Photos by Patrick Daily and Julie Kuliecza
Eight years ago, while living out her professional cyclocross dream, Amy Dombrowski was killed in a training accident in Belgium. The tragedy rocked the cycling world. Amy had grown up in Vermont, lived in Colorado, and then made her way onto a European Professional Cycling team. Her tenacity, kindness, and love of a bicycle life left an undeniable mark on people worldwide. To honor her memory, friends and family banded together to form the Amy D. Foundation, a non-profit aimed at giving women the support and opportunities to chase their cycling dreams, to continue living the kind of life that Amy D. loved.
In its first year, the Foundation supported its very first athlete–25-year old cyclocross racer Erica Zaveta–with material, mechanical, and moral support. It was a new program and a young racer, but the combination proved wildly successful. Erica won her first professional UCI race and made her first trip to Europe, racing the World Cups and Kerstperiode classics in Belgium and following in the pedal strokes of Amy D. The following year, she signed her first professional contract with Maxxis-Shimano Pro CX.
Over the next five years, the Foundation grew from a single athlete in a single discipline to providing elite racing opportunities across all disciplines. They branched out into mountain biking and fielded composite road teams for US stage races to give women without contracts the chance to race at the UCI level. In 2019 alone, the Foundation supported 40 women.
Alumni of the Foundation include two Olympians, Mara Abbot and Megan Jastrab (also 2019 world junior RR champ), and numerous riders who have springboarded onto pro teams to live out their cycling dreams. Others have found success off the bike as prominent businesswomen and entrepreneurs. Whether it’s on or off the bike, the Foundation measures success by the confidence it inspires in women to pursue whatever lofty dreams they may have.
In 2020, when a global pandemic ground the world and bike racing to a standstill, the Foundation had a long reflection period. It had proven it could give women the chance to compete at the highest level and provide the environment and opportunities for talented racers to shine. But with the racing stopped, the Foundation realized that it could be more than just an elite development program. They could also help bring more women into the sport at the grassroots level strengthening the cycling community.
For the 2021 CX season, the Foundation has taken a different approach to carry out its mission statement of creating opportunities for women to pursue lofty dreams. It has become a year to focus on building the overall community. They'll make more opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in cycling. It is a focus on inclusivity, on getting more and more people on bikes in a fun and supportive environment.
Foundation alumni from around the country will be hosting free cyclocross clinics in Tucson, SoCal, Louisville, Richmond, and Chicago. And instead of supporting just one or two aspiring pro CX riders, the Foundation will offer multiple scholarships to attend US Cyclocross Nationals in DuPage County, Illinois. It won't just be for elite racers, either. The scholarships are open to any woman looking to compete, whether it's non-championship age groups, juniors, single-speed, and byond. The idea is to bring people to the biggest CX race in the country and give them a supportive, positive experience. To build the community at the grassroots level so that more people have the opportunity to pursue a professional career if they choose, or to apply the lessons of a bicycle life to the world beyond two wheels.
What began as a community's way to honor the memory of one of their own has grown into a national movement and Foundation that is bringing opportunity to more and more people in new ways every year. It's the kind of thing that would bring out that radiant Amy D. smile, that no amount of mud could cover up.