Cyclocross racer Molly Cameron makes dudes eat her dust
The highest spots in the Category A Cross Crusade standings are filled with names like Ryan, Sean, Erik, and Ben. But one name in particular stands out near the top.
Molly Cameron has always enjoyed competing with the guys. And for a time, she was one of the guys. Cameron is the only transgender athlete to compete in the Union Cycliste Internationale (international competitive cycling organization) Cyclocross World Cup.
Now, she’s at the front of the peloton heading into the fourth and fifth stages of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association’s Cross Crusade series this weekend at Deschutes Brewery.
Growing up, Cameron didn’t hope to be the next big name in cycling. She simply pedaled to feed the competitive drive that growled inside her.
“I never really daydreamed about being a pro; I daydreamed about racing against the fastest people that I could,” she says.
Cameron was in her mid-20s frogging through the San Francisco streets as a bike messenger when she decided to dedicate her life to pursuing a career in cycling. In 2001, Cameron came to Portland to visit a friend. On a whim, they chose to swap apartments for a few months. Cameron couldn’t leave.
Shortly after moving to the Rose City, she opened the Portland Bicycle Studio and formed a team of racers. Though she had a pro contract as a road cyclist for a bit and spent much of her early years on the velodrome, moving to Oregon helped Cameron settle into her true passion: the muddy, rugged trails of cyclocross.
From there, like the wheels beneath her feet, Cameron’s career quickly spun forward.
“Here in Oregon, the racing level is really high. I’ve raced all over the world. I’ve done World Cups in Europe, races in China, Japan, and all over the U.S.,” Cameron says. “Outside of Japan, [Oregon] has probably the biggest, most passionate scene. There’s a good dozen riders in Oregon, and especially in Bend, who I love to compete with because I could beat them on any weekend and they could beat me.”
In 2008, Cameron brought her bike to Europe and became the first transgender athlete to compete in the Cyclocross World Cup. Like her childhood-self, she wasn’t doing it for fame or publicity. She just wanted to go up against the best.
“I didn’t really think of it like a big statement or anything. It was just kind of me following my passion,” Cameron says. “I care a lot about gender politics and that stuff, but as a bike racer I do it because I love it. I just did it because I wanted to race against the fastest people that I could.”
Though Cameron is one of the most accomplished cyclocross racers in Oregon, she’s only made it to the second-highest step on the Cross Crusade podium. One year, she was edged by a point.
“I’ve never won the overall and I’d love to do that this year,” she says.
This season, she’s determined to push to the front and stay there. That means she’s taking the long way home instead of short cuts. Going to sleep as it gets dark and waking before it’s light.
“You can talk to my friends and they’ll tell you I did a lot of lonely five-hour bike rides this summer,” Cameron says with a laugh.
She notes that her proudest accomplishment is not a multi-colored jersey, a memory of her crossing the finish line, or making history in the transgender community, but rather the balance she manages to keep in her life.
“Being able to race at a high level and run a bike shop and a pro women’s team, if I’m keeping my life stress and work stress managed well,” she explains, “it allows me to focus, rest, and recover better.”
In order to stay in the hunt for the Cross Crusade title, Cameron will have to aim for podium finishes both days in Bend. But in every race she’s going for first place anyway.
“Every year I get asked, ‘What are your goals? What’s your target?'” she says. “The last five or six years I’ve said, ‘I go into every race to win it. I start every race and I want to win it.'”
Like always, Cameron will keep racing with the guys. And beating them.