Personal Best: Cyclist hopes passion leads to success at Giro

Lina Martensson stores two bikes in her living room and another two in the bedroom of her Mission District apartment.
“I need more,” Martensson said, referring to both space and bikes.

The native of Sweden will be riding her most recently acquired road bike as she races with her Metromint Cycling teammates in Monday’s 36th annual Giro di San Francisco.

She became happily consumed with cycling only two years ago, shortly after a job transfer with Google prompted a move from Switzerland.

“I work in Mountain View and live in San Francisco, and I heard about these people at work who would ride their bikes, and I thought that was crazy,” the 29-year-old software engineer said. “I wanted to try it once, and it kind of stuck, and I couldn’t stop. I decided that I had to race.”

The 5-foot-7, 130-pound Martensson does the three-hour, one-way commute a couple of times a week.

Ten additional hours are spent on the bike training for a busy race schedule, which included her first victory in May at the Kern County Women’s Stage Race. Martensson won the time trial first stage of the three-day, four-race schedule and held the lead through two subsequent road races and a hill climb. The win catapulted her from Category 4 to Category 3, a monumental jump in women’s cycling.

“It’s from beginner to racing with the pros, which is kind of interesting,” Martensson said.</p>

Almost as rewarding to Martensson was the Uninhibited Racing Award that she had won a month earlier as the most aggressive rider at the Hippstar Menlo Park Grand Prix.

“It was a really rainy and terrible race, very cold. I would’ve skipped it, but my parents were here from Sweden,” Martensson said. “I knew that I wasn’t going to win it, but I had to put on a show for my parents.”

With three laps to go in the race, she decided to let loose and began passing her opponents.

“I went as hard as I could for as long as I could,” she said. “It didn’t work because it’s so much harder to go it alone than in a pack.”

Martensson ultimately finished in ninth place, but she was happy with her prize, a bottle of wine and her parents were dazzled by their daughter’s gutsy performance.

Racing in the elite Category 1/2/3 portion of Monday’s Giro, Martensson’s focus will be team-oriented rather than individual glory.

“Hopefully, I can do something to help my teammates do well,” she said. “I have awesome teammates and have learned a lot from them.”

 

Metromint Giro di San Francisco

 

Where: Levi Strauss Plaza, Battery at Union streets, San Francisco

When: Monday, first start time at 8 a.m.

Info: www.metromintcycling.com

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