Back in 2012 Skylar Schneider won US junior national titles in the road race and criterium as a 13-year-old teenager. The next year, she was winning criteriums at the highest level and was fourth in the USA CRITS final for Pro Women.
So it was no surprise when after amassing a huge collection of race wins and podiums in the US, and a silver medal in the junior women’s road race at the 2016 World Championships in Doha, Schneider signed with one of the top women’s pro teams in the world, Boels Dolmans in 2018.
After three years in Europe, the eternally-under-23 rider is back to enjoy “chaos” in the peloton closer to home, signing with L39ION of Los Angeles for 2021, and use her energies on and off the bike for positive outcomes – serving as a role model for more women to ride, and serving up fresh loaves of bread in her Wisconsin hometown.
“For three years my one focus was working for my teammates which usually resulted in a DNF or finishing in the grupetto, I wouldn’t change anything about this as it was truly a privilege to work for the best women in the world, but to be honest I think I lost confidence in myself,” the 22-year-old told Cyclingnews. “Coming back to the US would give me the chance to be at home and start racing to win again.”
Her last full season of racing in the US saw her take 13 podiums, including a second on stage 1 of the Colorado Classic, and, while representing Team USA she won stage 6 at the Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and scored a road bronze at the Pan American Championships. Her most notable individual result the next three seasons was a sixth-place on stage 3 at the Tour of California while racing for Team USA.
“One of my favorite one-day races is Gent-Welevgem. It’s unique with cobbled climbs and shorter laps. All six girls were there on every lap,” she said about her positive experience at Boels Dolmans, ranked number one in the world for five consecutive seasons (2015-2019).
“The Tour of Norway was beautiful. It was common to have finish circuits (on stages) and sometimes some gravel. Stages were fast and technical. I loved the chaos, the adrenalin.”
When the flurry of race cancellations began last March, Schneider flew back to Wisconsin from Girona, Spain. What began as a necessity due to travel restrictions with the COVID-19 coronavirus shutdowns then snowballed into a number of opportunities, which included a spot with a new co-ed domestic elite team, L39ION of Los Angeles.
“At the beginning of 2020 the team announced a new title sponsor, SD Worx, out of Belgium for 2021. This was great news and meant that the team would continue through at least 2024,” Schneider said.
“The months passed and it wasn’t until July when I spoke with Danny Stam [Boels Dolmans directeur sportif] to discuss whether or not we would renew my contract. It was a hard decision but we came to a mutual agreement that it would be better for my development if I stayed in the US for a few years.”
She said she had known Justin Williams a long time and “was inspired by what he was doing” with his L39ION team, so reached out for career advice from him.
“Through talking to him, I realized that the only team I wanted to race for would be L39ION. I pitched the idea of a women’s team to him and wanted it to be clear that my focus would not only be on results but creating a more diverse women’s peloton. From there it grew and I’m very excited to see it coming to life. I’m still young, and it’s a good time to be home.
“I’m also excited to race with Kendall Ryan again,” Schneider said about her former Team Tibco-SVB teammate and stage winner from the 2018 Tour of California. “Avry Howes is from California, and I’m excited because she’s new to racing and has lots of potential.”
The Bread Pedalers
She’ll find herself lining up against another former teammate, her sister Samantha, who will ride with the domestic elite LA Sweat squad. Skylar admitted that she was hesitant to step up to the Women’s WorldTour in 2018 because of her close connection with her sister.
The duo raced five seasons on the same pro teams, two seasons on Tibco-SVB and three seasons with ISCorp. They were a tag team in many ways, trading lead-outs and victories for one another in crits and flatter stage races across the US and posting to social media together as “Schneider Sisters”.
Back in 2018 Skylar told Cyclingnews, “we’re still best friends, and I think we both have long careers ahead of us.” Indeed. The sisters now have homes on the same street, train together when they can, and are new business partners. They have created a tandem in the baking business, with The Bread Pedalers set to open this summer. It started as a “weekly bread club” during the pandemic last spring.
“With all of the time in the world on my hands, I started making bread but had nobody to share it with. So I had the idea to make bread for friends and family and deliver it to them as it would be a nice way to stay in touch while maintaining social distancing etc. Over the next 10 months, I kept it going and found a balance between school, training, and baking,” Skylar said about her new entree into time management.
“In November my mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 colon cancer. Around that time, Sam found a property in our city [West Allis, Wisconsin], where her husband could build a garage for his contracting business and we could use the storefront for a bakery! I didn’t think I was ready to open a bakery until I was done racing, which could be 10-plus years. But with all of the changes and challenges that 2020 brought with it, made us realize that ‘if not now, then when?’
“My mom is recovering and responding well to chemo, and our dream is to have her work in the bakery alongside Sam and I. She [Sam] will do more of the business and I will handle the baking. As we’re both still racing professionally, we will have to find out what works,” summed up Skylar, who noted the bakery will specialize in dutch oven loaves of bread, with a menu that changes weekly.
In the meantime with a foot of snow on the ground in Wisconsin, Skylar rides “a lot of hours on the rollers, with all the salt on the roads, it’s a challenge to ride outdoors.” Zoom calls with her L39ION of Los Angeles teammates will transition to a training camp in March, when new team kits will be unveiled. Then, hopefully racing will resume in the US.
“We’re excited to be back on the crit scene. We’ll definitely do USA Crits and the big crits of the PRT (Pro Road Tour). If we can find stage races we like, we’ll bring some guest riders on the team.
“I think there will be a lot of eyes on us, and we’ll handle the pressure well. Success with racing equals impact off the bike too. Growing diversity in the women’s peloton is a major goal, to find women from different backgrounds to grow the team.”