Photo via: Bicycle Times
Toni Morrison once said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” While 30-year-old Ayesha McGowan may not be writing a book, she’s writing her own story in the world of competitive cycling. Making her way towards becoming the first Black woman professional cyclist, McGowan is paving the way for young Black girls by creating an image of an athlete that's not currently represented.
Photo credit: Damian Maloney
Growing up in Piscataway, New Jersey in a suburban town, McGowan participated in sports but never cycled beyond using it as a form of transportation. Once she attended university at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she began biking as a frugal way to commute around the city. Her former boyfriend convinced her to purchase a freewheel bike and she was hooked. This was the beginning of her journey towards professional cycling.
"I thought it was the coolest thing in the world," McGowan told Huck Magazine. "Going from that first serious bike experience to 'I now have a bike tattoo on my arm' took about three years."
In her career thus far, McGowan has achieved remarkable results. She’s currently a Category 2 in the competitive road cycling for women which involved four categories starting at Category 4 and moving up to “Cat 1". She has even achieved success in the competitive European circuit, finishing in a 10th place at the Kermisronde van Duizel in the Netherlands, ninth at the Roborode Herleen in the same country, and ninth in the women's P1/2 Criterium at the Sea Otter Classic in California in 2017.
Photo via: ESPNW
When McGowan began cycling, she was unsettled by the lack of Black cyclists. She started the hunt for Black women professional cyclists who she could look up to but was surprised to learn that there weren’t any. She took this as a challenge to become her own role model, as well as one for aspiring Black athletes who may not view cycling as a viable sport due to the lack of representation. "If I can present the image of an African American pro bike racer," she told ESPN Women, "then I can open the doors for others to do it, too."
Good luck to Ayesha as she chases her dream!