The TWENTY20 Women’s professional cycling team has announced that they’ve signed one of the most uniquely accomplished individuals in the world of cycling. Amanda Coker looks like she was born to ride a bike. The smooth, fluid pedal stroke and relaxed bike position are powered by a grand smile. However, don’t let the sweet smile fool you, she is callused and tough. This young girl has experienced the greatest glory and the darkness moments all two wheels. With a tenacious spirit and a love of bikes, she has overcome mountains of challenges and continues to find that joy of riding.
“I have always been on a bike. Before I ever pedaled my own bicycle, my father would take me out on his triathlon bike, sitting in a child carrier attached to his seatpost. It was one of his favorite ways to have father-daughter time with me when I was a toddler. On my fifteenth birthday my parents gave me my first road bike. Within the first year of riding I remember one day in particular when I had to push through a challenging ride. It was the furthest I had ever ridden at the time, 35 miles, on an extremely hot and humid summer day. “
That first ride is engraved in her memory. On the steady climb back home, her body started to ache and she began to panic. Her legs were shaking and she was overheating. Her first long ride and she had over done it, had taken on a distance too much she thought as tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“It was like I was climbing Mount Everest. My mind and body were screaming at me to stop, sending painful signals to my legs to give out. At first I started to fall under the pressure of my body begging to quit, thinking that I should just pull over and walk my bike up the climb. Halfway up I realized I was in the middle of a make or break decision; quit or succeed. Tears welling up in my eyes I pedaled forward, ignoring all the stinging pains and set my glazed eyes on the peak of the hill. With the first pedal stroke over the crest, a sense of accomplishment overtook me; it may not have been but on that day I felt like I climbed the highest peak in the world. The next couple of miles back home were slow and my muscles were aching, but my mind was clear and focused. Climbing my Mt. Everest was the first step in forming my current cycling mindset. If I overcame a challenge once, then there's no reason as to why I can't try to overcome another.”
That ride set the routine. “Ride, until I think I cannot ride any more and keep riding.” That is what Amanda did. She kept riding. And riding. Until that day it all came to a full braking stop.
Seven years ago, out riding with her father, her training partner and inspiration, they were hit and run over by a distracted driver, struck from behind at over 55 MPH. Both obtained severe injuries to their spines, broken bones, contusions, and Amanda suffered a traumatic brain injury. The road ahead looked steeper than any road she had ever ridden. When one lives to ride, and suddenly, that is taken, there appears to be no road left at all. She was in her first semester of university when the accident happened and due to the rehabilitation needed and enormous medical expenses, she was forced to withdraw from school.
“It was my moment of truth. That day, my life was brought to an abrupt halt. The process to heal was long, taking months for not only physical recovery, but emotional and mental healing as well. When you put your energy for the day into learning to move again, it emotionally breaks you. During those months I spent a lot of sedentary time thinking about what my future would be like and I had to make several life altering decisions. Rather than giving up and completely removing the possibility of cycling again from my life goals, I refused to stop pursuing my dreams. I chose my road, my path. Altering and changing different areas of my life in pursuit of not only getting back on the saddle but also getting my life moving again, I realized what was most important in life.”
The accident refocused Amanda’s priorities. She knew she must inspire others to get outside, to enjoy moving and riding, and to inspire. And with this goal of inspiring as many people as possible, she set out to ride. And ride she did. Amanda has set three world records, most recently was the most miles ridden in a year, referred to by the acronym HAM’R, or Highest Annual Mileage Record. The Ultra Marathon Cycling Association monitors this record. She rode a staggering 86,573.2 miles, for an average of 237.19 miles per day for 365 straight days, She then immediately set her sights her sights on another record: accumulating 100,000 miles faster than any human before her. She accomplished that feat in 423 days, on July 11, averaging 20.31 miles per hour.
“Realizing how fragile life is and how little time we actually have on this Earth, which is why I strive to appreciate every single day. Cycling has not only been a crucial factor in making me who I am today, but it also allows for me to help others make positive changes in their lives. During my world records people from all over the world came out and achieved mileage goals they set for themselves, all of whom expressed that because of what I had been through and what I was achieving inspired them to pursue their own goals! It was incredible being the reason so many people were making positive changes in their lives.”
Coker will join the TWENTY20 cycling development program, bringing her endurance talent and inspiration to the program. She recently made her debut with the team, winning the amateur category at Chrono Kristin Armstrong. The Guinness and World record holder showed profound talent in absorbing the long riding miles into precision and speed.
“Being a part of the TWENTY20 team has been a wonderful experience. It's been great getting to know and train alongside each woman on the team. Anytime I had a question or asked for some advice, each of them offered their help. Thanks to their tips and advice I've gained more knowledge and have already improved my cycling skills. Not only were my teammates amazing but Nicola, Mari, and the Twenty20 staff gave me a warm welcome, making my entire experience in Boise great. I'm looking forward to growing more with such a prestigious team,” said Coker.
“There is no question that Amanda is a talent on a bike, that is seen. It is her spirit and passion that we are most looking forward. She brings a fresh energy to the program and we are thrilled to see what she can do with a focus on the race segment,” said Nicola Cranmer, General Manager, TWENTY20 Pro Cycling. “Our mission has always been to foster young women, and offer them the coaching and guidance to gather race experience and opportunities to grow as an athlete and a person. Amanda brings unique angle to this mission, in her life experiences at a younger age will inspire all our athletes on a new level.”
Coker is also working on the education front with the team, as she strives to secure a scholarship to continue her education. TWENTY20 has become a top team for recruitment for collegiate cycling scholarships, with a balanced programming of sport, performance and education. For Coker, getting her degree back on track is a top priority to the inspiring athlete.
“Cycling has been the main subject of both the darkest and brightest moments in my life. The darkest of moments being seven years ago when my father and I were struck from behind by a car going 55+mph while out riding bikes. We both obtained severe injuries to our spines, broken bones, contusions, and I suffered from a traumatic brain injury. The road to recovery was long and slow. Every day throughout my time spent sitting sedentary I couldn't stop thinking about riding, missing the sense of freedom and happiness from being on the bike. During my recovery I made a promise with myself that if I could ever get back on the bike that I would never take it for granted and to always enjoy each and every ride. I can’t wait to take my endurance mind to the race course now.”
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