Sometimes an athlete just has it.
Elizabeth Lee Heiden Reid is one of those physical wonders who — in the middle of world-class careers in cross-country skiing and speed skating — rumbled through the cycling community during five championship seasons.
Heiden Reid, for her accomplishments as a road racer more than 30 years ago, is being inducted Nov. 16 into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in ceremonies at UCD’s Freeborn Hall.
Heiden Reid will join three fellow inductees in the class of 2013: Vince Menci, an event promoter; Doris Travani-Mulligan, a women’s racing pioneer; and Mike King, a BMX and mountain bike trailblazer.
Now living with her family in Palo Alto, where she, her husband and oldest son all work for Apple, Heiden Reid was asked about her athletic accomplishments and whether there was a sport at which she didn’t excel?
“I didn’t do very well in competitive swimming. That might have been because I was very small (in high school),” the 5-foot-2 Wisconsin native told The Enterprise. “So, instead of hanging out at the local pool swimming laps, I became a diver.”
Bad news for the other divers …
What followed were two bronze medals in the 1- and 3-meter state springboard championships.
“Other than that, I seemed to pick up sports pretty naturally, and keeping up with an older brother — Olympic speed skater and accomplished cyclist Eric Heiden — I was getting plenty of practice,” said little sister Beth.
Originally a prep soccer and tennis player, Heiden Reid then turned her interest to speed skating. By 17 she was an Olympic team member (1976) and later won the World All-Around Speed Skating Championship (1979).
In 1980, at the Lake Placid Olympics, Heiden Reid was a favorite in the 3,000-meter skating event, but an ankle injury interfered and she finished a disappointing (to her) third.
With that dogged determination ever branching into other activities, Heiden Reid had taken up cycling as a cross-training avenue.
But she got so good at it that she won the 1980 U.S. female road championship and then the women’s world championship that same season.
Originally a University of Wisconsin student, Heiden Reid transferred to Vermont, where she got serious about cross-country skiing.
As a walk-on athlete with the Catamounts, it should have been little surprise to observers that she would win the NCAA cross-country skiing championship in 1983, earning All-American honors in the process.
Heiden Reid is a member of the Vermont Athletic Hall of Fame and the Speed Skating Hall of Fame.
Her cycling “career” lasted only five years, but along the way she won six stages of the Coors Classic, including capturing the race in 1980. That same year she was named Sportswoman of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. It wasn’t until 1984 that women’s cycling events were embraced by the Olympics, otherwise, who knows what else she might have accomplished that year?
Eventually, she and her husband Russell built a 15-meter cross-country trail (called Maasto Hiito) in Michigan and at age 50, Heiden Reid was still climbing into the top 10 at the U.S. Nationals.
Owner of a degree in math and a master’s in civil engineering, Heiden Reid commutes daily to her Apple workplace via bicycle.
Russell — who Heiden Reid calls “an avid biker, commuter, tourer, bicycle admirer, great training partner and awesome tandem pilot” — and Beth are looking forward to the upcoming ceremony.
“It’s always nice to be honored, especially by your cohorts,” the multisport maven says.
Asked what she thought it would take for the integrity of road racing to be rebuilt after the recent doping scandals, Heiden Reid took a global sports approach:
“That’s a good question, and one that we are all holding our breath on. I really hope ‘they’ can remove drugs from all sports — but in the end, I think it’s up to us, the spectators. If we’d just refuse to watch the cheaters race …”
Notes: Heiden Reid’s brother Eric — in addition to winning five speed-skating gold medals in those 1980 Olympics — is also in the Bicycling Hall of Fame, inducted in 1999 for his accomplishments and contributions to cycling. … Augmenting a silent auction at the Nov. 16 shrine festivities there also is a live auction at which a ride in the Amgen/AEG VIP car for one leg of the 2014 Tour of California will be open for bids. … Tickets for the ceremony are $75 each and available by visiting www.usbhof.org. A limited number of tables for eight can be had for $550.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected]