Christine Vardaros ’91: Professional Cyclist
Cyclo-cross is a demanding
sport that combines cycling and running with the bike.
PHOTO: © JSMCELVERY.COM
Christine Vardaros ’91 is a California-based professional
cyclist who runs her own cycling team. When not working in marketing
from her home in Mill Valley, just north of San Francisco, Vardaros
is training, racing or doing the various jobs associated with running
her team. Her immediate goal is to qualify for the U.S. national
team that will compete for the world championship — she was
the team’s first alternate a year ago.
Vardaros rides mountain bikes and specializes in cyclo-cross,
a sport developed to keep road race cyclists in shape during the
off-season. Cyclo-cross involves cycling with a skinny-tired bike
and running with the bike through an often-muddy course that usually
features some steep hills. Vardaros finished eighth in last year’s
Cyclo-cross World Cup in Switzerland, and has finished in the top
10 in other international races.
Vardaros started cycling in 1994 when she was working in marketing
in New York. A man she met at a party showed up at her door with
his mountain bike. “I was completely in love — with
the bike,” she says. She eventually bought the bike from him
and started racing as an amateur. Soon, she was winning local championships.
Two years later, Vardaros moved to California to pursue a career
as a professional mountain bike racer, a status she achieved in
1998. Racing with sponsored teams helps defray expenses, but Vardaros
adds, “You always have to work, because it never pays the
Vardaros raced on Team Breezer for four years before forming her
own team, sponsored by Jamba Juice. Late last year, she started
a cyclo-cross team of five sponsored by a handbag company. In addition
to securing sponsorship, Vardaros arranges the team’s travel
and accommodations for out-of-town races, manages the accounting,
orders the logoed clothing and hires the team’s mechanics.
Muddy, freezing conditions
are among the challenges Christine Vardaros '91 encounters
as she competes in cyclo-cross events.
PHOTO: © ABBORIOCA.COM
“The biggest factor that has shaped my cycling is my struggle
to do something that doesn’t come naturally for me,”
Vardaros says. “I’m not your typical athlete: calm,
collected, focused, an energy conserver. I’m lazy and disorganized
by nature, emotional and flippant. I have all of the wrong qualities
to be a cyclist.” She did, however, compete as a fencer in
high school and for four years at Columbia before taking up the
more cardiovascular sport of cycling. And she says she has forced
herself into a disciplined lifestyle: She’s on one bike or
another for 15–30 hours every week and also has an off-bicycle
fitness routine. In addition, she spends quite a bit of time washing
and maintaining her 10 bikes. About every other weekend she competes
in a race.
In November, she spent two weeks on an eastern racing swing and
won the Sportsbook.com
Cross in Lancaster, Pa., leading the race from start to finish.
“I’m doing everything I can to try to qualify for the
world championship team,” she says. “That’s my
At 33, Vardaros is about the average age for a pro woman cyclist,
and she says she intends to keep it up for a while, despite its
challenges. “It’s muddy and freezing,” she says
of the typical cyclo-cross race, which has an October-February season.
“Most women would not be too thrilled to do that.” Or
men either, for that matter.