U23 national champion to combine racing with finishing her degree
Natalie Quinn is still taking it all in.
It’s been a big year for the 21-year-old. This summer she became the American U23 national road race champion and now she is set to join EF Education-Cannondale.
“When I first heard from Esra, it almost seemed too good to be true,” Natalie says. “Then I talked with Tim, my director from my current team, CCB, and then my personal coach and it began to sink in that this was real and I started getting really excited. This roster has some pretty amazing people that I’ve watched race and it’s super exciting that I will be working with them this year.”
Winning the U23 national road race was a big moment in Natalie’s career. Going into the combined elite and U23 race, she surprised herself in more ways than one.
“My plan was to hang onto the front group as long as I could and I was happily surprised to find that was a totally achievable goal,” she says. “By the time I fell off the front group, I was the last U23 rider to hang on. When I crossed the finish line, I wasn’t super happy with my result because I hadn’t realized I had won. I was kind of beating myself up because I didn’t make it to the line with the front group but then my team director told me I won and it was kind of like, ‘Oh…I won the race!’”
Natalie has been an athlete for most of her life, starting with downhill ski racing at age eight after her parents taught Natalie and her sister to ski. By the time she turned 16, she was on the cusp of turning pro but ultimately decided she didn’t love the sport enough to dedicate her life to it.
Looking for a new sport, Natalie tried out for her high school softball team but didn’t make the cut. When she found out her school had a mountain biking team she could join, Natalie decided to give it a try. That led to her becoming a scholarship athlete in Colorado on Fort Lewis College’s varsity cycling program.
“It’s one of the few varsity programs in the country. We race all the disciplines and so I raced cyclocross, mountain biking, road, and a little bit of track with them – basically, whatever national championships they’d take me to. There are not many women on my team and so I was asked to be part of the road team my freshman year and I found I really enjoyed the racing,” Natalie says.
The 2023 season was Natalie’s first where she focused on the road. She joined the domestic team CCB which led to her first opportunity to race in Europe, an experience she relished. In turn, those results in Belgium landed her a spot with USA Cycling racing the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes and Tour Feminin Ardèche.
Still new to road cycling, Natalie is savoring the process of discovering her strengths.
“I’m figuring it out a little bit. I love cobbles and punchy climbs. I consider myself a really solid descender and technical handler. But what I’ve found out about myself is that I’m pretty aggressive and I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m not afraid to chase down attacks or to go on the attack myself. I’m not afraid to get into a breakaway and then go as far as I can with it,” Natalie says.
Team general manager Esra Tromp explains how Natalie is the perfect fit with what the team was looking for.
“In the team, we had a spot for a rider who was young, new to the sport, and would benefit from gaining experience racing in Europe,” Esra says. “It’s important that we are creating an opportunity for the sport to grow by seeking out new riders. We are also an American team so I was searching and Natalie popped up. She is the current U23 national champion which is interesting, but especially when we spoke to each other and she talked about how she sees her future and development both as a rider and as a person, that’s when I knew she would be a good combination with the team. She comes from CCB which is a super development team in the US but the racing there is limited. She wants to develop but she wants to take it slowly which I think is really important. She’s from alpine skiing so this is really cool because she’s not scared at all which is helpful in an intense sport like cycling. And she’s going to inspire a lot of girls and women in the US to jump on the bike.”
In addition to racing and training, Natalie is in the midst of earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental conservation and management.
“It’s a pretty broad degree but I’ve found myself focusing more on food accessibility and sustainable agriculture because a lot of the biggest problems related to climate change are agricultural related. If and when I decide to focus professionally on something other than cycling, I’d really like to work either in a legal capacity to help create protections and policies related to creating a more sustainable agricultural system or just going straight to the source and having some interaction with a farm, whether it’s working with one or starting one,” Natalie says.
Until then, Natalie is thrilled to have signed her first professional racing contract. She never imagined her path to turning pro would include a national champion’s jersey and signing with one of her favorite organizations.
“I’ve followed EF Pro Cycling for a long time and I’ve really enjoyed being a fan,” Natalie says. “I also love Cannondale bikes and being on an American team as an American is really awesome. I think it’s really great that the women’s and men’s teams are among the few American teams still going so it’s exciting to get to be part of this.”