Like many married couples, Tim and Barbara Roach often go around in circles when it comes to deciding what to eat, where to go and what to watch on TV.
Theirs is a love affair that goes in cycles. Or more correctly, it goes with cycles.
When they met, she was a tennis player and he was a nationally ranked junior sprint cyclist.
"The deal we struck when we met was that she would teach me to play tennis and I would teach her how to race," said Tim. "Well, here we are nine years later and I still can't play tennis."
Barbara, however, is beginning to raise a racket in the cycling world.
Two weeks ago in San Diego, she won the Southern California and Nevada district championships to qualify for the U. S. Cycling Federation National Sprint Cycling Championships in August in Redmond, Wa.
Barbara, 28, has qualified in three events:
- Sprint, a 1,000-meter race with two to four riders. The riders draw for position and the loser leads the pack at a slow pace. The race is basically decided in a 200-meter sprint to the finish.
- Points, a 15-kilometer race with one-lap sprints every five laps that earn riders five points for first, four for second, etc. Douyble points are scored in the middle and final sprints.
- Kilo, short for a one-kilometer time trial. Only one rider at a time, going from a standing start, is on the track.
The only event that Roach, by choice, did not qualify in was the pursuit--a three-kilometer time trial with two riders who start on opposite sides of the track and then try to catch the other. "Too grueling for me," she said.
That from a woman who trains seven days a week and whose winter workouts include morning rides from her home in Lomita to Santa Monica for hour-long runs up and down a 170-step staircase.
Roach's goal this year is to make the U.S. National Team. The top eight riders from the national championships will make it--four on the A team, four on the B team.
Earlier this year, Roach was invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Sprngs, Colo., to train under the national coaches. She left after a few weeks because she was not getting the individual attention she felt she needed to progress.
"I just wasn't getting anything out of it," she said. "I like to get all the feedback I can about what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. You can't get that kind of attention with 200 riders in camp."
You can get it, however, when your husband is both your coach and the cycling director at the Olympic Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
"Tim is a good coach because he still has that . . . attitude he had when he was racing," Barbara Roach said. "He's crazy. Sometimes, what is said out on the track gets carried over to home. But we've survived it."
Roach has also come through a period of mourning for close friend Rod Ballard, who was killed while racing at the Encino Velodrome last September. Ballard, 36, was a dedicated cyclist who used to ride from Brentwood to Encino with his racing bike on his back.
"He was an inspiration," Barbara Roach said. "He was the first person who showed me how to go past your mind when you're pushing to the limit. I still hear his voice when I train."
Even with Ballard's death, Roach has not been fazed by the inherent danger of riding a brakeless, fixed-gear bicycle on a banked track in a crowd of competitive riders.
"When Rod died, everyone who knew him kind of said to themselves, 'Hey, that could have been me,' " she said. "But when I think about it, I've been more seriously injured roller skating to work than I have ever been when I'm racing. If something happens to me on the track at least it's where I want to be."
Barbara Roach began racing against men on the Bicycle Moto-Cross circuit when she was 22. Three years later, tired of the spills, the bruises and in need of a job, she went to a beauty college to get a cosmetology license. Last year, she began to seriously train as a sprint cyclist.
"The older you get, the more mentally strong you become," she said. "Young kids have more speed, but if you want something you can get it. I'm an extremist. It's either all the way or not at all."
That attitude carried over to the salon chair when Roach decided to have her blonde hair cut into a spiked flattop. Aerodynamic advantages aside, Roach said the benefits are psychological.
"Some people say that I'm intimidating when I race," said Roach, who works on sharpening her mental reflexes by playing video games before racing. "I think I have a reputation for being a little wild on the track."
Off the track as well.
Roach is allergic to milk, but she loves the stuff so she drinks it. She's allergic to cats. She has two of them. "When you want something bad enough, you're willing to pay the price," Roach said. "Sometimes while racing, I'll see an opening and just go after it.
"Even though there's a lot of contact on the track, you can't afford to panic."
Roach has learned to keep a cool head during competition by practicing with other riders who voluntarily bump each other, lock handlebars and generally cause whatever mayhem they can.
"It takes a lot of dedication, but there isn't anything I'd rather do than be a cyclist," Roach said. "My parents used to think I was crazy, but I'm not as offbeat as my parents think.
"Of course, they haven't seen this haircut yet, either."