Bausch enjoys ride of her life
As one of five US Olympic finalists in the Women's Team Pursuit event in track cycling, 38-year-old Dotsie Bausch is close to living her dream. Sixteen years ago, she was close to not living at all.
There are plenty of mementos to Bausch's pro cycling career in the pristine Orange County townhouse she shares with her husband of six years, Kirk, including the seven framed bike jerseys hanging from the wall over the second floor alcove. In the garage, there are dozens of medals and old race badges displayed on the back wall, surrounded by rows of bike frames and extra tires.
Yet, somewhere in the house there are keepsakes she doesn't show anyone.
"I never talk about the actual number [of pounds]," Bausch said. "I have the pictures, but I've never shared them."
The Louisville, Ky., native started exhibiting symptoms of anorexia in 1995 as a senior at Villanova University. She believes they were triggered by the impending uncertainty of post-college life.
"It was a scary, out-of-control feeling and this was something I could control," Bausch said.
The illness became worse when she moved to New York City, where she worked for the art department of a company that produced commercials and music videos and also dabbled as a part-time model. By the time Bausch sought help a little over a year later — after moving to Los Angeles — her body had shriveled and she was having trouble getting oxygen to her major organs.
"Part of my recovery was no exercise at all because that was a piece of the addiction. Once I reached a stage of the recovery my therapist said 'I want you to use your body and move again, but I'd rather you pick something you've never done before,'" Bausch said. "I hadn't rode a bike since I was 6. I got a mountain bike and just started riding around."
Did she ever.
After little-to-no training, Bausch decided to ride in the 1999 California AIDS ride, a 545-mile trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles. By the end of the race, she and her mountain bike had kept up with the top group of racers.
"It was the most amazing time I ever had," Bausch said. "I just fell into it. It didn't stop."
By 2002, Bausch was a member of the US National Team, competing in road races of more than 100 miles. Later that year, Bausch started her own coaching business and in 2003 she met Kirk, a masters cyclist, at a trade show.
"It's really fun to have something you love to do in common," Bausch said. "He has a passion for the sport. He gets me and how intense it is. It's fun to have those memories together."
Bausch started to create new memories in 2007, when she began her transition to track cycling. With her proximity to the nation's only World Cup sanctioned track in nearby Carson and her desire to try something different after nine years of road cycling, Bausch started practicing for the 250-meter indoor banked track.
Eventually, she was named to the US squad in team pursuit, an event where three riders compete in a 3,000 meter race on fixed bikes, which have only one gear and require quick bursts of power and technical coordination with teammates. Each teammate takes turns as the front rider for 15-20-second intervals then switches off. While it's a drastic switch from long road races, it's a style of riding that has served Bausch well. In 2010, she and teammates Lauren Tamayo and Sarah Hammer set a world record in Women's Team Pursuit at the Pan American Championships in Mexico.
"The track has such a high degree of difficulty," USA track cycling coach Neal Henderson said. "Every lap you do often has a different goal attached to it, which is every 250 meters. As a road cyclist, you may be doing a four-hour ride and getting basic endurance there. There's not a specific goal every 10 to 20 seconds.
"A lot of track cyclists begin on the track and transition to the road. Dotsie's a little bit different in that she developed first on the road and has come to the track with a different focus."
Part of that focus is making it to London this summer. Bausch was a member of the US long team for track cycling in Beijing but didn't ride in the games. With Women's Team Pursuit making its debut as an Olympic event this year, she'll likely be wearing the red, white and blue on the track of a sold-out Velodrome in early August. Henderson will pick the four team members (and three riders) by June, using criteria that combine measured training data with each rider's race results over the previous 24 months.
While Bausch will be 39 in London, she refuses to put a timeline on her career as a professional racer. She plans to keep building her coaching business and get more involved in Hibiscus Iwear, an online retailer she started with her sister.
"I've never been somebody with a five-year or 10-year plan," Bausch said. "If I don't get hit by a bus tomorrow, I'll live to the third day. I think it's something from my history and realizing how close I was to dying."
Bausch is helping to heal others who have gone through similar struggles. She opened an eating disorder clinic in Ecuador and serves as a mentor to numerous women who are at the worst points of their illness.
"I'm not a trained therapist so for me it's like 'These are the shoes that I've walked in and these are my struggles,'" Bausch said. "If I can't be open and honest and help people, then what was all that agony for? Not only can your body make a 180, but look what it can then do."