For Ella Bloor, the Life Time Grand Prix is a real-life adventure

Between 'a really crappy Jeep' and not knowing where she's going live for six months, 'the racing feels like the easy part,' says the Aussie rider.

Photo: Avery Stumm

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It’s as if there are two versions of Ella Bloor traveling around the United States right now.

One is the Ella who is competing in the Life Time Grand Prix . She’s a seasoned bike racer who knows how to pin a number on and pedal. Her 13th place finish at Sea Otter landed her within the top 10 of the Grand Prix. Having reduced her weekly work hours for the season, she can go on huge training rides whenever she likes, and she can also jump into other races like she did at Rule of Three, where she finished third.

She can prepare for Unbound Gravel, the longest and arguably most prestigious race in the series.

Read also: 2023 Life Time Grand Prix details

The other Ella is an Australian, far from home. Her worldly possessions are in storage at her dad’s house, she’s having to patch together housing and support across the entire U.S., and her visa runs out before the Grand Prix ends. She thought things would be easier if she bought a car, so she did that in San Francisco, as soon as she landed and just before Sea Otter.

Ugh, Jerry (Photo: Courtesy Ella Bloor)

Turns out the car, “a really crappy Jeep,” barely made it from SF to Monterey. First U.S. mechanic experience, check. With new ball joints and control arms installed, Ella tried to head south to LA. 40 miles outside of Paso Robles, the clutch went. First breaking-down-on-the-side-of-the-freeway in the U.S., check. Welp, best learn how to call a tow truck anyway.

Meanwhile, Ella’s homework had been to figure out how to register this crappy Jeep — which she had initially named Jenny but changed to Jerry when it became such a pain in the ass. A totally onerous process even if you are from the U.S., to a foreigner it must seem like utter lunacy.

And then, just as soon as she thought Jerry was finally street legal and ready to be registered — he failed the emissions test.

“In between all of this,” said both versions of Ella Bloor, “the racing feels like the easy part.”

When just living is an adventure

Although Bloor, 28, didn’t anticipate all the car trouble she’d have when coming to the U.S., she also knew that she was signing up for more than just a bike race series.

For the international riders in this year’s Life Time Grand Prix, a seven-race series spread out across six months, logistics become a huge part of the master plan. For the five riders from the southern hemisphere — there are two south Africans plus Bloor and two other Aussies — the plan might better be called an adventure.

Read also: Life Time Grand Prix announces 2023 athletes

(Photo: Courtesy Ella Bloor)

And, honestly that’s what Bloor was after.

An architect by education and trade, Bloor has also been racing bikes on the side for over a decade. Until last year, she was on a road team, but it was set to fold this year. On a training ride late last year, Bloor was explaining to her friend Brendan Johnston that she was ready for something different in her cycling life.

“I wanted flexibility and to be on my own schedule,” she said. “And I was at a point where I wanted to do more bikepacking, mountain biking, and adventures.

“And he was like, ‘oh I’m applying for this thing called the Life Time Grand Prix, you should apply. It’s right up your alley.'”

So Bloor applied, and although she was surprised when she was accepted, she also felt like it was meant to be.

“I am kinda adventurous really,” she said. “I like challenging myself and that’s what it was all about for me. So while I was surprised, I also felt like it was right for me.” 

Once she was accepted to the Grand Prix, Bloor had to start figuring out how she was going to make it work. She had a fulltime job, was renting an apartment in Canberra, and knew that transcontinental flights every month between the US and Australia were not going to be an option.

Two bikes, no likes (for travel anyway) (Photo: Flynn Hopkins)

The logistics planning in the lead-up to Sea Otter became all-consuming. Bloor had to get rid of her apartment, move all of her stuff into her dad’s house, get visas, and sort out bikes and equipment to bring. The fact that she had no idea where she was going to live for the six months that she’d be in the U.S.? Yeah, there was that, too.

But Bloor says she really didn’t even have the bandwidth to consider it before leaving, especially because it felt so overwhelming to think about how she’d have to rely on so many other people once she was there.

“I had a few contacts in the U.S. but not really,” she said. “I feel like the U.S. is known for having incredible hospitality, people welcome you into your homes and are really generous and hospitable and you bank on that happening, but it’s also hard to rely on the generosity of people. I knew it was gonna be really exciting, but there were also so many unknowns.”

Some of the unknowns turned out to be comical, like the car stuff. Some of them were scary, like the uncomfortable homestay situation in Monterey that she bravely abandoned.

Most of them, however, have been affirming — “I have been crumpled so many times already by the kindness, generosity and welcoming of people,” Bloor wrote in her bi-monthly newsletter. “I’m learning I’m never truly alone, to not be afraid to say yes and to just be present in the moment.”

How it’s going

Openness and presence have landed Bloor in Boulder, Colorado where she’s currently staying at Lachlan Morton’s parents house — Aussie connections have been huge during the first leg of her journey. As far as she knows, she’s the only international rider in the Grand Prix who is here for the long run.

Some chose to skip Sea Otter and let Unbound be the first event in their U.S. campaign. Others — like Johnston — came for Sea Otter and then returned home, since the gap between the California race and Unbound is nearly two months.

But Bloor knows that this experience is about more than just bike racing. When I asked if her she did the typical Kiwi/Aussie gap year of travel when she graduated from high school before going to university, she laughed.

“I’m calling this my gap year!”

Buying a beater car, staying with friends of friends, all the while slightly bemused at how American America is — those are familiar themes of time abroad. But Bloor’s story is also very 2023. She didn’t have to quit her job in Australia, thanks to both a very understanding boss and the globalization of working remotely. And, she’s doing this bike race series, so there is a structure to her wandering about.

Bloor at the Rule of Three in Bentonville (Photo: Avery Stumm)

Those two things have lent an air of normalcy to what can be an otherwise topsy turvy experience.

As for the bike racing itself, Bloor says that it’s been “surreal” to be on the start line with the discipline’s best athletes. And after Sea Otter, she realized that she deserved that place beside them.

“Having studied the racing before I got here, it was like, ‘now I’m here, amongst these amazing women, they’re right next to me,'” she said. “It was cool to figure out where I stand.”

Moreso however, it was validating to know that all of the logistics and stress and drama of the previous few months, including the intense on-the-ground experiences since landing in California, had been worth it.

It’s as if those two versions of Ella Bloor — and Jerry, of course — are really just one.

“Sitting in the top ten of the Grand Prix now, that validated it,” she said. “I know a lot of people juggle work and life but I feel like in the lead-up I was juggling a lot to get here. Now that I’m here it’s like, ‘wow I can just be a bike rider.’ I’m excited to give myself this opportunity to ride at 9 or 10 or 3 every day and to recover and explore and be in this experience. And this series has opened up that opportunity.” 




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