Zwift Community

Meet the Pride On Ride Leaders

by Zwift
on June 08, 2021

June is Pride Month all over the world, and Zwift has some great events on the calendar for you!

Join our annual celebration of LGBTQIA+ Zwifters as we honor the Stonewall Uprising and LGBTQIA+ activists around the globe. It’s time to wear your rainbow kit with PRIDE.

As part of our annual Pride On campaign, we’re organizing rides highlighting amazing LGBTQIA+ ride leaders from our Zwift community. These leaders are hosting rides all year long, not just during Pride month - you can find out more information in the official LGBTQ+ Zwift Community Facebook Group.

We had a chance to chat with some of those ride leaders to find out how they came to the sport, and how the Zwift community (that’s you guys!) has supported them along the way.

FRAN BAMBUST

Fran is probably no stranger to the Zwift Community. The 56 year old from Oudenaarde, Belgium, is one of our original LGBTQIA+ champions!

How did you get into cycling/running? I tried to lose weight a few years back and didn’t want to ride outdoors again, afraid of falling again. Fortunately I bumped into Zwift and [have been] hooked ever since. And I did lose that weight, too!

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQIA+ athlete? Being an open trans woman I have had my share of questioning remarks when winning a race. When I am not hurt too much, I try to start an open conversation about that. I do understand that people find that difficult, but I prefer openness and elegant dialogue above conflict.

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQIA+ member? Extremely so! When I proposed the Pride Rides to Zwift I didn’t expect the level of support and help Zwift immediately brought to the table, taking the lead, and lifting it to the event it now is. I am forever grateful to Kate Veronneau and her team for putting their shoulders under it. It has been a rollercoaster!!

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? The main goal is to support each other, to show and prove Zwift is welcoming to everyone, so I will try to inspire to do just that, with a gentle pace, some fun tunes and lots of joking and chatting. I might throw in some LGBTQIA+ tidbits and maybe a pop quiz!

What is your go-to tune for training? Let’s have a Kiki!! You can also check out my full Pride On Spotify playlist.

RACHEL WINCHESTER

Rachel is a 39-year-old Animal Control Officer from St. Charles, Missouri. She lives with her wife, three children and one very spoiled cat called Sylvie.

How did you get into cycling/running? I was an athlete in my youth, but only casually after that. In 2013 I picked up my bike again and started commuting. The addiction has only gotten worse since then. I have always enjoyed taking Strava QOMs in my hometown, but after discovering Zwift racing last spring I’m hooked. It has given me the confidence to compete in “real life“ events and do well.

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQIA+ athlete? I haven’t really had any bad experiences as an LGBTQIA+ athlete, thank goodness. Some of my favorite rides have been a local pride ride that Team St. Louis has put on in the past, and also some of the group rides we’ve done as part of our community of LGBTQIA+ Zwifters.

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQIA+ member? Yes! And Zwift has been so supportive of the community as well.

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? I have only led a few rides in the past, so I’m hopeful things won’t fall apart. I love group rides that have a relatively easy pace so no one gets dropped, with sprints thrown in if the course suits it. It adds a little fun and helps break up the monotony of the ride.

What is your go to tune for training? I enjoy music from my youth or whatever song is stuck in my head. This week I’m hooked on Glass Animals - Heat Wave but enjoy throwing it back to Limp Bizkit or Britney Spears!

JADE WALTHAM

Jade is a 28 year old Personal Assistant and lives in Nottingham with her fiancee and border collie. Her cycling heroes are her brother-in-law and cousin who inspire her to try harder and go further - although she’s not sure she’s ready to match their Everesting challenge yet!

How did you get into cycling/running? My brother-in-law encouraged me to join Zwift as a way to up my fitness. I would always be jealous seeing him on his trainer in his ‘pain cave’ and just thought well I want to join that community!

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQIA+ athlete? To be honest, no different, everyone who I have cycled has always supported me as the person I am!

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQIA+ member? Yes of course, I always join the pride rides when I can to make some new friends, and I am also a part of the LGBTQ+ Zwift Facebook group!

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? I haven’t had this confirmed yet, however I'll be leading a 1-1.5w/kg ride. I like rides that are easy going, where we can have a laugh and make new friends!

What is your go-to tune for training? Anything that helps me keep stroking those pedals! It has been known that my Spotify playlist has a huge variety of tunes on there, anything from musicals to pop, and the occasional film tune, haha!

GREG RAJKOVIC

Greg is 37 and a Director of Engineering, Quality and Quality Assurance from Wheatfield, Indiana. He lives alone since the loss of his beloved dog, Delilah. He counts his sporting hero as Mari Holden on Zwift, as “she leads a great ride!”

How did you get into cycling/running? Riding helps with the arthritic pains [caused by a 2015 motorcycle incident] - but isn't as good for cardio as running. I train for efficiency first, and strength secondarily. I am hoping to gain the strength someday to allow me to not worry about the knee or hip replacements that were previously suggested. Moreover, in a "past life", I weighed over twice the amount I do now. I incorporated cycling as part of my daily routine, and combined with a diet that works for me - there's no other option but to keep riding!

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQIA+ athlete? LGBTQIA+ are dealt a challenging path sometimes. The loneliness that has occurred being asexual has been offset by sheer drive to be the fittest, happiest and healthiest me possible. In fact, I am "coming out" to my friends (not like I should have to) when the schedule is settled, I plan to post to my friends about leading these Pride rides and encourage registration. This is Pride, after all!

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQIA+ member? Is the sky blue? Well, maybe that depends on your Zwift rendering settings! 100%, Zwift is one of the most inclusive communities I have encountered - naturally. Because of how this all works, and cyclists generally are nice people (especially those looking for social type of riding) it truly is a win-win!

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? I'm leading each Thursday night in June at 6:30 pm PDT, and hope to ready everyone for confetti! Ok, maybe not at 1.0-1.5, but I am so excited to lead Pride On 2021! It is truly an honour to be able to support this.

What is your go-to tune for training? I have this weird thing where when I am climbing outside and leading a group ride, I sing Ain't No Mountain High Enough!

CLARE TAYLOR

Clare is a senior lecturer in Microbiology from Peebles on the Scottish Borders. She is 46 and lives with her Zwift spectating cat, Toffee. Outside of Zwift, she loves off-road cycling and following Women’s MTB events!

How did you get into cycling/running? I was introduced to mountain biking by my former partner. There is a fantastic trail centre right on the doorstep here and with rolling hills all around, there’s lots of fantastic places to ride. I also do gravel riding, a bit of road cycling and I’ve also tried cyclo-cross! All of the different ways you can ride means it never gets boring!

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQ+ athlete? Not sure I would describe myself as an athlete! I would say 20 years ago when I used to run, I was a lot more guarded about my life. But certainly in the last 10 years or so, everyone I have met through sport has been supportive and I’ve not felt that I couldn’t be myself.

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQ+ member? Yes! I started Zwifting this January and it has helped me get through an unexpected change in life circumstances that happened at the start of the year. I joined various virtual cycling groups (including the LGBTQ+ Zwift Community) and through meet-ups and group rides, I have ‘met’ some great people to chat and ride with and we have chatted about all sorts – break-ups, peri-menopause, cake and totally random stuff too! For me, Zwift has been a safe space where I can be myself and enjoy cycling.

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? I will be leading a few rides during June and I am looking forward to seeing lots of the new Pride kit all over Zwift and giving lots of Pride Ons!

Who are your heroes in the world of Sport? Olympic heptathlete Denis Lewis is one of my heroes – what an absolute legend! I remember being glued to the TV watching the Olympics just in awe of her strength and determination. At the moment, I am following pro MTB racers Evie Richards and Kate Courtney – what amazing athletes they both are and it is fantastic to see women literally blazing down the trails!

MOLLIE GANSER

Mollie is 30 and Zwift’s very own Associate Project Manager, Creative Operations. She shares her life in California with a rescue pitbull called Dana who she calls her “entire world”. Mollie will be leading several rides over Pride Month and has created a Workout that will be featured as Workout of the Week later in June.

How did you get into cycling/running? I ran track and cross country back in middle/high school, but I stopped running competitively in college. Something traumatic happened to me during my first year away at college that I wasn’t able to fully understand. The incident made me feel extremely uncomfortable with/inside my body. The truth is, I felt disgusted by and trapped within my own skin for nearly ten years. Through therapy, I was able to tell my story for the first time, process what happened, and now identify as a survivor of sexual violence. Around the same time I told my story, I began running again. Running in conjunction with therapy has become the key to falling back in love with my body. Running has helped me completely reframe the way I feel about myself—inside and out. With every step I take, I feel empowered and grateful for the body I have and all that it can do.

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQ+ athlete? My life as a queer athlete has been one that is fairly privileged. As a cis woman who often passes as straight, I recognize that I have been awarded many advantages in sport. I hope to use my privilege as a way of helping others through staying informed, speaking up when I hear something offensive, sharing my story and experiences as a queer woman, and supporting policies at work and other places that help protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination—especially trans folks in sport.

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQ+ member? Absolutely! I had the pleasure of leading the very first Pride On group ride on June 1 and am overwhelmed by the amount of positivity, support, and love demonstrated by the Zwift community. We had a great turnout! As the Project Manager overseeing the creative production for Pride On, it was incredibly rewarding to hear the favorable feedback from our Zwift community regarding the cycling kit, socks, arches, and road/building art in-game.

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? I’ll be leading 4 group rides during the month of June. The nature of these rides is very casual! Each ride is 45 minutes long, and all paces are welcome. Remember, all paces have spaces on Zwift! These rides are social with the intent of bringing the Zwift x LGBTQIA+ communities together to exercise and encourage one another along the way.

  • Tuesday 6/15 at 7:30AM PST
  • Thursday 6/24 at 7:30AM PST

I also created a workout that will be featured during Workout of the Week between June 23rd and June 29th titled Power Up for Pride where users can test how strong their sprints are and what peak power they can produce during 10-second and 20-second intervals!

Who are your heroes in the world of Sport? Nikki Hiltz, Megan Rapinoe, Schuyler Bailar, Colin Kaepernick.

What is your go to tune for training? I fluctuate between psych/punk rock and Lady Gaga remixes. Throw these tracks on your playlist ahead of your next ride: Lady Gaga - 911 (Sofi Tukker Remix); Death Valley Girls - I’m a Man Too; Big Freedia & Elohim - Strut; Le Tigre - Hot Topic; The Julie Ruin - I’m Done; Lady Gaga - G.U.Y. (KDrew Remix); Worriers - Yes All Cops; Bikini Kill - New Radio

MARNI SALUP

Marni Salup runs the Marni on the Move podcast. The 49 year old lives in New York City with her partner, her partner’s daughter and their two dogs. She loves running and cycling and counts Serena Williams as her sporting idol.

How did you get into cycling/running? I started cycling at the age of five and have been on my bike ever since! It started with Mountain Biking in my 20’s, Hybrids and easy riding in my early 30’s and then cycling as part of Triathlon. I am hoping to do a few centuries this year. Cycling is a way for me to connect with nature and disconnect with everything else. It’s freedom. Confidence. Power. Skill. I love it!
I started running in college, Parsons School of Design, as a way to stay fit! 3 miles turned into three miles 3x a week, the. a half marathon, a triathlon, and the NYC Marathon. I love running. It’s my moving meditation and my favorite time to listen to music.

What has your life experience been like as an LGBTQ+ athlete? Wonderful. I am so lucky to live in New York City, where I have lived now for 30 years, where all types of people are welcome. Beyond that, the racing community-triathlon, running, cycling have always been so supportive from NYRR to IRONMAN.

Has the Zwift community been supportive of you as an LGBTQ+ member? Very. And I love what Zwift is doing with PRIDE Month and all of the leaders and rides. Really next level!

What can you tell us about the events you are leading? A fun scenic zone 2. Maybe a few zone 3 intervals.

What is your go to tune for training? I love electronic dance music, aka EDM. I make playlists on Spotify when I am riding on Zwift indoors and then I play them on my runs. So my favorite track right now on repeat is On My Mind by Purple Disco and my other favorite is Don't Leave Me Lonely by Mark Ronson

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