Women’s Cycling Interview: New USA Cycling Racer Melissa Tabas
Melissa Tabas’s very first racing season was in 2013. As a new rider, she offers some practical, down-to-earth advice about getting started and the joys of baking-as-reward.
Name: Melissa Tabas
Hometown: Haverford, Pennsylvania
Residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Work: Inside sales representative at Advanced Sports International
What are some of your earliest memories about bikes? What brought you to the sport of cycling?
My earliest memories were riding bikes down the shore with my family. But my most vivid pre-becoming-cycling-nut memories are of me refusing to ride bikes with my family because I despised cycling so much. Boy, a lot has changed since then.
What brought me back to cycling was a back injury I sustained while running. I ran competitively in college, and when I hurt my back plus a number of other injuries I started riding as cross training. And I really liked it, I started riding with a great group of guys from the college cycling team and they convinced me to give racing a try.
What do you love about bike racing? What is it about bike racing that motivates you to put in all the hard work and endure the suffering that goes along with it?
I love how in the moment you need to be, always reacting to what other people, the race, and your own body throws at you. You get to test yourself and see what all that hard work was for. Some days you got it and some days you don’t, but that’s part of the fun.
This year was my first year racing cyclo-cross, and each race brought a new set of obstacles but also a new chance to see how much I improved from the race before. I got to see how much some hard work and new found bike-handling skills could improve my results. In my first CX race this year I finished 30th, and by the end of the season I was consistently in the top of my races, finishing with a 2nd place in the women’s cat 3/4 race at the Pennsylvania State Championships. Yes, I would have like to have won, but being the first cat 4 finisher was pretty cool for my first year. And there is always room to improve for next year.
Where do you enjoy riding your bike the most?
Dirt or gravel roads. I don’t really have a specific place that I ride that is my favorite. I really enjoy exploring and getting a bit dirty while doing it.
What advice would you give an aspiring cyclist?
My advice would be to get involved. Go on club rides and talk to your local shop about local rides. Seeing a group or “pro”-looking, Lycra-clad cyclists can be kind of intimidating, but they love introducing people to the sport and can be the best support for someone just starting to get serious. Getting involved in group rides has not only made me a much stronger rider but has introduced me to some of my really good friends. Something that you will find out about most cyclists is that they want to get more people involved. Enthusiasm for the sport is contagious.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start racing? What advice do you give to women who are new to riding a bike?
Advice to someone who wants to start racing is just do it! It’s not that scary and a lot of fun. You will never know everything about racing but you learn a whole lot more by actually doing it rather than just talking about it.
My advice to new riders is don’t let yourself get intimidated. Everyone started somewhere, and there is always room to improve.
What is your biggest cycling goal?
Like everyone who races bikes, my biggest goal is to win races, but in truth the thing that I would most like to achieve is strength and skill in all genres of riding. Whether it be road, cyclo-cross, mountain or track, I want to be comfortable riding all of them. Being fast at all of them would also be pretty awesome, too!
What cycling accomplishment are you most proud of?
The cycling accomplishment I am most proud of is completing this ultra-cross race here in Pennsylvania called Iron Cross. It’s a 60+ mile gravel, singletrack, and road ride/race, and, oh yes, LOTS of climbing. No, I didn’t win, nor did I place particularly well, but when I finished it was such an accomplishment. I have had much better results on the bike but nothing that really solidified my love for cycling as finishing this.
It was by far the hardest ride I ever done, but it was also one of the most fun. From the minute I finished, after a very long day on the bike, all my friends and I were talking about was how we couldn’t wait to do it next year. For me, that is what cycling is all about, taking something that seems almost impossible and doing it and then doing it again just better. Having some fun along the way is also a pretty amazing plus.
Other than race results, what kind of impression do you want to leave on the world of cycling?
I want to help more people get involved and excited about the sport. Men or ladies, just really getting butts on bikes. Cycling has really given me a lot of great opportunities career wise as well as personally, and I want to pass that on to others.
What is your favorite non-cycling activity?
I was originally a runner and still love going trail running.
What do you do in your downtime?
Baking! I have the biggest sweet tooth and love experimenting with new recipes. My friends are also very appreciative of this hobby. I post a lot of photos of my final products on my Instagram page so if you are interested in drooling over some food pictures follow me @mtabas.
What kind of offseason vacations do you take?
There is no offseason… but really I love traveling in Europe. Great history, museums, food and shopping; seriously, what could be better.
If you weren’t a cyclist, what would you be doing?
Being lazy somewhere, but in truth I have no idea what I would be doing. Hopefully, I would have found something I enjoy as much as cycling and would be doing that.
What non-cycling athletes or teams do you root for?
I am a big follower of professional running. My favorites are Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, and Shalane Flanagan.
Do you have a nickname?
No nickname, just Melissa or Tabas or even both sometimes.
What’s your favorite movie/book/song/dance move?
Favorite Movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Gene Wilder NOT Johnny Depp
Favorite Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Favorite Song: Is always changing
Dance Move: Being 5’10” and mostly limbs makes me a terrible dancer, so no signature moves, but a series of super-dorky-I-get-really-into-it-moments
If you were on the Price Is Right, what would your dream Showcase Showdown be?
Sorry, no idea what this is.
- Get to Know the Women of American Cycling - Jun 13, 2014