Meet UnitedHealthcare Pro-Cyclist Lauren Hall
Lauren Hall was always determined to become a professional athlete, a family tradition inherited from her grandfather – who played football for the first San Francisco 49ers team. Her athletic ambitions began on the soccer field, so landing on a bicycle was never part of the plan.
Winning Passion for Cycling
After hanging up her cleats in 2002, Lauren went to culinary school where she ran for fitness without any pro ambitions. She dabbled in triathlon but didn’t immediately take to the bike. In fact, her first experience in a bike shop was so overwhelming that she left empty-handed. Eventually, she bought her first bike and jumped into local group rides, learning the sport as she rode, which led to her love for cycling.
Today, Lauren is the captain of the women’s UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team – a Swiftwick sponsored organization. The last few years of her career are some of her most rewarding. She says the best years. Capturing the win at Gent-Wevelgem Women Elite race in 2014 was one high point that took time to sink in.
“It was a very special day. Probably the highlight of my career,” Hall says.
While the European women who took second and third were putting on makeup for their national television appearance on the podium, Lauren casually wiped her face and waited for the men's finish for the ceremony. On the way home to the United States, the distinction of the achievement finally clicked.
“I’m in a very select group of individuals, especially American individuals. I take that as some great people to be with, especially the women, they’re amazing athletes. Now it’s sunk in and I’m very grateful and appreciative,” she says.
As the captain of the UnitedHealthcare squad, team dynamics are important to Hall, noting that friendships lead to better performance for everyone. For instance, when Katie Hall, another UnitedHealthcare cyclist, is “wearing the jersey,” Lauren gladly rides for her all day.
“I don’t know if it’s a difference between men and women or a difference in pay that leads to different attitudes, but I need the team connection,” she says. “Maybe it’s because most of [the female riders] come from another sport or a professional life of some sort but there doesn’t seem to be as much ego on the women’s side and when a team doesn’t mesh well, it’s hard on everyone.”
Lauren invokes that connection with her team every race with pre-race huddles and race preps together.
Race Day Rituals
Most competitors have race day and travel rituals that get them through during countdowns to an event, and Lauren is no different. Her race ritual? Lip balm.
“The girls laugh at me because I race with Chapstick in my pocket,” she says about keeping a tube tucked in her jersey pocket at all times. And she travels with two chef’s knives in her checked luggage. “I went to culinary school and got my Associate’s Degree in culinary arts, so I also travel with my own chefs knives. You never know if you’re staying in a hotel or you’re staying in a host house what they’ll have...that’s one of the most important tools in the kitchen.”
Post-race Lauren keeps things simple by disconnecting from social media with some relaxing music. “The more you think about the race, the more you prolong your recovery. As soon as I can process what happened and be done with it, I’m done with it.”
Performance Gear Matters
While Lauren is a native of Mississippi, she now lives in Colorado. She stays active every day and relies on high-performance gear, especially footwear.
“I live in Colorado so I [train in] cold, so I really like the wool socks. My feet sweat a lot, but trying to train through some of this weather is always fun and challenging,” she says. “I don’t just wear them while I’m riding my bike, they’re the go-to sock for when I Nordic ski and lift weights. I wear the compression socks whenever I’m traveling...blood flow is an important part of travel and can be pretty dangerous!”
Supporting Female Athletes
Hall encourages active women to support companies that support women, as well as to watch women’s sports, join associations and vote with wallets because purchasing behavior can make a real impact. If you invest in companies that invest in women’s cycling, the athletes and the sport will flourish.
Lauren is a believer in the Homestretch Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to professional and elite athletes – primarily female athletes – who face financial and economic discrepancies, as well as the Cyclists’ Alliance, an association to represent the interests and support female riders.
Lauren believes that issues and female interests are starting to turn around thanks to these organizations and teams like UnitedHealthcare, which has created a cornerstone for women’s cycling and manage a “next level” team operation in terms of organization, professionalism and resources.
- Chris Cowan