has lived in the Sierra for 20 years (eight in Yosemite and seven so far in Mammoth Lakes), but has been eating cast iron skillet pancakes for most of her life. She learned how to make soap from bacon grease when she was four and has always loved picking wild berries. She thinks…

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