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Finding Melisa Rollins’ name in the fifth place slot on the Unbound Gravel results list was validation — both for me, the cycling journalist, and for the 26-year-old rider herself.
Last summer, not even two hours after I’d met her, Rollins issued a bold statement: “I’m the fastest rider you’ve never heard of.”
Rollins, Amity Rockwell, and I were out pre-riding the Powerline section of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB course last August. In between scouting lines, I took Rollins up on her claim, asking her questions about her cycling background and race plans. I filed her name away in my mental rolodex. Rollins was elated with her fifth place finish at Unbound. Rollins finished sixth at the 100-mile race the next day, and the day after that she rolled across the line at SBT GRVL with a chunk of the best riders in the women’s gravel peloton, including Kaysee Armstrong, Maude Farrell, and Sarah Sturm. Her weekend of strong riding would land her on the second step of the podium of the LeadBoat Challenge, her cumulative times of the two races only second to Sturm.
Although LeadBoat didn’t carry nearly the prestige of this year’s Life Time Grand Prix , people were watching. One of those people was Nicola Cranmer , the founder and director of longstanding women’s development squad Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24 […]