Former runner now top cyclist; Bend's Serena Bishop Gordon is one of the top cyclocross competitors
By Laura Winberry / For The Bulletin
Serena Bishop Gordon stands with her cyclocross bike in the Old Mill District in Bend Sunday morning.Photo: Andy Tullis / The Bulletin
Hometown: Bend (originally Portland)
Years racing: Four years for cyclocross
Cycling disciplines: Cyclocross and cross-country mountain biking, with a little road here and there
Team: Sunnyside Sports p/b Silverado of Bend
Occupation: Program Associate for The Conservation Alliance
A marathoner and ultrarunner during her high school, college and post-college years, Serena Bishop Gordon has at age 32 become a self-proclaimed cycling addict.
As she talks about her past, present and future, it's obvious she is on a mission. But hers is not a mission without meaning. Beyond the obsession, there is unmistakable heart.
These days, along with working full time and being married, Bishop Gordon trains full time. Come race day, there's a fire in her eyes. But engage her in conversation, and a beaming smile and warm presence quickly dissolve any misconceptions.
Rewind to 2008: Bishop Gordon runs the Portland Marathon. After finishing the 26.2-mile race she heads over to Alpenrose Dairy, where she had heard that a Cross Crusade race would be taking place. One walk around the Alpenrose cyclocross course in southwest Portland, and something clicks.
“I went to the dairy to check it out,” she recalled in a recent interview. “The next week I bought a used Poprad (cyclocross bike) and started racing bikes. It took me a year or so to put down the running shoes and challenge myself to becoming a cyclist ... but I can now say ... that I am a cyclist. I am addicted and I love it.”
Three years later — after much hard work, sacrifice and saddle time — Bishop Gordon is the 2011 Cross Crusade Series overall winner for the women A category.
Same coach, different game plan
Still with the same coach, Bend's Brig Brandt, Bishop Gordon notes that one of the main differences from her training last year has been intensity.
“There's more of it (intensity),” she said, adding that “with another year of racing under my belt, (I am) able to put in more solid workouts and recover better.”
Needless to say, the changes have paid off. Competing in the elite women's field at the International Cycling Union-sanctioned Jingle Cross Rock, staged Nov. 25-27 in Iowa City, Iowa, Bishop Gordon placed an impressive ninth out of 20 of the nation's best riders in racing on each of two separate days. When asked how she felt about her performance in Iowa, Bishop Gordon seemed pleased with her results. But she said she also knows where she could have done better.
“I went (in) without any expectations. I ... wanted it to be a positive learning experience,” she reflected. “Saturday was better (than Friday), and Sunday better than that. I have a fire to do better. Ninth is great, but I finished the race counting my mistakes and how I could have moved up a spot or two.”
With the upcoming U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Bend — this Saturday and Sunday in the Old Mill District — and the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships next month in Madison, Wis., Bishop Gordon will have ample opportunity to move up that “spot or two” against some of the nation's top riders.
Staying warm in Wisconsin ... and in Bend
Come January, while many Central Oregonians head to the slopes or cozy up fireside, Bishop Gordon will be flying to what she expects will be a frigid Wisconsin to endure 40 minutes of difficult racing as part of an elite women's field of 90 riders or more. Although the weather in Wisconsin should be nothing short of wintry, Bishop Gordon plans to “stay warm ... race my face off,” and keep her mind focused.
“I want to podium (finish in the top five) in my masters race and place in the top 20 in the elite race,” she said of her aspirations for Wisconsin. “If I race well, don't have any mechanicals, and stay calm, these goals are attainable.
“Staying warm is going to be a big challenge,” she added, “so I am testing out some different gloves ... and layers to get it just right.”
Good thing winter riding isn't a foreign concept to Bishop Gordon. She is more than accustomed to hitting the roads and trails through Bend's winter months, so long as weather conditions allow. Plus, there's always indoors.
“I try to ride outside as much as I can,” she said. “But there are those days when it isn't feasible or smart. ... Short days, snow and cinder-covered roads make it tough to ride outside.”
On those days, she said, she works out indoors on a CompuTrainer, a type of stationary bike.
Pair her determination with the prep of Bend's winter racing scene (this week's USGP should be a cold one), and Bishop Gordon is on target for nationals.
Dreams, goals and the difference between
“I dream of being one of the fastest women on a 'cross bike in the USA,” Bishop Gordon said without hesitation. “But, dreams are not goals.”
And she's right. Unlike most dreams, goals are attainable reality. Nevertheless, given her inspiring progress over a relatively short career, Bishop Gordon may very well turn her dream into an attainable goal.
It's simple: She uses her short- and long-term goals to motivate her, and each workout, interval and pedal stroke becomes a building block. Everything has a purpose and moves her in the direction of her goals. Fueled by addiction, a love for the discipline — or a combination of the two — little by little, she is chipping away.
“When you are focused on continual improvement, motivation isn't hard to find,” she said. “I am setting goals, hoping one day, my dream will be my goal and I will achieve it.”