XX Factor


Dec 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

Endurance Mountain Biker
Vancouver, British Columbia

WHY SHE RULES: "In high school I hung out with smokers," says Lesley Tomlinson. "I wasn't a jock by any stretch of the imagination." It's hard to imagine that this five-foot-four, 114-pound fireball was ever a slacker: Since entering her first cycling race at the age of 28, Tomlinson has racked up 23 top-ten World Cup cross-country finishes, a 1994 Pan Am Championship cross-country silver medal, and berths on the 1996 and 2000 Canadian Olympic teams (she finished 12th and 19th in cross-country, respectively). Lately, she's taken on longer distances, with her usual winning spunk: She rode round-the-clock to victory in the 2002 24-Hour Solo World Championships, at Vernon, B.C., and nabbed back-to-back wins in the 2002 and 2003 TransAlp Challenge, the premier eight-day, 400-mile European endurance mountain-bike race held each July. Throughout her career, Tomlinson has proved that age is a state of mind, gamely moving from one discipline to another whenever she has needed a new challenge. "I was never trying to be a pro athlete," says Tomlinson. "I just put all my energy into achieving my goals, and then one day I realized that was what I had become." SAYS WHO: "Lesley has developed her abilities to the max yet continually finds a way to push her limits as far as possible," says Alison Sydor, three-time world champion and cross-country silver medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Games. "It's never a surprise to me when she succeeds in long, difficult races, where many athletes might consider calling it quits." PIVOTAL MOMENT: Switching from skinny tires to fat in 1994, after a nearly career-ending collision with a car and a discouraging run-in with a cycling coach who thought she was too old. "Years after I made the Olympic team, the former national coach apologized for not believing in me at the time," recalls Tomlinson. FORWARD SPIN: Next year, she'll continue training eight young Canadian mountain-bike disciples (one of her riders, 18-year-old Brad Fairall, made the 2003 junior national team); come summer, she'll defend her TransAlp Challenge title. —SHANTI SOSIENSKI