Finding ways to stay Young

Former world-class cyclist from Auburn hasn’t slowed down since stepping away
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a weekly series of stories looking back on athletes from the area that have moved on to different venues. Repetition and routine are the staples of many athletes’ success. For Julie Young, not so much. When she embarked on her collegiate golf career at UCLA and realized it wasn’t the sport for her, she hopped on a bike. When she lost her sponsors late in her tremendous professional cycling career, Young picked up cross country skiing and immediately became an elite-level skier. After a three-year run as a writer and editor for Sierra Heritage magazine, Young didn’t hesitate to switch gears again, getting back into the endurance sports realm as a coach and trainer in 2006. Her diverse resume reflects her philosophy when it comes to training. “To me, it’s so refreshing to mix it up,” said Young, who splits her time between Truckee and Auburn these days. “After having competed in cycling almost year-round for 12 years, I like to run one day, take a swim the next day, ride my mountain bike the next day. It makes everything fresh, exciting and fun. It shouldn’t be something you have to do. It’s a lifestyle. It makes you feel good.” A longtime Auburn resident, Young was one of the top cyclists in the world throughout the 1990s. Her career on a bike started virtually on a whim. She had started a job in the State of California’s Commerce Department in Sacramento after graduating from UCLA when she read an article about Sacramento’s McKinley brothers and their cycling exploits. Scott McKinley represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. “That just inspired me, so I got my (professional) license and within a year I made pretty big strides,” Young said. By 1990, Young was a full-time cyclist and a member of the U.S. national team. As a professional, she competed at the highest level for 12 years. In 1992, she won the Tour de l’Aude (the women’s equivalent to the Tour de France). She competed on the Saturn Cycling Team for four seasons, Team Fanini in Italy for one year, the Timex Cycling Team for one year and then captained the team in 2000 and 2001. Her short breaks in the offseason were spent primarily in Auburn, where she could hone her skills on the tough climbs and the twisting roads in the area. “All my teammates were in Colorado and I thought Auburn was the best-kept secret in the world,” Young said. “The road riding is outstanding and the canyon is perfect for cross-training.” Young had a stellar 2001 season, but like thousands of Americans, Sept. 11 of that year had a major impact on her life. “I had things set up for a new sponsor and when 9/11 hit, the bottom fell out,” she said. “I wasn’t willing to take a step back and support myself and buy all my equipment to race. And I didn’t want to do it just because it was comfortable for me. I soul-searched and realized it was time to move on. It felt good to finish with such a strong season.” While many professional athletes struggle to pick themselves up after their competitive careers wind down, Young was quick to embrace new challenges. She jumped into cross-country skiing and signed on with the Rossignol Nordic Ski Team in 2002. She quickly fell in love with the sport, which she found helped her train for another hobby — trail running. Between the snow and the trail, Young found herself collecting trophies and medals again. She won the Yosemite and Mammoth Marathon ski races and placed in the top 10 at the Great Ski Race – a 30-kilometer course from Tahoe to Truckee. In the summer months, Young was dominant on foot, winning the Bolinas Ridge 18K, the Point Reyes Trail Half-Marathon, the Auburn Trail Marathon and most recently, the Tahoe Rim Trail 50K just last month. You won’t hear Young gushing about her wide-ranging success. “She’s really quite unassuming,” said Glen Carnahan, who runs the Auburn Century and has worked with Young on the race for three years. “You don’t know her pedigree until other people start telling you. She’s so disciplined and very driven, but you don’t see that intensity when you’re just talking with her.” Young’s latest passion is sharing her active, outdoor lifestyle with others. She works for Northstar as the cross-country director and she organizes other events like a snowshoe race series that is quickly becoming popular with endurance athletes in the region. “I think cross country (skiing) and snowshoeing should make a better connection with the endurance athletes, especially here in Auburn,” Young said. “You can go out and ride your bike or run in the rain or you can pop up the hill and run around in the snow.” Young offers personal training for a wide range of activities for beginners up to elite-level competitors. She is holding a series of training sessions for cyclists to gear up for the Auburn Century next month. “I think Julie and I share a common focus in that we both really like to just see people get out and be active,” Carnahan said. “She has so much information and tips to share. I feel blessed to have her wanting to reach out to what you would call average riders. It’s a great opportunity for people to get out and ride with someone of her caliber.” While her competitive results are still impressive, Young said she gets even more enjoyment out of seeing others discover the opportunities that abound in the foothills and the Sierra. Her Optimum Outdoor Fitness program allows her to work with individuals and groups in the setting that she loves. “I like to get folks out there and let them see what makes this place so awesome,” Young said. “I get satisfaction out of anyone wanting to make a lifestyle change. I think once you get a taste of (training outdoors) it’s something you want to do.” For more information on Young’s personal training, visit