Amy D Foundation returns to the Gila without Mara Abbott, but ushering in the next generation of talent. Founded in the memory of Amy Dombrowski, the composite team encourages and supports young women in cycling, pursuing their dreams in the sport. We sat down with one of their youngest members, 19-year-old Aliya Traficante from Chico, California, to chat about the Homestretch Foundation in Tucson and her expectations ahead of her first time racing at the Tour of the Gila.
Gila: How did you get the call up with Amy D?
It happened all at the Homestretch actually, I have a really good friend, Amber Pierce, that was staying there. I wanted to do these races, Joe Martin and Gila, I’ve never done them before, and also Redlands to start getting myself out on the scene. I told Amber this, and she put me in contact with Amy D because it’s a great program. So I have been sending out my info to any teams that need guest riders. I was fortunate to get a spot at Joe Martin. First it was seeming like it wouldn’t happen and then it did, I was so happy!
G: How old are you and when did you start racing? What is it like racing in the pro ranks?
I’m 19 and I started racing when I was 12. It’s much different from being a junior and racing locally to coming here. It’s like learning to race your bike all over again. I’ve had a couple of experiences with it. I knew what to expect, but also I’ve been approaching the season a little bit differently where I typically race every single weekend and now I’ve been building specifically for these types of races because they’re so intense. Going into it, at first, I didn’t know what to expect out of myself compared to these women. I knew the level of competition was going to be like; it was going to be hard
G: What type of rider do you classify yourself as?
I’m pretty much an all-arounder. I can do a little bit of everything.
G: You’ve been here for a few days, what are some of the stages you’ve been able to recon? What stage are you looking forward to?
I got here April 6 but before then, I have been staying in Tucson at the Homestretch Foundation house, with Kathryn Bertine. I’ve been there for the last three months or so, training and preparing for the season. Emma Grant is also from the Homestretch, she’s going to be racing. There are a lot of connections that I’ve made, really great people. Also, that I’m excited to race with them because we’ve also, especially with Amber and Emma, we’ve grown close friendships so it’s more of this camaraderie of like I’m racing with my friends, it’s going to be fun.
G: Where does the Gila fall in with all those races?
It’s been a classic race that you hear of when you start racing. It’s part of the ProTour circuit, its something you always heard about to be one of the most grueling stage races in the US, so of course that appeals to me.
G: Is there anyone you’re excited to race against?
I’m excited to race, I’ve grown connections with a lot of the riders being in Tucson, and also riders I looked up to when I was younger like Lindsay Myers from Team TIBCO, she’s from the Butte County Area in Northern California. Lindsay had always been great when I was a junior, giving me tips and she’s here. I’ve been able to race with her a little bit more on the circuit and other riders that I know like, Leah Thomas who is also from NorthCal too. Then, Amber Pierce is coming back to race as well; I can’t stress how great she’s been to me.
G: When do you meet the rest of your teammates? Is it hard jumping into a team like that when you don’t know the other riders?
It can be, you’re always a little worried that it would be. From my experiences, I’ve had a few guest ride experiences. Typically, most of the people who are looking to go to these races, looking to guest ride, all have a similar perspective – wanting to work hard, very motivated. So you have those common characteristics, no matter what at least you can respect each other for that. Usually, it’s a good environment.
After Gila, you’re going to Redlands and just see what happens after that?
I will be racing with my team, Folsom Bike at Redlands. I’ve been gone from North Cal for a while so I’m happy I get to see my teammates and race with them for the first time in a while. After that, Cascade is on the radar, my team will go and do that. I’d like to do NorthStar or any other NRC races I can get my hands on. Mostly the rest of the season will be focused on racing locally at home.