LONDON – Lauren Tamayo is focused. Don't let her smile and pleasant demeanor off the bike fool you. An accomplished and highly decorated professional road cyclist racing for Exergy Twenty12, this ferociously competitive 28 year-old is ready to make her 2012 Olympics debut in London in the women's 3-kilometer team pursuit alongside teammates Sarah Hammer (world champion), Jennie Reed and Dotsie Bausch. Along with Hammer and Bausch, Tamayo was part of the women's team that set the world record in 2010 at the Pan Am Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico, with a time of 3:19.569.
Tamayo hails from a family that’s been in and around professional cycling for years. Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, she now resides in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, Mike Tamayo, who is also the General Manager/Team Director for the UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team. Lauren grew up just outside of Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, a rural town that’s known as the “go to” place for track racing on the eastern seaboard, where her father encouraged (his then) 11 year-old daughter to explore track cycling. It was not love at first sight, but after a few sessions it seemed like a natural fit. In 1999, Lauren won the junior national title and her career took off. She also began road cycling, and the versatile rider has since earned accolades on both the road and the track. Lauren's younger brother Chris Franges, is a also a member of this "family that races together, stays together," and works with Team UnitedHealthcare as a mechanic.
Family, training and focus have helped Tamayo reach Olympian and world-class levels. Now, after two months of intense training with her teammates in Majorca, Spain, prior to the London Summer Games, Lauren has settled into her daily routine in the Olympic Village. And as the team prepares to take center stage in the Olympic Velodrome this weekend, "La Diabla" (a nickname she earned from her ferocity on the track and its juxtaposition to her low-key, laid back attitude off the bike) spent time reflecting on her journey to the Olympics, the Olympic experience, and her team's preparation leading into the Women's Team Pursuit event.
Here's what she had to say:
Wesley Mallette: Few people will ever experience the dream you are living right now. To put it in perspective, there are 314 million Americans and 537 U.S. Olympic athletes. And out of seven billion people in the world, 10,960 athletes are competing in the Olympics. What has your Olympic experience been like thus far?
Lauren Tamayo: Arriving at the Olympic Village and at the USA House where all the U.S. athletes are staying was kind of surreal. When we first got here, we weren't really able to absorb everything that was going on. We arrived the day of the opening ceremonies and most of the athletes who were competing were settled into their daily routine. It took a couple of days for the enormity of the experience to sink in and realize what was going on and how big this is. Now it's become somewhat normal and we are ready to go. We haven't lost our focus.
What stood out the most for me? Well, we know most all of the cyclists, as we're used to seeing them in competition around the world and we've raced against everyone in team pursuit. Still, it's great to see them here at the Olympics. But what's most special to me is seeing our U.S. counterparts who are also representing our country in other sports. It's awesome! You feel like you should know them and it's been great getting to know them. Being around other U.S. athletes and talking with one another about our events and what we're all here for is a once in a lifetime experience. Trying to grasp what everyone does, their experiences, training, understanding their routine, and knowing what it has taken to get here is pretty amazing!
WM: Lauren, along with Dotsie Bausch and Sarah Hammer, you set the world record in team pursuit in 2010 at the Pan Am Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The team's time was 3:19.569 and it was the first time any team had broken the 3:20.000 mark. You were fifth in the team pursuit at the 2012 World Championships and fourth at the 2010 Worlds. Are you doing anything different in the final days of training leading up to your event and are aspirations set on another world record?
LT: Well, for starters, training hasn't been much different than normal. Our lead up is the same as it would be before World Cup or World Championships. We've been on the track a few times since we've been here, with the same intensity but less volume. We want to keep everything fresh, but not loaded. In short, we're ready. Our team spent two months in Majorca, Spain, training together. Most of the other countries are always training together. Our goal is a gold medal and performing to the best of our abilities to achieve that. Our team is focused and the sacrifice is worth it. As for our routine, it's really focused. It's wake up, breakfast, train, dining hall, massage, then get off your feet and rest. And then, we wake up the next day and do it all again. We want to be as fresh and as focused as possible come race day.
WM: Your husband, Mike Tamayo, is the General Manager and Team Director for the UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team. Rumor has it that he's a pretty intense guy (insert smile here) when it comes to the sport. How has he been throughout the process, especially this week?
LT: Oh, Mike's been good. Along with my parents, he's keeping himself entertained! I know he went to the Procter & Gamble House the other night and enjoyed the hospitality experience. He's enjoying the Olympic experience more than I have been able to at this point!
WM: Many who may not be familiar with track cycling and Team Pursuit want to know, "How do you race around the track and not fall?" What's the secret and which team do you expect to present the toughest competition?
LT: It's all about going a certain speed on the track and we're surpassing that speed. We're hoping to go 60km+/hour and push as hard as we can to win. As far as competition goes, Great Britain is really dialed in. They have a great program and are definitely ones to watch out for.
WM: Have you had a chance to see London or any other events thus far?
LT: I feel like I'm in a bubble here in the Village. It's just the athletes and the staff. We're in the Olympic Park, but the outside world doesn't have access to us here in the Olympic Village. I'm hearing some pretty good stories though from Mike and my family about what's going in London, but I haven't had a chance to really experience the outside world (if you will) for almost a week!
Editor’s Note: Mike told us that post-race, he plans on making sure Lauren is relaxing and taking in the sites and experience of the London Olympics. Hopefully, she'll get to a beach volleyball game and track and field at Olympic Stadium. And of course, sightseeing will be in order!
WM: Lauren, you are an incredibly focused athlete – exactly what it takes to compete successfully at an elite level and be a world champion/record holder. Have you thought about what's next after London?
LT: I've enjoyed my career as a pro cyclist and right now, it's all about Friday and Saturday. We've put everything we've got into this and we have one goal and focus and that's to do our best, be our best and bring home a medal. I'll think about what's next after this is over. I'm just excited to be here. You don't really know what it's going to be like or what to expect until you get here. It's been an amazing journey and great to be here with all of the other U.S. athletes. Fun, exciting and truly a great experience!
We wish Lauren the best of luck as she and her teammates race toward gold in the Velodrome this weekend!
NOTES ON HOW TO WATCH THE WOMEN'S TEAM PURSUIT:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 3, 2O12 AND SATURDAY, AUGUST 4, 2012
Format of the Team Pursuit Race:
Race length is 3km (12 laps)
Race time should be 3 minutes and 15-20 seconds
Friday, August 3: Qualifying Round
Top eight teams advance to round one.
Note: Team USA has been a medal winner at most World Cups and World Championships.
Saturday, August 4: Semi-Finals
All eight teams advance to finals and compete.
Your qualifying round and round one result will decide if you are competing for the Gold and Silver medals or the Bronze. Fourth as well as fifth through eighth place will also be decided.
Teams and Rules:
There are 4 women on the team, but only three compete at a time.
The substitution of riders happens between the rounds of racing.
On Saturday, there is only one hour between round one and the final.
The key is how you use your riders. The individual riders have to recover, and the coaches will decide who races what ride, right before the individual rounds. Friday is important for seeding in round one. Saturday requires the most difficult rides, as they are back-to-back (one hour rest between the race and the finals).
For the Non-Cycling Fans:
Think of it as a relay race with a slight tweak. It's not just the first rider that crosses win. In team pursuit, the goal is to get the entire team across finish line as fast as you can – together.
Friday, August 3, 2012
Women’s team pursuit will begin at 4:56pm London, 11:56am EST, 8:56am PST
Saturday, August 4
Women's team pursuit will be at 4:11pm London, 11:11am EST, 8:11am PST
Women's team pursuit will be at 5:42pm London, 12:42pm EST, 9:42am PST
How to Watch It (in the USA):
You can watch the full feed on the web page by logging in through your cable or satellite TV provider.
* iPad and iPhone.
You can download the nbcolympics "extra" application, then login to your account the same way you would for the nbcolympics.com site.