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Rediscovering Freedom with Professional Cyclist Ingrid Drexel

by | Feb 20, 2019 | podcast | 1 comment

I am going to keep cycling because I love it, not because people are expecting something from me.

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About This Episode

Like many, Ingrid Drexel grew up playing all different kinds of sports. From basketball to volleyball, she loved being active and her parents encouraged extracurricular activities that would help her learn about teamwork and perseverance. But it wasn’t until she first got on a bike that Ingrid came to understand true freedom. In this episode of the Hope Sports show, she shares that she would pedal around town and through the mountains, fully immersed in nature and overwhelmed with the liberty to go anywhere in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. It’s this sense of freedom that made her fall in love with the sport, and rediscovering that joy would be critical to bringing her back through moments when she considered abandoning her dreams.

It was after a cycling camp that a coach approached her parents and encouraged them to invest in Ingrid’s obvious natural abilities. With a better bike and a list of races, her family began road-tripping around Mexico. She started winning race after race after race and at only 14, she was invited to be a part of the Junior National Team and compete in the Pan American games – a spot normally only available to someone over the age of 17. She spent her teen years balancing a budding cycling career and her desire to be a “normal” teenager. She even took three months off of racing completely to attend all of the sleepovers, school dances, and parties that she wanted to, but found it all unfulfilling in the end. Traveling around the nation had matured her and she had dreams of cycling internationally, getting a degree, and taking advantage of the unique opportunity before her. Back on the bike, she picked up where she left off and her success landed her Mexico’s only spot in road cycling for the London Olympic games.

Ingrid was in awe of the entire experience at her first Olympics. From being honored at the President’s house in Mexico, to traveling with other Olympians from her nation, to the enormity of the athlete village at the games, the experience was almost overwhelming. Having been pulled from the junior circuit to compete, she didn’t even know her own rivals, most of whom competed professionally. As a solo rider for her country she tried not to be intimidated by the nations with full teams, but when she pulled up to the starting line for her race and it began to rain, she realized that her real rival would be Mother Nature. Having done the majority of her training and racing in Mexico, Ingrid had never once ridden in the rain, much less raced. She was able to stay with the Peloton in the early section of the race but was taken down with another twenty riders when someone else crashed on a tight turn. Determined to represent her nation and finish the race, Ingrid dug her bike from the disorder of spokes and wheels. When the snow turned to hail and the verbal discouragement from other riders weighed heavy on her, still she pedaled on. She finished the race frozen, exhausted, and outside of the time limit, but still proud to have represented her nation even if she had to do it alone.

Not long after the Olympics offers came in from professional teams and Ingrid signed with her first European team. The learning curve was steep, though. A new continent, unfamiliar language, different coaching style, and increased race distance all left her feeling defeated and lonely. She was used to competing in 20 races each year and upped that number to 30 races in just three months. She pushed herself harder mentally and physically than she ever had before, but the results just weren’t there. In fact, the more she demanded of her body the less it seemed to perform and the more discouraged she became. Comments from her coaches about losing weight spurred her to develop an eating disorder and, at one point, she didn’t even have the strength to complete races. Negativity was an internal refrain that followed her on and off the course, in training, and throughout her personal life. Despite feeling she would be perceived as weak, Ingrid finally reached out to a sports psychologist and a nutritionist. With their help, she began what would be a one and a half year journey back to herself. She realized that she needed to listen to her body and fuel it properly. She began validating rest and relaxation. And, most importantly, she faced the negative self-talk that had been crippling her performance all along. The judgment and pressure she carried from herself and others could never be overcome with more extreme training or improved performance – it had to come from acceptance of who she was apart from cycling.

As her recovery gained momentum, so did her career. Her hard work paid off when her international ranking again earned Mexico one spot at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But just because she won the spot for her nation did not mean her name was attached to it. In a surprising move, the Mexican Olympic Committee decided to wager the spot on the results of just one race. Unfortunately for Ingrid, in that very race she experienced a technical failure with her bike and ended up changing bikes three times before finishing in fifth place and losing her the Olympic seat. To further the blow, the Committee didn’t even honor their commitment to the athlete who won and gave the spot to an entirely different rider. Frustrated and disheartened, Ingrid returned home and left her bike in its box, unsure when, if ever, she’d get back on it.

Despite losing the bid to the Olympics, calls came in one after another for her to join other professional teams. “I just decided that I was going to do what I loved just because I loved it, not because people were expecting something from me,” Ingrid shares to Laura on the show. She signed with an American team in California and 2017 turned into her most successful year. Rather than placing all of her worth and value on her performance as a cyclist, Ingrid poured into other areas of her life. She finished her degree in International Business, found younger athletes to mentor, and got married. She still has hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics, but recognizes that she can only do her best. Rather than being dispirited that the decision it is out of her hands, she knows, “being an Olympian doesn’t define who I am.” She now rides for herself, for the fun of it, and for the sense of freedom that she experienced all those years ago.

For more about Ingrid, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

Read Episode Transcript

laura:

[00:00:05] Welcome to the Hope Sports Podcast where high caliber athletes share about their triumphs and their struggles on their journey toward purpose. I’m your host Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Today we’re speaking with Ingrid Drexel a professional cyclist from Mexico. Like many of us, Ingrid hopped on a bike as a young kid and found herself inspired by the freedom she felt zipping around town with the wind in her hair. As her love of cycling grew so did her opportunities. And she’s been traveling around the world competing internationally for eight years now. Her story includes victories disappointments and challenges. And she shares it all with us here on today’s show. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.

 

[00:00:44] Ingrid Drexel I’m so excited you could join us for the Hope Sports Podcast today!

 

Ingrid:

[00:00:48] Thank you Laura. Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be able to have a chance to share some of my story with the people there are hearing of. And yeah. Thank you.

 

Laura:

[00:01:00] for those listening that may not be familiar with your story. How did you kind of get started into sports like how did it all begin?

 

Ingrid:

[00:01:07] So first of all my family like my parents were always the kind of parents that wanted us to do something like extracurricular activities besides school. They wanted to keep us like active during the day. Nothing like it was not like you must do these or you have to do this. It was mostly like just a start. Like for me you know forming us as a kid. And so they just wanted us to do any activities. And so we chose like why we wanted to do so before finding that cycling was my passion. I did like I don’t know really like a different sports because I went into one.

 

Laura:

[00:01:45] Oh really?

 

Ingrid:

[00:01:46] Yeah. I went into one and I was like No mom I don’t like this and she was like okay just another thing you know. So I jumped from one sport to another I did like tennis, swimming, ballet, basket and I’m tall. So they want me to be on the basketball team because of my height but I just didn’t like it. I just think with large balls and stuff. So no. And then I did taekwondo for a long time actually. I liked it but then there was this summer a friend called me and she was like Hey there’s a summer camp cycling summer camp. Like do you want to join? And I’m like yeah sure. And I was 8 at the time so I don’t know I just discovered that that’s what I liked. And like I guess the adrenaline of being on the bike and the sensation and the freedom and like the wind in your skin. I don’t know I just liked it and I stuck to it ever since.

 

Laura:

[00:02:41] Well so is it like cycling what you see at the Olympic or the big tour levels right from the beginning or was it different when you were younger?

 

Ingrid:

[00:02:48] No. I think it was really different I don’t think that I knew about all of that when I was 8. Like I just liked the idea and I know how to call it but just the way I felt being on the bike and like riding on the parks and like true then nature and like the mountains or whatever. I know it was pretty cool and then I went there with some friends so it was also like good company and stuff. So yeah. I think I didn’t even know about the Grand Tours and like even you could be a professional cyclist like No I’ve never thought about that. And yeah. I just like it. Like I was just enjoying and yeah.

 

Laura:

[00:03:33] Well so how did that kind of developed then because you made the Olympic team in 2012 as a teenager. So you saying that maybe wasn’t on the radar like at what point I guess did that becomes something on the radar?

 

Ingrid:

[00:03:45] Yeah. It was totally off the radar. I started the summer camp man the coach of the summer camp he talked to my parents and he was like I think Ingrid has potential. Like she wouldn’t likes it she’s really passionate about it and she’s good. So I started mountain biking and then he encouraged my parents to buy me a road bike. So then I got a road bike and I started doing both disciplines. And like the next year, I started competing nationwide. And I don’t know I just started winning everything I went to. Like it was just like from day one I just like I won every race and. But I just did it because I liked it. Like I didn’t have any pressure from anyone. I just enjoy it like getting out there and suffering and giving it my all like yeah. It was kind of cool I guess. And then you started to travel along Mexico with my parents so it kind of became like a family road trip like going to races and stuff. I just did it kind of like a hobby I think. And when I was 14 I got called to be on the national team as a junior. But to be a junior in cycling you have to be 17 years. And I was 14. So that was like whoa! So yeah. Then they called me and I went to my first American championship. Is it like for the junior category. And I got two medals and I guess it all started developing from there.

 

[00:05:12] Things started to get more serious and then it was a really hard age for me because I was like during 15 and you know you’re in school and you’re with your friends and the parties and sleepovers and blah blah blah. Then you also got a commitment like OK you get a drink. Now you’re representing Mexico and not only doing it like local races or national races. In Mexico we’re really used to celebrating our 15 birthday. I know in the Americas the Sweet 16. But for us is 15. So it was that age all of my friends started traveling and having all of these 15 birthday parties in and I had to like compete and be out for the weekend and like train and get up early and blah blah blah. So that was really hard. I don’t know really hard like point on my life where I had to decide. Like if I wanted to continue this road because I knew it was becoming more serious and kind of more professional thing rather than being still a hobby. Now you’ve got compromises with the national team and like you know with your coach and everyone that’s helping you and that’s committed to you.

 

[00:06:26] So on that year I decided to quit or give me a break for like three months maybe. And I did all of these like I traveled with my friends. I went to sleepovers and parties and all that. But at the end of the day, I decided that it was always the same thing like you went out with the same people you saw at school you’re seeing the party and then. I was Yeah. They’re cool and parties as well but I don’t know. I just thought it was kind of the same thing. And I realized I wanted to do something more with my life and rather just like I don’t know just going out and partying and whatever. So yeah I decided to come back in and be more committed and I guess it all started from there from that point on. I’ve been part of the national team. And then yeah I guess well I went to four junior pennants which you can only go to two because is 17 and 18. But I went from 14 15 Sorry.

 

Laura:

[00:07:30] Breaking all the rules.

 

Ingrid:

[00:07:30] Yeah I know and then I went to junior worlds as well and I was two-time medalist. And I was 18 at the time so I was like Yeah this is really serious here. Like this is no joke no. And after that year so 2011 that was my last year as a junior and next year were the Olympics and it was gonna be my first year as an athlete. And I was more inclined undoing track cycling. Then there was this girl that she was she had been fighting the whole four years before the Olympics to like qualify on the track. So I was like I’m not gonna get into your way. She’s been doing it and I couldn’t have done it before because I was a junior and I really wanted to go on the track but I was like she’s being like fighting for it so I’m going to step aside. And that’s when I decided to go on the road and quit the track you know. And yeah. I just started with the road and I started competing for more road and find some races in the US. Because I normally raised only in Mexico and then internationally I raised phenoms and worlds but nothing else so.

 

[00:08:40] I try to find some races in the US so I could step up my game you know and race against people who I knew that was gonna be on the Olympics and stuff and I might try and see how it goes. And then I don’t know. I think things just came. It was unexpected. The National Federation they gave us several qualifying events and I won all of them again. Like the elites that have been there and fighting for many years so I was like. And then we’re waiting for the Federation to announce like who is the one that was gonna represent Mexico in the Olympics because we only had one spot. So on road cycling you can have four but as a nation we had very few points that we only had one spot. So the Federation had to pick one person and I won all the qualification events that they have. And then I got the call like hey you’re gonna go to the Olympics. I was 18 at the time and I was like OK what’s going on. Like I didn’t expected and I think I mean that event obviously it changed my life and it changed the way I saw cycling.

 

[00:09:54] So I was still studying. I had just gotten into university because I knew I wanted a career besides cycling even though I knew that I could probably become a professional. I knew I had to have something like a background. You never know. Probably at the end of the day maybe I wake up tomorrow and I can’t ride my bike anymore. What am I gonna do you know. So we’ve got to be prepared. And I always had this plan in my head that cycling is gonna be part of my life until a certain point. Because I’m I really wanna work and I wanna have a job or probably I don’t know create something and work outside of cycling. And then obviously have a family and then having a family thing being a professional for me. I just think is really risky is a really risky sport and then I mean going out training for four or five hours having your husband and kids on home and knowing that you might not come back. That just it’s kind of scary for me. I’m not saying I’m not gonna do it. Like I’m gonna keep on cycling because I love it but maybe not as a professional.

 

Laura:

[00:11:04] Well so I have a question for you because you’re so wise in being so young and thinking OK well I can’t cycle forever I need a backup plan just in case. I mean that’s wisdom beyond most 18year olds I think. Well, your parents very influential in those thoughts? Or was this all you? Or was this from watching others?

 

Ingrid:

[00:11:23] I think they really helped. Because they also grew on a family where they had a good formation from their parents. And I think they translated that to us. I think it was just all part of how I have been raised in the education my parents gave me. Because I know for my age I was more mature than the average kids. So and I think it was also part of it. I started traveling a lot to races inside of Mexico. And then you open your eyes and see that. Well, I think it was really privileged because my parents could give me everything. Like I didn’t need anything else. Because of that, I think that’s where I am today. Because they could provide me with all the material equipment and they could take me to races and stuff. But also traveling and seeing that other people they couldn’t because they didn’t have the economic resources to do it. I just think that made me like value more what I had and you know being grateful to my friends for what they have given me. And you know and just taking that as a hey you’ve got this opportunity to take it and do the best you can with it. You know.

 

Laura:

[00:12:51] Yeah. No. I totally agree with you. I was an athlete started traveling as a teenager as well. And I think it’s very impactful seeing how other people live and get through things and it just. It really opens up your eyes in a way that nothing else can right? Well OK so you make the 2012 Olympic team. It’s a total shock to 18year old Ingrid. And what was the London Olympic experience like?

 

Ingrid:

[00:13:13] Oh my God! It was, first of all, like when you get all of the like the equipment and like you know all the material for my team and all of these bags full of things. Like the uniforms and then you go to the president’s housing in the capital. Because the president’s going to like I I’ll give you some words and like wish you the best you know and all that and I’m like. I think I’m in a real shock and I was so young. I didn’t. Like I didn’t know anyone so then OK we traveled to London we get to the Olympic Village and I was just shocked. It’s like another city in there like yeah it was Wow! I was shocked and I didn’t even know any of my rivals at the time because I hadn’t competed with them before because I was a junior. So I didn’t even know who was who. So what was just like OK I’m gonna.

 

Laura:

[00:14:10] That’s probably a good thing right?

 

Ingrid:

[00:14:11] I know. That’s what I’m thinking now like. But I think that was the best thing that could ever happen. So I was just like OK I’m gonna do what I know. What I’ve always been doing just OK step on the line and wait for the start and go you know. It was really intimidating seeing all of the other countries like potential countries like the Netherlands, the U.S., Australia, Italy. They all had full teams and I was there like the Mexican the Latin alone you know you don’t have a team. So it’s kind of like you’re in deep under different circumstances you know. They didn’t know me I didn’t know who they were. So it was just but then I said you know what we’re all here for the same thing you know. So just go out there and have fun. Then I remembered we were on the line and it started to rain and I have never raced or trained on the rain before never. So I was like Oh my God! I started freaking out I was like OK just come down. Because where I lived it was super risky to go out on the rain because of the traffic the cars and then the roads are super slippery. That it’s just like soap like if you went out you would slip. Yeah. It was terrible. So that’s why I’ve never rode or even raced on the rain. Because whenever it rained things would get suspended. So I was like OK come down it’s the same for everyone but I know. I mean in London it rains always so I know a lot of Europeans we’re used to like racing or turning on the rain. Like ok, no worries same circumstances for everyone. And then OK we started we got started at the mall. So just in front of the Buckingham Palace. So it was beautiful.

 

Laura:

[00:16:05] Wow. Yeah epic start.

 

Ingrid:

[00:16:07] Yeah. And then we started writing out to the countryside. And I remember we got there and then we had to do two big laps around a. I think It was a park or a college or something. And I remember that on one of the turns it was really tight and then while the palace and we were about 16 maybe. A girl crashed in front of like I don’t know probably in the middle of the pack and she because he was really narrow. And I don’t know probably 20 people crashed into her I was one of them. Nothing happened so nothing really scary like we didn’t get seriously injured or anything. But that was like the key point of the race. Because after that crash it was like the climb which was like the toughest part of the race and that’s where all the action started because it was the last lap.

 

[00:16:58] And so yeah I mean crashing it takes time to get your bike and then it was just a pile of people and stuff. And then OK so the front of the race went and I’m like well I’m here I got to finish. Doesn’t matter. Just give it your all. So I stand up. Get on my bike again and started pedaling. And then a little group about five or six girls got together and started riding together. But then some of the girls that were on my group. They had teammates on the front so they didn’t wanna work anymore because if we caught them at some point they were taking rivals to the others you know? So then there was.

 

Laura:

[00:17:41] Such a strategic I didn’t even think about that.

 

Ingrid:

[00:17:42] Yeah! Exactly! So then there was a point that I had I was just riding by myself. And then it was like OK I don’t think you can make it to the front group riding by myself you know man the rain and all but I just kept on riding. And then I remember they started like telling me things like Hey stop like you’re never gonna make it. Just like give up and blah blah blah. And I was just like.

 

Laura:

[00:18:05] Who? Like other racers or who is?

 

Ingrid:

[00:18:06] Yeah. Yeah. The other girls who were on my group. I mean the front of the race was gone and they had teammates over there so they didn’t care if they finished on time or not. But I was alone I was the only Mexican rider I was there. My first times on the Olympics I wanted to do my thing and I wanted to do my best. So I just kept on riding and then I started falling from the sky.

 

Laura:

[00:18:29] Are you serious?

 

Ingrid:

[00:18:31] I’m serious. I was like oh my God! What is this? Like God help me please.

 

Laura:

[00:18:39] Oh my God.

 

Ingrid:

[00:18:39] Oh you started feeling that ice hitting you and it was. Yeah. It was just so hurtful. And I didn’t have anything for like the cold weather and me. So I just remember when I saw a finish line it was like oh like it’s just a light bright enough. And I remember I crossed the finish line. I was all covered like mud and like from all this flash from the road you know.

 

Laura:

[00:19:02] Did you even feel your arms and legs? You must’ve frozen?

 

Ingrid:

[00:19:04] I can’t feel anything. I was like just trembling like oh my hands were like purple from the rain and the cold and everything.

 

Laura:

[00:19:12] Oh that sounds so awful.

 

Ingrid:

[00:19:13] Yeah. And I crossed the line. And all my family was there and my mom she was really worried because the front of the race had finished like 10 or 15 minutes before I got there. So when the first group finished and my mom didn’t see me she was like OK something’s wrong. Like something happened to Ingrid. Where is she.? Because she was like 5 minutes she was in there, 10 minutes, 15 minutes and then you’re like Oh my God where is Ingrid?! What happened?! And nobody told her where I was or what had happened or. So she was like really worried. And finally when I crossed the line and she saw me all covered in mud and like breathing she started to cry because she was like oh there’s my baby. Yeah. I mean now I think about it and I guess it was a really good experience for me. I really really had wanted to go back but with more experience knowing the riders and obviously having a team around me. So that’s what I aim for on the next 4 years for the Olympics. So that was 2012 and then 2013 I got my first pro contract.

 

Laura:

[00:20:19] Oh exciting.

 

Ingrid:

[00:20:19] Yeah. I went with an Italian team so I went to Europe aged 19. I mean it was a different country, different people, different language. Even living by yourself. Leaving home. It was kind of hard and then there was a big team house and there were some times that you. Because you didn’t do all the races so sometimes you were left alone at the house. And I felt so lonely because I wasn’t used to that. That I would cry like at nights just because I didn’t know anyone. And like I didn’t know that.

 

Laura:

[00:20:52] How long would you be at the house? For training or for meet sir?

 

Ingrid:

[00:20:56] Well because all of the races mainly when we’re in Europe. So I would go for a blog of probably 2-3 months. So that was a long period especially like on my first time and not knowing anyone. And I’m telling you like different country, different language, different people, then being alone in a big house you are like Okay. And then I wasn’t used to like cooking for myself and cleaning the house and like washing clothes and all that. So you gonna grow I mean gonna grow. It was really harsh because you get really lonely and then you go to races and it wasn’t what you expected. Because you’re on a whole different level. You’re going from juniors to elite. So you’re going to raising probably 80k to racing 100k, 120k, 140k and a different pace, different woman, different conditions. I mean it’s a really big jump and adaptation process really takes a lot from you. And you can be the strongest woman physically but if you don’t have the mental strength to get aware of that. Like you’re never gonna make it.

 

Laura:

[00:22:10] How did you do that? How how did you get through the Olympic? How did you get through these difficult times? I mean starting this new professional career all by yourself like that. I mean that is a lot. How do you handle that?

 

Ingrid:

[00:22:21] It was really hard for me especially well getting through the Olympics. I have the crowds and I think it was that log. And probably that’s what was meant to happen to me in order to come back and stronger. And like desire more for the next block or whatever. So then when I got my first contract in 2013 my first race I remember it was Giro d’Italia which is like the most important race for women in cycling. So I was like just thrown to the wolves.

 

Laura:

[00:22:50] Again?

 

Ingrid:

[00:22:51] Yeah just go out there and do a thing. And for my first time I actually was really good. I had really good result so I was like OK this is I mean I can do it you know I can make it. But I was used to racing probably like 10, 15, 20 races at most in one year. And then on this 3 months I remember I had 30 races. So my body after the Giro I think I didn’t even know how to handle like recovery and all of that stuff because I wasn’t used to all this. I kept on racing because that’s what the calendar and the team had for me. And I just got onto like I bunked. I had chronic fatigue I couldn’t even pedal I wasn’t sleeping I was that just got into my head like OK probably you’re not good enough to be at this level. It was just really hard. I remember the last races I didn’t even finish because I couldn’t like my body couldn’t do it. And then it was also a mental thing. Now it was both physical and mental. So I came back home after all of that and I was obviously really disappointed with myself. And you know letting people down because it’s just for a first contract first time is unprofessional.

 

[00:24:09] Everyone expects something from you. And I guess sometimes you start driving that towards people’s expectations instead of knowing why you’re doing it you know. I Started cycling because it’s something I love not because I wanted to like I don’t know surprise people or whatever you know or leave to their expectations. But I guess you forget all of that with the pressure and the pressure to perform and do good because you were really good nationally you know. So I came back and I was just so frustrated and I was like I kept on telling myself like I got to train more more more more and more because these girls train a lot. And that’s why they’re really good. But he was totally the opposite. I had to rest I had to let my body just like disconnect for a while in order to like get freshen up and start again. Because I had just bonked into and gone into a hole and had a chronic fatigue and like all my levels were on the floor and. What I didn’t understand that and I think it’s also soft leads. We’re just thinking about OK what can we do better to be better and you can train here so hard on yourself when you never want to rest you know.

 

[00:25:29] So I started going with a sports psychologist and and I didn’t want to do it because I was like No I’m not crazy. And you know how people saying is like you know seeing a psychology is because you’re crazy. And I was like I’m not crazy. And everyone kept on telling me but I guess you don’t understand until you actually go and see how it works. I started seeing a sports psychologist and I started realizing that first of all I had to listen to my body. Second of all I knew I had to race. And third of all realizing that I had mental issues it was not all physical. Break yourself up with the results. And just thinking about OK you were like super good winning everything in Mexico and like always having a podium internationally and the America level and now you’re no one. You’re like just OK you’re one more in the pack. So that’s really hard to overcome that. And just like people talking like oh you know you see Ingrid’s not good enough like she was the best year. But as soon as you throw her to the professional then like the highest level she’s no one. And so that starts getting in your head. And we finally after a year and a half it took me a year and a half to regain confidence and regain my fitness and started competing again and being myself again. So I made those changes and I think that really helped me.

 

[00:26:57] And I was on the road to qualifying for the real Olympics in 2016 and I think it was really good. I was doing everything right. And one year before the Olympics. I was racing I was winning races. I was getting points to qualify. So the way to qualify to the Olympics in road cycling is you gotta be on the first 100 on the ranking in the world ranking or as a nation be in the top 22 on the ranking. So I did that. I accomplished that. I was in the top 100 as a rider as an individual rider and I gave Mexico the ranking. I think we were at the end on the 20th. But again it was only one spot that we gained because we were so far back down on the ranking. So there was one spot I had won the spot for Mexico but the spot that you gain it doesn’t have your name. So it’s the national team that decides at the end of the day who goes. So they told us that they were gonna pick who went on the national championships. I was like OK so you’re basing who’s gonna represent Mexico in the Olympics with one race. After all the hard work. And I was like OK one more race. You can do it. Anything can happen you know it was one race. So I remember we started the race. My bike broke. Something happened in the chain goes stuck and it just it broke the buck part and I had a spare bike but it wasn’t my fit it was my mom’s bike but I had taken it just in case. So I changed bikes like three times. And it was just horrible I mean all of the changes and I mean you know it gets into your head.

 

So yeah. At the end I think I got like fifth on that national championships. And then they have said that the girl who won the championships was gonna be the one who went to the Olympics. But no at the end of the day they changed everything again. And they decided that another girl who wasn’t even on the long list for the Olympics was gonna go. And it was all political.

 

Laura:

[00:29:21] So frustrating.

 

Ingrid:

[00:29:21] Yeah. I remember after that I went back to Europe with my team because I was going to keep on racing there. And they haven’t given any news so it was like okay. I mean it’s been like probably 2 or 3 weeks after that race and we haven’t heard anything about it. This was July already and the Olympics were in August and we didn’t know who was gonna go. So again I was racing the Giro d’Italia and one morning I remember I woke up and I wanted to Facebook you know how you wake up and you go into your social media. And so I started seeing Facebook and then I saw posts from the national team and that was the news announcing the girl that was gonna go to the Olympics.

 

Laura:

[00:30:06] So you didn’t get a phone call. You didn’t get an email. You saw it on their Facebook.

 

Ingrid:

[00:30:09] Anything. Yes. Anything. I didn’t get a single call, a single email, text nothing. I saw the news on Facebook. And I remember this girl that had been picked. She was my roommate at the time we were on the same team. So I woke up first and I saw the news and I went out of the room and I started crying. And then when she woke up obviously she was really happy. It was a really hard moment. Tough moment because you wanted to be happy for her. Then at the same time I was just devastated. And I couldn’t even believe that they hadn’t had the guts to call us you know and give us the news personally or hey you’re going or hey you’re not going because of this is that. And I tried calling them I tried emailing them and texting or whatever and I never got a response back like I never heard back from them. So because they knew they had violated their own rules you know. So yeah I mean it was just really hard and after that I just crashed again like mentally you know it was you know. You get depressed you were like all these hard work for nothing and blah blah blah. You know it starts getting in your head. And I decided that year 2016 that I was gonna tired maybe this wasn’t for me and you know.

 

Laura:

[00:31:36] Like professionally and everything.

 

Ingrid:

[00:31:38] Yeah. Like what’s the point if you’re doing all this. And you’re I mean you have this goal and you achieve it you get to it. And then at the end of the day it doesn’t depend on your performance or on what you’re doing to go or not to go to a race?

 

Laura:

[00:31:55] Someone can just take it away right?

 

Ingrid:

[00:31:56] Exactly. So I was like You know what. And I was stunning at the time. I was like OK I’m just going to dedicate all my time to finishing my college degree and starting the next chapter in my life. And so I came back home after Europe and I was just really crushed and I left my bike. I remember I traveled with my bike back home. But you know it’s parked in a big box and so I left it in the box when I came home I didn’t even want to see it. I just want to like to refresh mentally and physically. And I tried to enjoy my family and friends and all that. And then I remember I got an email from a team from a European team saying that they wanted me to be part of their team next year. I’m like OK. But I wasn’t even in the mood. And then I don’t know probably like two weeks later I got another email from another team. And then I got another email from another team. So I had like four offers from four different teams to be on their team professionally. Now Im like what?! Like this it never happened before. This must be a sign like this. I mean I must be doing something good for 4 doing things they want me on the team. You know?

 

Laura:

[00:33:17] I would think so. Yeah!

 

Ingrid:

[00:33:20] Yeah. I thought to myself like you know what dialing doesn’t define me. Being an Olympian doesn’t define who I am. Obviously something you want as an athlete because who doesn’t you know. You’re an athlete you always wanna be on the first step of the podium and you’re there to win. You know you’re competing to win. But at the end of the day I think you gotta find. You gonna realize that being on a bike doesn’t define who you are. Going to the Olympics or being an Olympic athlete doesn’t define who you are. There’s more to life besides that. And not everyone has the same opportunities. And most important of all things happen for a reason. And yeah I think that was a really important year in my career to make me realize that. Cycling is what I love and I do it because I love it not because I want to be someone. I had been for years in Europe already and I got an offer from an American team and I was like OK I wanna make a change. You know. Changes are good. So I signed with an American team based in California northern California. It was one of my best years of my career 2017 honestly and I had thought about retirement. And yeah I guess it all like you all came back to you’re doing this because you love it not because it defines you. No.

 

[00:34:52] After all of that and after leaving all of that I just started realizing that I wanted to keep on doing this sport because it was what I like to do. And because I wanted to leave something to the upcoming generations and try to share my story and tell them that first. Because everyone in Mexico probably opportunities aren’t as a. They don’t present us often as in other developing countries so everyone ask me like how do you got there? Like how do you do it? This is your eight year as a professional. Like how no one has been able to do that? No one has had a contract or that many years in a row. So that’s what I want to give to the Sports. I want to give back what it has shown me and how it had made me grow. Become a more mature person and realizing that there is more to life than just being an athlete. Cycling is a really hard sport I mean you got to love suffering you. Got to be able to handle the pressure especially the pressure about you got to be really skinny you’re a girl and you got to lose weight and blah blah blah. You know just all of that gets into your head and I think it causes a lot of disorders in female athletes even male. So you’re also playing with your health.

 

Laura:

[00:36:14] Well I’d love to ask you about that because I know you’ve been pretty open about how you struggled with eating disorders. And that’s also I mean very prevalent in my sport as well. And so I’d love it if you could briefly take us through kind of how that developed? And how you I mean maybe you still deal with I don’t know. But how you overcame it and get through that daily?

 

Ingrid:

[00:36:31] For becoming a full road athlete I did a lot of track. So track cycling you gonna have more muscle because you’ve got to be more strong. And because it’s all about power and shored efforts and stuff. So it’s gonna be all power all muscle all for strength. So I’m a big girl and I developed muscle really easily so. So yeah. I had a big body I had a lot of muscle in my legs so when I started road cycling and I went to Europe I mean most of the girls are really skinny. They just start telling you like you’ll lose weight you can be better. Hey I think you get a couple of pounds. Couple of extra pounds on you like it starts getting you in your head. Even if you’re not an athlete and you’re a girl and someone tells you that you’re overweight you’re always shocked you know and gets into your head. And so yeah I was like OK I gonna take care of myself. So I saw a nutritionist and he was like guiding me and stuff. But every time it was the same thing you got to lose weight. You gotta lose weight. You got to lose weight. Got to lose weight. And I remember there was a year that I lost a lot of weight because I wasn’t recovering. So I had to like I was obviously on a calorie deficit. But it was just I felt good on the bike or stronger but I wasn’t happy because you don’t have energy to do anything else besides training you know. You just you have solo energy. You’re in a bad mood all the time because you’re not getting all your nutrients. You’re not recovering well. And then also if you get invited to like dinner or I don’t know to have coffee with friends you don’t want to go because you don’t want to eat there. You know?

 

Laura:

[00:38:18] It’s stressful? Yeah. Ah-hmm…

 

Ingrid:

[00:38:18] Yeah. It’s really stressful. So I just realized and I went again to the nutritionist and I’m like OK I got to be skinny but I got to be healthy as well. So I started working with her and it worked really good because she showed me how to eat and what to eat. And fulfilled my all the other things that I lose on wild training wild racing and getting all my nutrients. And yeah I started feeling better obviously I gained some pounds but it was strength it was muscles. And I realized I was happier and I didn’t have to be stressed all the time. And as long as you’re performing. Try not to worry about that I mean I know you have to maintain a weight but you have to be healthy. I mean if you’re not healthy and you’re unhappy it’s worthless.

 

Laura:

[00:39:07] Sports only lasts so long too. You have to I think remember that we think it’s our whole world but on wrapped up in it. But it keeps going on after you’re done with your sport. At some point everybody has to be done with their sport you know.

 

Ingrid:

[00:39:08] Exactly!

[00:39:17] Totally. I mean you’re gonna hit that point that you’re either no longer qualified to keep on racing because you’re too old or you’re just not performing as well or you never know. Or you’d have an accident that hopefully we don’t. But yeah you got to realize that there’s gonna be a point where you’re not gonna be a professional athlete anymore.

 

Laura:

[00:39:39] Well changing gears a little bit. I love that you talked about how you are starting your university studies and you kind of going to take your time on it. And I think last year you finally got your degree right in international business?

 

Ingrid:

[00:39:52] Yeah. Yeah. I did.

 

Laura:

[00:39:54] Congratulations!

 

Ingrid:

[00:39:54] Thank you. I graduated on May last year. I felt really happy because I had been studying or doing my college degree for six years so.

 

Laura:

[00:40:08] Nice. That’s dedication right there and consistency.

 

Ingrid:

[00:40:12] Instead of taking the four years that you usually take. I finished in six because I was doing professional cyclist at the time and I didn’t want to leave my studies. And yeah I mean there were some semesters where I had to go to Europe and compete which I had to only take probably one or two classes. But yeah I’m so happy I got my degree.

 

Laura:

[00:40:34] Well, didn’t something else happened right after you got your degree?

 

Ingrid:

[00:40:37] I got married. Yeah.

 

Laura:

[00:40:39] That’s awesome. Well congratulations on both of those. It’s so exciting.

 

Ingrid:

[00:40:43] Thank you.

 

Laura:

[00:40:44] Now what’s next for you? Are you gonna be doing more pro circuits? Is there even a thought of 2020? Or are you moving on past the Olympics? Or what are your goals?

 

Ingrid:

[00:40:52] So I signed two more years with the team that I’ve been racing for the last two years the American team name Tibco–Silicon Valley Bank. And I signed two more years because yeah my ultimate goal again is the 2020 Olympics. After that I’ve talked to myself and I’ve come to a conclusion that I want to retired from the pro circuit. I’m gonna be settling with my friends maybe? But I would want to retire just take a break from the pro circuit. This year I have a full calendar starting on March in Europe with my team and it goes all the way to October.

 

Laura:

[00:41:27] Wow!

 

Ingrid:

[00:41:28] It’s a really important year because it’s where the Olympic ranking opens up. So every raise you go every race is an opportunity to get points and go up there and the ranking.

 

Laura:

[00:41:40] Has Mexico changed its rules at all on how they pick the Olympians?

 

Ingrid:

[00:41:43] Not really. That’s what I would gonna say. I’m going into this whole process again knowing that the final decision is not in my hands. So I’m getting into this process with that idea. And knowing that if I do everything in my power to qualify and whatever the outcome is that I can retire happy and satisfied and knowing that I did everything in my power to go. So I think that mentality is gonna help me get through it more easily. I have full support of my husband full support of my family my coach. So yeah that’s my goal. That’s my program. And yeah.

 

Laura:

[00:42:33] It’s a great great way to go into it. I think it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. Well where can we follow you to continue to be inspired by you and to cheer you on along all of these adventures. Like where can we follow you online?

 

Ingrid:

[00:42:45] Obviously Instagram my thing right now is social and the top social media. So my Instagram is @IngridDrexel so just my name and last name. And I also have a Facebook page same my name Ingrid Drexel and Twitter @IngridDr so yeah. Those are social media as I use and I usually post what I’m doing and.

 

Laura:

[00:43:07] Awesome. Ingrid thank you so very much for coming on the podcast today. You are just awesome. I love your personality is adorable and I love just the way you handle things your heart for other people. And for showing people what you’ve learned I think that’s brilliant so thank you again so much for being on.

 

Ingrid:

[00:43:22] Thank you very much for having me. Really nice to meet you. And I’m so happy I can have a chance to tell people a little bit of my story.

 

Laura:

[00:43:34] I’m so thankful to Ingrid for joining us on today’s show. I really appreciate her honesty as she shared about the struggle to switch to the pro circuit. I think we can all relate to those moments when others expectations weigh heavy on us and if we let it that pressure can become crippling. But I love how Ingrid shared about her journey of releasing those voices and how that allowed her to cycle just for the pure joy of it. Such a great lesson for all of us no matter what we’re doing. Be sure to tune in next week to hear from Olympic gold medalist diver David Boudia. He shares about what it’s like to chase an Olympic dream from the age of 7 and how it’s forever changed his life. Be sure to subscribe wherever you listen because you don’t want to miss this one. And please go ahead and leave us a review because those reviews help us get these amazing guests on the show. I’m Laura Wilkinson. Thanks again for listening. This podcast is produced by Evo Terra and Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please visit HopeSports.org