Skylar Schneider: From Crits to the World Tour
We’re over halfway through the Giro d’Italia Femminile stage race (better known as the Giro Rosa) and one of the great stories coming out of the race was when Boels-Dolman’s Skylar Schneider, pulling domestique duties for the race, saved team leader Megan Guarnier’s GC hopes by managing to fix Megan’s bike after a late-race crash (read the story here). Long before Skylar found herself acting as an ad hoc mechanic, the Wisconsin native was lighting the US cycling scene on fire as one of the best sprinters and criterium racers of her generation. When she signed with UCI World Tour powerhouse team Boels-Dolman Cycling for the 2018 season, American fans knew great things waited for her at the top of the women’s cycling ladder. We had a chance to talk with Skylar prior to the Giro Rosa and hear her thoughts on her “rookie” season and what might be in store for her future.
Nathan (N): Hi Skylar, thanks for taking time to meet with A Cyclist In A Strange Land. What are your thoughts on your first year of racing in Europe with Boels-Dolmans?
Skylar Schneider (SS): Oh, I love it. I was in Europe for three months this Spring and raced almost every weekend. I’d never been in Europe for the Spring races so everything was new. With Boels-Dolmans, they’ve taught me so much already and I’m looking forward to racing in the Giro Rosa.
N: How does racing in Europe compare to the United States?
SS: Everything is completely different. The roads are narrow, there are cobbles, there’s road furniture, there are cars parked on the road; obstacles are flying by every second. You really can’t lose focus. And then the fields are three times the size of American races. There is just a lot more to learn and overcome to be at the top of the sport in Europe. I’m happy to be on that progression.
SS: Yeah, with ISCorp, I was with Trek for three years. But, the transition to Specialized has been a really good one. They came to our team camp in December and they were all such nice people and most of them were at the Tour of California too. It’s a great community. The bikes are flawless.
N: They’re dream bikes for sure. So fast and beautiful.
N: I know that you, Coryn Rivera, Alexis Ryan, Ruth Winder, and others have made the jump to the World Tour in the last couple of years. What is it about the US Pro Women field that makes it such an incredible breeding ground for the top World Tour talent?
SS: Yeah, it’s incredible what the American women have been doing with Alexis Ryan, Coryn Rivera, and Megan Guarnier winning World Tour races and there’s a lot of young talent coming up through the ranks. USA Cycling has done a great job with supporting women and giving us opportunities to develop.
N: What’s the secret? The US women have been superb on the road, track, and trails. There’s so much star power out there among the US women.
SS: I think that we’re all pretty supportive of each other. Coryn and Megan have given me a lot of advice; they do a great job at helping the younger riders develop. It’s a good community. I don’t know if there’s a secret, but it takes a lot of hard work and it’s a very supportive group.
N: This year, you actually got to race a World Tour race in the United States when you joined the US National Team for the Amgen Tour of California. What was that experience like?
SS: It was cool. Sam [Ed. Samantha Schneider, Skylar’s older sister] and I did it with USA Cycling last year as well. To come back and try to improve on what we did last year was a cool experience and I always love working with Jack Seehafer, the director of the women’s US National Team. It was fun. We didn’t really get the results we were after, but we worked well as a team and made some good memories.
N: Megan Guarnier, one of your teammates during the Amgen Tour of California, is also one of your Boels-Dolmans teammates. What’s your relationship with her like?
SS: Really good, she’s a great mentor. She’s been through a lot of what I’m going through now, so she’s given a lot of very valuable advice to me and I really appreciate that. It was also really fun racing with her at Nationals this year.
N: Is she one of the riders that you spend the most time with when you’re over in Europe?
SS: I’m living in Holland so I spend a lot more time with Chantal Blaak and the other Dutch riders; Megan’s in France. I think that I’ve only raced with her two times in Europe this season, but we keep in touch.
N: The last thing you did before heading back to Europe to race in the Giro Rosa was do a couple criteriums (crits) at the Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). The fans were thrilled to see you taking some time to race in your hometown crit series!
SS: I was supposed to fly to Italy a few days before the start of ToAD, but I told the team that I’m not missing my home races at ToAD. It’s really, really special to have my whole family out and cheering. It’s a great chance to go out and have fun; and be safe because you can’t have anything happen right before one of the biggest stage races of the season. Maybe go for some primes and potentially look at going for a race win. [Ed. Skylar made her presence known in the races and managed to secure a second-place finish at the famous Downer Classic]
N: What’s the transition like physically going from all of the long European racing back to your roots racing crits?
SS: It’s fun. My job in the races in Europe is to be up front the first three hours. Coming back to the American criterium scene, the races are just one hour, but the intensity is a lot higher. It’s just a whole different atmosphere, but I really enjoy racing both places.
N: Do longer races in Europe, with their greater focus on endurance, affect your ability to kick hard in the sprints at the end of a criterium? Or are you all good?
SS: I think that I’m alright.
N: What are your goals for going into next year, are you hooked up with Boels-Dolmans again?
SS: I’ll be staying in Europe. Details are still being worked out. There will be an announcement regarding what team I’ll be racing for in the future.
N: Very interesting. We’ll be looking forward to that announcement! Best of luck while you try to figure everything out! Wherever you end up racing in 2019, either back at Boels-Dolmans or elsewhere, I’m sure you’ll continue to thrive!