Like most freshmen, Allison Jones arrived on the campus of Warren Wilson College in 2011 with few possessions. But she remembers one item vividly.
Her parents bought Jones a bike before she left for college, which was ironic because she did not share their passion for the sport as a teenager.
“It was a Trek bike,” she said. “I saw other students were into biking and immediately thought, ‘OK, I’ll be into biking too.’”
That decision ended up shaping the course of her life.
Jones, who finished classes in May and graduates in December, was a standout during her career riding for the Swannanoa college’s cycling team. As a sophomore, she was recognized as the MVP. As a junior, she was named captain. She was also one of five Owls cyclists to be named a USA Cycling Academic All-Star for the fall 2015 season.
Jones delivered the school cyclocross team’s first spot at a podium with a fourth-place finish at the Cyclocross National Championships in January. Jones’ career at the school also includes 18 medals in road cycling, mountain biking and cyclocross.
Cycling “was a new sport to me, a new world,” she said. “I was really privileged to get the training that I received in my four years there.”
The next step for Jones, a native of Raleigh, was to continue participating in the sport she loved at the next level. She found that opportunity with the A.B.C. Cycling Team, a group of elite mountain bikers that races cross-country, endurance and marathon races in the Southeast and parts of the Mid-Atlantic.
“I kind of stumbled across the team through my connection Matt Williams (Warren Wilson’s cycling coach),” Jones said. “And the main person that had a hand in getting me on the team was Brian Sheedy (volunteer assistant cycling coach at Brevard College); he’s a key player getting the Brevard team where they are. They put me in touch with Mike King (team manager for A.B.C. Cycling), and I got on the team.”
Now Jones has to earn her professional license.
“I have to go to a certain amount of races and gather a certain amount of points,” she said. “It can take a season or longer. I think it will take me more than a season, based on life.”
Day-to-day life can take away from valuable training hours for young, up-and-coming cyclists. But Jones considers herself fortunate to have a job that allows her to stay sharp on the trails.
“I’ve done a lot of readjusting to how I view training since finishing school,” she said. “I have two jobs and I’m fortunate that one of them is a mountain biking job. I work with students at The Academy of Trails Carolina, which works with students that have just left wilderness therapy. Doing that job on the weekends is essentially training, because those kids are tough.”
The chance to learn more about herself while facing the adversity that comes with each race was in no small part what led Jones to seek out a career in professional cycling.
“One of the things that led me to do this was how completely challenged I am every day that I ride,” she said. “Like any sport, you have the exponential amount that you can get better at it. That always pushes me in some way that I didn’t think it would.”