Elizabeth May turned 13 years old less than two weeks ago but was already among the best women cyclists at the River Gorge Omnium this weekend.
Barely a teenager, she competed in the juniors race to help her Frazier Cycling teammates and then won the women's Category 4-5 race against athletes more than twice her age.
"It's all about your mentality," Elizabeth said. "I just try to have good thoughts before my race, and it gives me motivation."
It also takes a lot of skill and training.
Despite staying back to help her teammates in the juniors race — a common tactic in a sport that is more team-oriented than many realize — she still finished second, with plenty of energy in her legs to propel her to a victory later in the day.
Elizabeth has been racing for three years. She plans to move up to Category 3 before the end of the cycling season.
She was hesitant Saturday to talk about her own success, but her young teammates chimed in, pointing out "she's the best" and that "she always wins."
She ultimately admitted that, yes, she does usually win, especially against fellow juniors.
Elizabeth races for Frazier Cycling, an elite cycling team based in her hometown, Atlanta, that dominated much of the weekend. Kelli Rogan is one of the team's coaches and has seen her share of top cyclists come through the program.
"She's as good as any of them," Rogan said.
Although young, Elizabeth hopes to continue her cycling career and eventually turn professional.
Rogan thinks she could reach that goal before she's old enough to drive a car.
"If she keeps going at the pace she's going, she'll be racing the pro [races], too, in three years, tops, when she's 15 or 16," Rogan said.
Saturday's race brought another interesting layer: Rogan, twice a former Olympic trials competitor, was in the race Elizabeth ultimately won.relatedarticlethumb
The teen admitted it was weird at first to race against older women, but said, "once you get used to it after racing for a while, it doesn't get as weird."
Rogan agreed there was an adjustment at first when Elizabeth started racing above the junior level.
"She's not intimidated by anybody," Rogan said. "I think she was at some point, but now, she's not intimidated, and I don't think it bothers her a bit."
Not only is the teen one of the team's most promising riders, but she's also a team leader. Teammates look to her for what to do, how to act and what it takes to compete, her coach said.
For Elizabeth's mother, it's a weekend that makes everything worthwhile.
"It was a sound investment," she said with a smile.