Risky career change turns profitable for mountain biker

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) - In five years, Ann Trombley went from full-time physical therapist to Olympic mountain biker.

"Two months ago, I finally called my boss and told him I couldn't be there anymore," Trombley said. "I hadn't been working, really, for the past five months, but I was still going in if they needed me to work weekends."

Trombley, 38, of Golden, Colo., placed 11th at a race Friday on the Norba professional mountain bike circuit.

The winner was Australian Olympian Mary Grigson, who finished the 20-mile course in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 49 seconds. Next was Ruthie Matthes of Durango, Colo., in 2:05.09, followed by Alla Epifanova of Russia in 2:08.03.

Trombley's racing career is more remarkable considering she started in her mid-30s. She's 10 to 15 years older than many competitors but credits a late start for her success.

"I've done OK because I haven't been racing that long," she said. "I was fresher at an older age."

She never expected to be so successful on a bike.

"Four years ago, people would tell me I could make it to the Olympics, and I would tell them they were crazy," she added. "I told them, I'm not going to be racing that long."

Trombley couldn't afford to give up her job while she climbed the pro mountain bike racing circuit to a No. 13 world ranking. And sponsors weren't falling over themselves to help a no-name.

"Five years ago, I hadn't even heard about Ann," said Stephane Girard, a former French team assistant who now coaches the U.S. riders. "I knew the top American riders, and I don't know anybody who knew about Ann."

Most cyclists live on sponsorship money and, at certain races, appearance fees. Mountain bike sponsors, weighed down by slow sales in recent years, have been able to support only top riders.

Trombley, meanwhile, paid for everything from telephone bills to bicycle and automobile repairs as she gradually reduced her hours at her day job.

"I make money on winnings and my team helps pay for travel expenses," she said. "But as far as bills go, I have to do well in the races. It's been difficult just to pay the bills but that's how I've done it."

Her snub by sponsors became a source of motivation. Trombley wanted to show the Olympic team was within her reach without any help, and in turn she inspired other riders.

"She has worked so hard, more than just being on a bike, over the last five years," Matthes said. "It's really an inspirational story, to show anyone can do it if you haveAa dream."


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