Former pro rider focuses on creating future for women in cycling
Special to The Union
Robin Farina is fearless.
With many cycling championship titles, a degree in Business, and a self-built coaching association under her belt, the former Olympic-level athlete has never been afraid of pushing herself to get what she wants, especially on a bike.
And despite her incredible achievements on the bike, Farina didn’t start competitively riding until she was in college. After an ACL tear in high school put her off soccer, she chose riding as her next sport.
“I was about 23 at the time, after dealing with re-injury and all that, and I was forced to pick up a bike or swim,” she said. “So I decided I was going to get a bike… The pool just didn’t sound enticing to me.”
Farina’s cycling career started on a mountain bike. At first, she mostly rode by herself for personal training and fun.
“But, as I started going out with more people,” Farina recalled, “they introduced me to mountain bike racing in the Tennessee league, TBRA.”
From there Farina dove head first into the world of cycling. A few years later, she transitioned to road racing — and absolutely loved it. The freedom and ability to push herself on a bike entranced her and she began training. The world of professional cycling opened up to her.
“I got to race the Tour of California race a couple of times, which was a lot of fun,” said Farina. “And now that I’m a NorCal resident, I really can appreciate getting to race in my hometown (since I travel a lot).”
In addition to the Tour of California, Farina raced in the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic and in the Tour de Gila, a stage race in New Mexico.
Then in 2011, she joined a women’s specific team called NOW and Novartis For MS. With the support and encouragement from coaches and fellow riders such as John Howard and Tina Pic (both legends in the cycling world), Farina went on to compete in road races in and outside of the United States.
But it was in late 2011 when Farina won one of the largest and most reputable races in the cycling world: the National Cycling Championships in Augusta, Georgia.
“It was a very special race for me,” said Farina. “It kind of put the icing on the cake on my career. I could retire happily after that, but I actually didn’t end up retiring.”
Farina went on to explain that winning the 2011 National Championships awarded her the ability to road race in the 2011 World Championships in Denmark and the 2011 Pan-American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Moreover, 2012 was an Olympic year, so Farina was granted with the incredible opportunity to be on the Olympic long team. The long team, she explained, was a collection of extra cyclists who were competing for a slot on the actual Olympic team.
Although Farina wasn’t ultimately chosen for the Olympic team, she went on to ride in several intense road races throughout Europe in 2012 and 2013. Her favorite races were in Italy, she recalled, because of her Italian heritage and the beautiful countryside she rode through.
However, in late 2015, Farina decided to retire from professional racing and focus on the coaching business she had started 2 years ago. Founded in 2013, the Women’s Cycling Association (WCA) is dedicated to helping create equality in women’s racing. Farina started the WCA to help up-and-coming riders make a living while riding.
“It’s providing a future for more women who want to race and ride,” said Farina. “I feel really strongly about developing our future riders — girls who want to ride professionally down the road. So I coach several of them. I really believe in helping people reach their goals, whether it’s athletically or in life.
“My coaching business is a thing I’ve always had, and I want to continue to grow that. And, so just by continuing to help riders that will stay in the sport.”
And although Farina is no longer racing professionally, she is riding road and cyclocross regularly. When asked about her future in cycling, she said, “I’ve become quite fond of cyclocross gravel racing and all the gravel rides, so I’ll continue to do those. There are new (gravel races) popping up every year. I definitely won’t stop (riding those).”
For more information about the WCA visit womenscyclingassociation.com.
Mina Ricci is a member of the Nevada Union Mountain Bike Club and a Nevada County resident. She is a regular contributor to The Union.
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