Meet Alena Amialiusik
All photos © VeloFocus
CANYON//SRAM Racing is a team replete with champions. One of those champions is Alena Amialiusik of Belarus. Her impressive palmares include three road national titles, two TT national titles, and a win at the 2015 EU Games road race. Alena was also part of the powerhouse team that won the TTT World Championship title in 2015. More than just another powerful rider that propels her team forward, she’s also a true friend to her teammates. We had the opportunity to speak with her at the CANYON//SRAM Racing team camp in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
You’ve been on the team for a few years now. You started with the team when its title sponsor was Lululemon, then Velocio-SRAM, and now CANYON//SRAM. What do you like most about the team?
Being part of this team was my dream. Other teams were asking me to join them but I was only hoping for Lululemon. When Beth Duryea (CANYON//SRAM Marketing and Communication Sports Director) sent me a message, I just thought that my dream was coming true. Then it was an easy decision to change teams. For me this team means everything. I like the relationship between the riders. We are like a little family. We are calling us ‘little family’ because we are taking care about everyone. We are looking after each other. Sometimes we understand each other without talking. When there is something wrong with one, just looking in her eyes we know that there is something wrong. I really like our staff, they take care so much about us. You never feel alone in this team. We feel important for this team, which makes us feel more motivated. We always say ‘we win together and we lose together’. We share a lot of emotions together.
You did gymnastics, athletics, and duathlon when you were younger. How and when did you start riding?
When I was young I was a gymnast, I was doing rhythmic gymnastics. I was doing really well. I thought my future would be with gymnastics but one day, I’m from a small town, our coach moved to another place. So we didn’t have anybody to coach us anymore. So I stopped it. After this, another coach called me and asked me if I wanted to do athletics. So I did running. During one small competition in our town I met the cycling coach. Before that I was always looking at cyclists on the road and telling my parents that I really wanted to try it. But when I met the cycling coach, he said if you want you can come and ride your bike. My first question was ‘Will I get a bike?’ and he said ‘Yes, of course’. From the next day I stared cycling and never stopped.
How has your varied athletic background aided your cycling efforts?
It’s really helpful because it gave me flexibility. Still now I can do the leg split. I can do stretching easily. It’s good for my muscles especially after long rides. Also athletics help with my core muscles.
Who inspires you, in the sport or outside the sport?
I have one person in the sport who inspired me and still does. She was a cyclist, track cyclist. She is eight times World Champion on track sprint. Her name is Nathalia Tsylinskaya. She is not only a good athlete; she is also a great person. She is already four times mum. It’s really impressive to see how she can handle everything. She has a big heart. She helped me a lot in sport; she has always been an example.
I asked this question to other riders, and your name came up several times, who is your favorite teammate to have as a roommate during a stage race or training camp?
I don’t know. I like all my teammates for different reasons. I can talk with everybody and I know their characters and rhythms. For example if I share a room with Barbara, I know she will be up at 6:45am, really early and start to do some exercises. Because she cannot stay in bed and wait. With Lisa, we are really similar, we have the same rhythm. Same with Elena. Actually I can cope with everybody. I really feel comfortable with everybody. With Mieke we are singing and talking about everything.
So far, what has been your biggest achievement in your cycling career? 2015 TTT Worlds gold, 2015 EU Games road race gold, three national road titles, or your two TT national titles?
I think it’s 2015 when we won the team time trial world title with my teammates. We did not just win with our legs, but with our brain and heart. We really wanted this. The day before the race, we were talking together and we just wanted this so much. The result was so close. In the last part we were behind and when we passed the finish line we won for 6 seconds. We gave everything together. It was so special.
Tell us about your best attack or sprint you’ve ever made in a race.
For me it was Baku (Azerbaijan) in 2015, at the European games. This day I did everything right and I won this race. It was the last 250 meters, at this moment I didn’t think. Someone told me ‘just go’ and I did and won. Everything came together.
What is your favorite race on the calendar?
It’s a hard question, because I have two, maybe three races that I really like. I really like Strade Bianche because it shows what cycling is. You have to be really strong with your legs, you have to be mentally strong and you have to sacrifice in this race. It’s so hard with the gravel sections, the climbs, the cold, and the wind the last two years. I also love Flèche Walonne and Flanders because it’s about cycling and history. And in those races you have to suffer from the start to the finish line. There is no time for recovery. I like tough races.
Looking at next season, what are your biggest goals for 2017?
I would like to be strong at the Spring Classics, the races we just talked about. And my big goal is the World Championships in Norway, being part of the team for the TTT. I really wish with all my heart that we can get our title back. We will work really hard for that. We are all motivated. We lost something we all wanted to have.
You’ve been riding SRAM RED eTap for about a year. What do you like the most about it?
It’s amazing. I never used SRAM before joining the team. As soon as I used SRAM I felt really, really comfortable because the shifting is very easy and simple. For example when we race and it’s very cold and your fingers are frozen it’s still possible to shift. The hoods are really comfortable too. Also to charge the battery it’s fast and simple, removing that and putting them back. And you don’t need to charge them that often.
Which Zipp model do you prefer to ride? And why?
For climbing I prefer to use the 303s, it’s my favorite model. For flat races I use the 404s. And only for TT, the 808. Overall my favorite model is the 303. Good handing and I feel really confident and comfortable riding them.
How important are power meters for you?
It’s important because during the season, during the training I can do my work that my coach gives to me and it’s easier to do qualitative work.
What do you like about the Quarq power meter specifically?
It’s easy to deal with it. The battery is easy to change.
All in all, all our components are easy, practical and reliable. I’m not technical, so when I’m alone that’s important. I don’t want to have to work on my bike.
What changes would you like to see in the sport?
I would like it to be at the same level as men’s. We are still behind. If you watch some races, like Tour de France, the coverage is massive whereas for us our races are not covered or just for a few minutes. And that’s not enough. It’s unfair. We do the same sport as the men and sometimes we do even more sacrifices and our races are also very exciting to watch. They have to be more covered on TV and other mediums. Women’s cycling can grow and can improve if we have more attention, extra money, and sponsors. Also when we train with pro men they are surprised at how strong we are and how much we train. They are also impressed when they see us racing, they realize that we are strong, tactical, we can fight and we never give up. It’s not just a hobby, but true racing.
How is cycling in Belarus?
It’s growing. We have some good professional cyclists. We don’t have that many woman riders. We are behind Europe, but it’s improving. Track cycling is pretty big. We have good riders going to Worlds, European Championships, and the Olympics
Are you a star at home, do people recognize you?
I don’t know. I’m not that often at home. The good thing is that as Belarus is a small country. Our Olympic committee really highlights the athletes selected for the Olympic games. They are proud that I can show my flag and represent my country in my sport at the international level. Actually that I can put where Belarus is on the map. This year I didn’t race at the nationals, as I was sick, but next year I want the national jersey back.
Where is your favorite place to ride?
It’s Italy, north of Italy, where I live. It is Lake Iseo, close to Lake Garda. It’s a beautiful place for riding your bike. We have all types of terrain, climbs, flats, mountains, everything you need. And it’s really, really beautiful. When you are at the top you can see the lake with small islands.
What is your favorite food? Favorite drink?
I like green tea a lot. About food… I don’t really have a special dish. But I like one of our national dishes. When I go back home, my mum always cooks this dish. It’s called ‘draniki’. It looks like thick potato pancakes. It’s not really healthy, but it’s one of my favorites. And it reminds me of home.
Can you tell us something that not a lot of people know about you or something you enjoy doing as a hobby?
I really like cooking for my friends, not for me. I like to do designs on my nails or on somebody’s nails. It’s really fun to do that. And it’s cool to see others being happy about my creative work. If I have time, I like to spend time with important people for me.