Jennie Reed was introduced to cycling by her father Duane at the age of 16, however, it wasn’t love at first site…Joining Duane on endurance rides from Bellevue to the Snoqualmie Summit along the I-90 was not Jennie’s idea of a fun way to spend her Saturday.
She wasn’t keen to tag along on those rides and actually Jennie remembers thinking, “I must not be a very good athlete”, as, no matter how hard she tried, she could not keep up with Duane and her older sister Laura on the long uphill rides and would always have to turn around before her dad and sister.
Things changed when Laura started racing competitively on the road and then on the local velodrome in Redmond. Jennie loved riding her bike just not for hours on end, up a hill. What she was witnessing on the velodrome seemed right up her alley – more power, more speed and breaks between races! Jennie immediately enrolled in a track class and was hooked after her first day.
The Junior National Championships happened to be taking place at the Marymoor Velodrome in Redmond only two months after Jennie’s first track class and with the support of her club team, Gregg’s Green Lake Cycles; Jennie was literally brought up to speed! Despite never previously racing on the velodrome, Jennie won both the Match Sprint and 2km Pursuit titles at Junior Nationals and she would then go on to compete at the Junior World Championships later in 1995 and again in 1996.
After graduating from Issaquah High School in ’96 and returning from her 2nd Junior World Championships, Jennie did what every 18 year old would do and enrolled at the University of Washington. It was during her first quarter at UW that she received a call from the US National Track Cycling Sprint Team coach Andrzej Bek. He had seen her race at the Junior World Championships the previous two years and he believed she had the skills to be part of the National Team.
In February 1997 Jennie joined the National Team and competed in her first Match Sprint EDS event in San Diego. She won her first ever Match Sprint Race as a member of the National Team after her opponent floated out of the sprint lane and Jennie instinctively dove underneath and left her opponent in the dust. At this point Andrzej exclaimed, “Baby, you’ve got it!”
Jennie would go on to race at the international level for 15 years as part of the National Team and race in the Olympic Games three times, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Despite rarely participating in the National Championships, she would win 14 National Titles and compile over 30 International World Cup Medals during her career, capped with a World Title in the Keirin in 2008 and an Olympic Silver Medal in Team Pursuit at the 2012 London Games. Jennie also is the only American woman to win a World Championship Medal in both endurance and sprint events on the velodrome.
During her first few years of racing on the international level, Jennie dreamed of two things; making an Olympic team and winning a World Championship Title. Never would have she fathomed that she would win a World Title and compete in three different Olympic Games, but that is exactly what she achieved during her cycling career.
And not only that, but at her 3rd Olympic Games, after retiring as a World Champion sprinter in 2008, Jennie would come out of retirement and help the US Women’s Team Pursuit Team to a Silver Medal in an endurance event at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
After the completion of the semi-final race against Australia, many described the battle between the US and Aussie women as the “Race of the Olympics”. The Australian women opened up a 1.701 second lead after seven of 12 laps were complete and both teams were far exceeding the pace they had set during the qualifying round the previous day. With four laps remaining the US had clawed back 1/2 a second but still had a 1.128 second deficit to overcome.
With each passing lap the US women chipped away. With three laps to go, the Aussie lead had dipped to .874 seconds, with two laps remaining it was down to .677 seconds and entering the final lap the US women were within .112 of a second. When the final gun was fired at the finish line of the 3km semi-final, Jennie and her teammates had done the unthinkable. They had fought back and beaten the Australians by a miniscule .082 seconds!
The time posted by the US team was a 3:16.853, which shattered the US record set the previous day by over 2.5 seconds. The team had averaged nearly 57km/hr during the ride and Jennie had never been in more pain than that she felt getting off the bike after the semi-final ride. Remember, in previous Olympics and for most of Jennie’s career, she competed in a race that lasted just over 10 seconds. She was the equivalent of a 100M sprinter in track and field but the sprinter had now just secured an Olympic Silver Medal in a 3 minute event!
During her first few years of racing on the international level, Jennie dreamed of two things; making an Olympic team and winning a World Championship Title.
Every cyclist that races dreams of pulling the coveted World Championship Jersey over their head, sometimes even more so than going to the Olympics.
The Olympic dream would come true in 2004 as Jennie was named to her first Olympic team and competed in the Match Sprints, finishing 10th, at the Games in Athens, Greece. However, it wouldn’t be until four years later that Jennie would achieve the pinnacle of her sport by winning the Keirin World Championship Title in Manchester, UK.
Jennie had been on the podium in many World Cups and at previous World Championships during her racing career, but never had made it to the top step. Finally, in 2008, after competing for 12 years against the fastest women in the world, Jennie was able to take her place on the top step and pull a World Champion Jersey over her head!! Her result also secured her place on her 2nd Olympic team but it was the coveted “rainbow stripes” that completed her cycling dreams.
Jennie was the first ever, and still is the only U.S. woman to win the World Championship in the Keirin!
There are so many more levels of pain that you can tolerate. You can always dig deeper.
© 2013 Jennie Reed Foundation