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Petaluma athlete trades horse saddle for bicycle saddle

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Alison Tetrick grew up riding a horse. She is still riding, but now her saddle is attached to the frame of a racing bicycle. The Petaluma resident, 29, is a successful professional cyclist. How she transitioned from horse saddle to bicycle saddle is the story of an amazing athlete who has managed to balance school, life and athletics.

Tetrick grew up on a ranch, and that meant being around horses. “I learned to ride a horse long before I ever considered riding a bike,” she says on her web page.

Naturally athletic and competitive, by the time she reached college she was an accomplished tennis player, good enough to play competitively at Abilene Christian University.

After graduation, Tetrick devoted her energy to the triathlon, and became good enough to qualify for the Ironman World Championships. While competing in triathlons, she discovered a special affinity for cycling. Besides, the sport is in her genes. Her grandfather is still a competitive cyclist at age 85, and a national champion in his age group.

She attended the Talent ID Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and shortly after, in 2009, became a professional cyclist. She currently races for Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies.

Tetrick’s position on the cycling team is listed as “All-Arounder.” What that means is that she is in charge of doing whatever it takes to win. It is a new position for the Petaluman, whose previous athletic experience in tennis and triathlons was all about what it takes for individual success.

“It (cycling) is a team sport,” she says. “The ultimate goal is a team victory. I do what is best for the team.”

Not only does Tetrick enjoy the competition, but there are other perks to her current sport of choice.

“The travel is amazing,” she says. “I get to see all different parts of the world.” Not only that, but it is a chance to travel without the hassle of travel. “I just get to travel and some else (the team’s support crew) takes care of all the details,” she says.

Still, she acknowledges that it is nice to come back to Petaluma and relax after the strenuous cycling season winds down.

She came to the Bay Area right out of college and settled in Mill Valley, eventually moving to Petaluma. It is a place she now calls home.

“The people here are awesome. It is a beautiful place to ride. Just a pretty great place,” she says.

Cycling, especially on the pro level is a dangerous sport, with crashes all-too common. In 2010, Tetrick suffered a traumatic brain injury and a broken pelvis. She is still recovering from her injuries, even as she continues to race.

The accident has made her even more interested in how the brain functions and especially the cause and effect of concussions. She is working towards a PhD in Neuropsychology and serves on the Board of Directors for USA Cycling and the Board of Advisers for the Women’s Cycling Association. Tetrick is also a spokesperson for Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer campaign, which offers a broad range of services to people affected by cancer.

At Abilene Christian University she graduated with Highest Honors with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with emphasis on molecular biology and a minor in nutrition.

It has all made her a strong advocate for more awareness about concussions and their effects, but it has not made her slow down or become more cautious.

However, she admits, “it does make me a little nervous. I’m only human.”

Tetrick acknowledges she has goals, but they aren’t huge.

“If you set one big goal, you don’t see all the little goals around you. I like to keep focused on the smaller milestones,” she says.

Tetrick is a member of Team Chocolate Milk, a community of more than 90 athletes who advocate for chocolate milk as a method of helping them recover from the effects of strenuous physical activity.

“It’s been fun working with Chocolate Milk,” she says. “It is a nice partnership, Recovery is obviously very important for an athlete and low-fat chocolate milk helps.”

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