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The Road Less Traveled

Just a few years after learning how to ride a bike, Oakland's Beth Newell is quickly turning into one of the new stars of the cycling world.



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Breen says that communication is key in a road race. "Sometimes you pull up next to your teammate and say, 'I'm going to make a run,' or 'Let me draft back,' or sometimes a well-timed dirty joke. Beth was so good so quickly. I'm not sure that we're going to be able to hold onto her for more than a year."

Breen said that she's going to miss Newell when she moves on. "And she's going to move on. I don't know how far she's going to get, but after riding with her this year on the team, I won't be surprised at anything Beth does."

Now, I have long since perfected snot rocketing so I don't snot all over myself. That is no problem. But, I think there are some other strategic areas where one can snot rocket for purpose; however, aim of the snot is key.

Getting that creepy guy off your wheel who just wants to check out your ass. This is a perfect opportunity to snot rocket. If you hit him, that is awesome.

Annoying drivers who are less than polite on purpose. (The key words here are on purpose. This move should only be saved for extenuating circumstances.) Blowing the snot rocket to hit the windshield is obviously the goal.

Strategic snot rocketing is just that. Strategic. It should not be over-used, as then it is no longer strategic. (beth bikes! February 2008)

Beth Newell's postings depict a world where a self-deprecating novice falls down a lot, barely finishes what she starts, and eats convenience-store junk food. Sometimes she wins, too, but the victories that she celebrates have little to do with riding a bike at inhuman speed.

There is the win of walking into a corner liquor store with some scary guy behind her saying that her sunglasses make her look cool. Or getting her road trip riders to finally laugh at a joke that she's failed at telling several times before. Or learning to shotgun a Miller Lite from a can.

These days, Beth bikes a lot more than Beth blogs. She also recently told her bosses at the Health Consortium that she wanted to go half-time while going full-time for a racing career. She has kicked up her training regimen and says that her fall is going to look a lot like her summer, filled with races and pushing herself to the next level.

Newell is modest about her ambitions, but it's clear that making a national team is in her sights. Although she's says she's not aiming for the 2012 Olympic team, 2016 is another matter.

This summer, the Women's Sports Foundation awarded Newell and eleven other athletes grant money to pursue their training, travel, and equipment expenses. Newell is the only cyclist nationwide to win the honor. Previous recipients include former Olympians, such as figure skater Michelle Kwan and gymnast Kerri Strug, before they became Olympic caliber. The grant is designed to relieve elite athletes from the burden of spending time fund-raising when they could be training.

The money isn't a vote of confidence in Newell's talents, it's a landslide referendum. "I am very honored," she said. "It will be very helpful."

Newell, now 29, talks of having about "hundred steps between where I am now and that level." But in truth, her rapid ascent in the cycling world indicates that it may not take her that long to get to the top. And why should it? Here's a woman who hopped on a rejected bike in a moment of desperation and made it into something that brought her joy and success.

Indeed, Beth Newell might just be the person who spins trash into gold.

Update: A previous version of this article misspelled Fred Shuck's last name.

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