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Fast Mamas

Scenic City Velo Taco Mamacita’s balances cycling with the demands of motherhood, careers, and life

“My kids are 9 and 6. They’re not competitive at all. I tried to push them, tried to get them into cycling. But then I realized it’s not their passion—it’s my passion. That was the pushing point for me,” says Melanie Singer, cyclist of Scenic City Velo Taco Mamacita’s, a women’s competitive cycling team based in Chattanooga, TN. “I realized this was my dream.”

Participating in a competitive cycling team is no simple task. It requires training, attention to nutrition, and then balancing with a full-time job, family, and the normal demands of life. The ladies of Taco Mamacita are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, marketing professionals, engineers, professors, and a variety of other professions.

“When you want this, you’ve really got to want this,” says Singer. “I make a plan, and I have to stick with it to fit in the training. I’m up at 6 a.m. for a ride, and we’ll do night rides together. Or there’s days like today when I’m doing a ride during my lunch break in the rain, and I’ve got to be back and dressed by 2 p.m. It’s a lot of trouble, but I know I’ll be happier if I ride today, and that allows me to be home tonight for homework and baths and the bedtime routine.”

It’s a balancing act, but to members of the Taco Mamacita’s team, it’s worth it. The team is comprised of mothers, singles, some newly married, some divorced, all led by directeur sportif Steve Lewis. The youngest cyclist is 26, with the oldest in her 50s. And though they range in age and skill levels, they all share a love of the sport and for each other.

“That’s what women’s bike racing is all about,” says Singer. “You compete with yourself, you compete as a team, but you support every woman out there.”

Singer mentions a time that one teammate, Krystal Burnham, was competing at the River Gorge Omnium. Burnham was known as an incredible CAT 4 racer and was favored to win the omnium. The time trial was about to begin, and Burnham was preparing to ride when she realized that she had locked her keys in the car. She had her bike, but no shoes, no helmet, and no socks

“Two things struck me right then,” says Singer. “First, Krystal was incredibly calm. She jumped straight to, ‘Okay, what can I do to fix this?’ And then all around her, the women started collecting things for her—women who were about to compete against her. It was like everyone dropped everything and said, ‘Let’s take care of Krystal.’”

That day, Burnham took first place in the time trial, first place in the criterium, and ended up winning overall.

It’s a seemingly paradoxical combination—each cyclist’s individual drive and motivation, paired with the tight-knit camaraderie—that makes women’s racing so distinctive.

“Every ride, we create stories and memories. The races are so intense. Afterward, we sit and replay everything. Once you go through that with someone, you build a really strong bond,” says Singer. “I’m a better mother because I have this outlet, these friends, this sport.”