Three years ago, Alison Powers was on the verge of giving up her career in professional cycling.
Now the idea seems absurd.
Last weekend in Chattanooga, Tenn., Powers accomplished a first in American women's cycling. By winning national titles in road racing and time trial at the USA Cycling Professional Road Race and Time Trial Championships, she became the first woman ever to hold three national titles in the three main road cycling disciplines at the same time.
She already owned the national title in criterium racing.
Powers, who lives in Pinecliffe but regularly trains and works as a cycling coach in Boulder, was still in awe of her accomplishment Wednesday afternoon as she prepared to celebrate with friends with a parade in her honor down First Street in Nederland.
"It's kind of unbelievable," she said. "I can't believe it, but at the same time it feels amazing."
Powers, 34, took up cycling in earnest 10 years ago after an injury ended her alpine skiing pursuits. She's known as an 'all-arounder' which means she competes well in all phases of the sport, though she is the first to admit races that involve a lot of climbing aren't usually her best.
She slogged through nearly a decade of doing everything just to make it to the start line each week. Powers said the difference this year is clear as day. She is 'super happy' off the bike in her personal life getting engaged to the love of her life. And she joined a new team this year.
The new team aspect might not seem like such a big deal to those versed in cycling, but the UnitedHealthCare team decided to take the road less ridden when it chose to treat its women's team just like its men's team this year.
That means Powers and her 11 teammates stay in hotels when they travel to races. They don't have to work on their own bikes, cook food for themselves, do laundry or any of the dozens of other tasks that take time and energy and sometimes create stress.
"All I have to do is relax and ride bikes," she said.
Powers said at a recent race, she and her teammates were able to warm up on a trainer with a fan blowing cold air on them. She said that wouldn't have been possible in the past because her previous team just didn't invest the same money.
"They've really allowed me to kind of figure out the environment that I thrive in for racing. I think that has been a big help. When you're looking at small percentages to get better, I really think it's that. It's those little things that really matter," she said.
Powers missed the entire 2011 season after a fall in a criterium race in Redlands, Calif., in which she broke a bone in her elbow. She said there were days during that year when she thought she might be done with the sport, but the further removed from her last race she was, the more she missed it.
"Once I came back, I had a different outlook at the whole sport," Powers said. "I was really excited to be on my bike."
Powers also competes in mountain bike racing, which is where one of her two major goals for the rest of 2014 resides. She wants to win the Leadville 100 in August and she also aims to help teammate Mara Abbott repeat as champion of the Giro Donne in Italy in July.
While she understands the significance of her accomplishment, Powers is having a hard time wrapping her mind around having worked her way to the upper echelon of women's cycling.
"I guess it's because I still consider myself as I have a lot of things I can work on and become better," she said. "I've always looked at riders who have won more than one national title as really elite and really special like they must have something that I don't have. But here I am. I have all three at the same time and I still feel like I have stuff I can learn and improve.
"I don't feel that special. I just have a special accomplishment."