Meet Pro Cyclist Liz Hatch

Is it ever too late to become an elite athlete? Sure. But Leander, Texas, native Liz Hatch, 30, has extended the admissions deadline. She got her first bike at age 24—an escape, she says, from a troubled relationship and the cigarettes-and-cocktails lifestyle of Miami, where she was living. Six years later, she's a key domestique on the Belgian powerhouse Lotto team—ranked fourth in the world—and a full-time fixture of the European peloton.

Liz Hatch     Photo: Harry Borden

Liz Hatch

Liz Hatch

View a Gallery of Cyclist Liz Hatch.

OUTSIDE: You start biking at 24, do some group rides at 25, and by 26 you're racing in Belgium?
HATCH: The guys I was riding with noticed that I was pretty strong and encouraged me to try racing. Then I met two Belgians who were in Florida for winter training. They invited me to come back to Europe. I don't think they were serious. But I showed up.

Was that because you loved cycling or because you didn't know any better?
Probably both. But racing in Belgium is unique. They have such a love for the sport, so there are a lot of opportunities for amateurs. In other European countries, it's difficult to start racing unless you begin really young, because they don't have a lot of amateur races. In Belgium it's pretty simple.

The actual racing's tough, though.
I was at a race one day, and this girl threw up on my leg. It was kinda gross, but it was cool, too. She looked like she was about to pass out. Then she screamed, "Look out," puked, and kept racing. I was like "OK, that's badass."

Now you're back in Europe, racing for Lotto and dating another pro [Lithuanian Radio­Shack rider Tomas Vaitkus]. Safe to say you're happy?
I can't complain. I wasn't an athlete before this. Frankly, I was living a really unhealthy lifestyle. I just feel lucky that I've been able to go from that to this.

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