The Secret Language of Leah
With a background in gymnastics, then on to running, “Princess Leah” Thomas took up cycling in late 2012, was quick to adapt, and now enters her sophomore season with the Sho-Air TWENTY20 Women’s Professional Cycling Team. The energetic, thoughtful, and quick to laugh SoCal native has developed into an all-around rider who, like her team, has focused on the individual and team time trial events. Her personal goal is to make the U.S. World's team. Off the bike she has a range of interests, a great sense of humor, and took some time to talk to SRAM at the team's March camp.
Can you tell us something that no one knows about you such as a favorite hobby (art, cars, music), or rituals?
I have a quite a few...
- Everywhere I travel to, I want to live.
- When I was younger I put ketchup on everything. I love ketchup. I used to make “ketchopscicles” in the freezer. Fortunately, I outgrew ketchup.
- My best friend and I had our own secret language when we were kids. It was called “Loolish.” The key to the language is that essentially you take out the vowels and add an “oo” sound.
Note: SRAM investigators translated the following in Loolish: “Speaking in my secret childhood language is a cool way to communicate.”
Result: "Spookoong oon moo soocroot chooldhood loonguooge oos oo cool wooy too coommoonoocoote."
Besides your riding gear, is there something you always take with you when you travel to races or camps?
Lacrosse ball that I roll around on, I use it for stretching.
What is your favorite food and drink?
Drink, kombucha. Food, tacos.
What three words describe you best?
Observant. Thoughtful. Kind.
What’s it like to be on Team Sho-Air TWENTY20?
Second year, excited, very new set of women. I feel like there’s a very positive energy. Looking forward to racing the bigger races with this group.
When and how did you start riding?
I didn’t start riding until after college. I was a first year teacher and started running for fitness. I got plantar fasciitus, did not take care of it, and ultimately trashed my feet. My boyfriend at the time set me up on a bike and off I went. It was awesome.
Who inspires you, in the sport or outside the sport?
A lot of my friends from college inspire me with their quests to make the world a better place. It's sometimes hard to see how that all fits with cycling, but having that outside perspective keeps me grounded, helps me to always understand what’s important.
If you were not a pro rider, what would you do?
I’d be a sixth grade science teacher.
Where is your favorite place to ride?
Well, there are so many amazing places. Like I said, every single place I visit I say I am going to move to. I would say right now my fav is Adelaide, Australia. And, of course, home is always so nice, South Bay Mountains as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains.
What is your favorite race on the calendar?
Tour of the Gila. Love each stage is a challenge, hills, wind; it’s all awesome.
Best and worst moment of the 2016 season?
Best moment – winning the team time trial at Amgen Tour of California – it was unexpected, but what a moment... We came together and absolutely all gave it our all.
Worst moment – low point in 2016 – getting sick just before the Ardèche in France, could not go.
What are your goals for the year?
Make the U.S. World’s team.
Are there specific races you are targeting?
Gila, Redlands, ATOC, and after that it really depends on where and when we are all racing.
What do you like about SRAM RED eTap?
Love how easy it shifts. It works and is perfect every time. I found I shift more than ever, I probably shift twice as much. I also love braking and shifting at same time.
What advantages does eTap offer to you?
Braking and shifting at same time. Ease of shifting. You can stay in your aero position longer (TT) because you can shift and brake at the same time.
What do you like about Zipp wheels?
You can use them for very specific things and they also serve as a great all around wheel. I love the 202s, feels like you’re flying up the hill. Absolutely reliable.
Which Zipp wheels do you prefer to ride?
If you were an amateur, would you ride Tubular or Clincher wheels?
Quarq power meter:
How important is your power meter for training and racing?
It's a really important tool for me and my coach. It provides so much information. Makes sure I hit my intervals.
What do you like about your Quarq power meter?
Just super reliable. I get on the bike and the information is there.
Thanks to Leah for her time, her language, and best of luck in 2017.
All Photos Courtesy of Brian Black Hodes Photography.