This week, we delve into our epic heroine Katherine Saunder’s forever young story. "Katie" has just returned home from her 15th (yes, that’s right!) Ciclismo Classico tour–French Alps to French Riviera–where she actually mastered the climb up the Alpe d’Huez–for the third time! Katie beams “I think this time was the easiest.”
The English poet William Blake once wrote: Great things are done when men and mountains meet. In the Ciclismo World, and much to our delight–we've got WOMEN meeting those mountains!
Katherine Saunders, a stellar 64-year old athlete has taken 15 trips with Ciclismo Classico in the last 13 years and shares a bit of her own "eroica" story with us.
“I started these cycling trips with Ciclismo Classico as one once in a lifetime trip and now it’s been 13 years of taking trips. So, over the years I’ve ridden up Alpe d’Huez three times, two times with Ciclismo and once this past Summer. I think this time was the easiest, so to be building strength as I’m aging contributes to a feeling of youth."
"The satisfaction of reaching the top of a pass is just tremendous."
Living and working in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Katie shares with me that it’s not so easy to find beautiful landscapes. Consequently cycling evolved over time as Katie found it to be the best answer to her overwhelming desire to be out in nature, while getting great exercise. And once she started touring those glorious mountain-laden European destinations–there was no stopping this very determined woman.
"For sure, there is the beautiful benefit of being able to afford Ciclismo Classico trips which was difficult earlier in my career and with young kids. It is also very refreshing to be exposed to other cultures and viewpoints through both the local people we meet and converse with, and the other people on the trip.”
When asked about how cycling fits into her overall health and youthfulness, Katie speaks of the empowerment cycling has brought into her life. A very dedicated women–with the force of nature fueling her inner engine–Katie has taken some of our most challenging rides, including at least five trips in the Italian Dolomites, Mont Blanc, the Swiss Alps and several trips in the French Alps and Pyrenees mountains. She clearly loves a great challenge! Katie adds, “I also believe that this strength contributes to drive and motivation in everyday life and in my profession.” When she is not in the saddle, Katie works as an attorney with a Tulsa-based firm.
“I especially love to climb, so I must go to Colorado or elsewhere to do that. I love the mountains of Europe which have varied beauty depending on whether you are in the Alps or the Dolomites or the Apennines, without the altitude of Colorado. The satisfaction of reaching the top of a pass is just tremendous.”
Katie also shared an unfortunate story (and all too common) about an accident whereby she was struck by a car four years ago that has left some residual nerve damage in one leg. Ironically, cycling has been the best possible exercise for the leg’s recovery overall and she believes it has actually enhanced her riding performance as she has shifted her focus on form to maximize muscle strength. How’s that for a positive spin?
When she is not out cruising the roads surrounding Tulsa–or in Colorado at her family outpost–Katie also enjoys an occasional swim, hike or off-season skiing. But related to travel, she adds “cycling is really just the best way to see Europe. I love the small towns with the old villagers sitting watching the world go by. I would never interact with townspeople the same way if I were in a car.”
“I just really do love it. It’s a bit like being a kid with the freedom to explore. And at times, the power of speed is cleansing fun.”
At home, Katie cycles with a group two to four times a week with varying distances and travels around the country to cycle gran fondo rides in the U.S. including the Triple Bypass, Solvang Century and the California Death Ride (Tour of the Californian Alps). Any opportunity to get a ride in, she’s on it. On this note she adds, “My niece is getting married in Aspen, Colorado late September, and we’ll surely be taking our bikes!”
This true heroine continues to aim high. Always.
Photo credit: Katherine Saunders
Katie makes me what to get out and ride! To continue that motivation, read last week's Forever Young story.
Ready to test your own climbing skills? Read more about our other Epic rides here,