Dolores cyclist aims for sport's highest level
Lauren Hall is impressive in big races as she prepares for 2016 Olympics
To the vast majority of Four Corners residents, cyclist Lauren Hall is relatively unknown.
To members of the International cycling community, Hall is recognized as a tireless competitor who has ascended to the highest level of her sport.
A Southern beginning
To truly understand what makes Hall special, start with her childhood in Vicksburg, Miss.
The youngest of three siblings, Hall, a self-described tomboy, spent her early years tagging along with two older brothers as they hunted, fished and played.
Drawn to athletics, Hall played multiple sports, flourishing from an early age.
"Dad would always say just try everything, so I tried tennis, I ran track, I played soccer, and I played basketball," Hall said. "Soccer really took hold and put me through college."
That college turned out to be Mississippi State, where Hall starred on the soccer field for four years.
Convinced she could turn pro, Hall pursued a soccer career after graduation, playing for a semi-pro team.
"My grandfather played in the NFL in the '30s and '40s," Hall said. "I was like, alright, I'm going to keep the family tradition alive of being a professional."
Unfortunately for Hall, a professional soccer team never called, leaving Hall to begin culinary school.
Seemingly finished with athletics in 2002, Hall entered the workforce, content to remain active while moving on with her life.
An athletic revival
After years away from competition, a sports career was far from Hall's mind when her brother persuaded her to enter a marathon in 2006.
Reinvigorated by a solid performance in the marathon, Hall entered a triathlon in 2007 and purchased her first bike.
"I walked into a bike shop, and I walked right back out," said Hall. "I was so overwhelmed. I waited awhile and got up the courage to go to a smaller shop, and I bought my first bike."
At the bike shop, Hall was given information about group rides and, interested in training with a team, decided to give them a try.
Immediately taking to team cycling, Hall began training aggressively, eventually moving on to race in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Hall didn't seriously consider turning pro, but thoughts of a pro career began to take root in the talented rider's mind.
A move to Dolores
Unsure of what it might take to turn pro, Hall made contact with well-regarded cycling coach and Dolores resident Michael Engleman.
Founder of the U.S. Women's Cycling Development Program, Engleman invited Hall to travel to Dolores and train.
Hall traveled to Dolores during Thanksgiving break in 2009 and fell in love with the small town.
"I came out, and there was miraculously no snow," said Hall. "I loved Dolores in the fact that you could go and ride bikes and see someone else riding, running or doing some sort of activity."
Intrigued by the possibility of training in Dolores and kick-starting a pro career, Hall returned home, consulted with her parents and decided to give it a go.
"I was at this stalled moment in my life," Hall said. "I took this leap of faith, put the U-Haul on the truck and headed west. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever done."
A quick ascent
Improving rapidly since moving to the Dolores area, Hall quickly ascended the professional cycling ranks.
A member of the Optum Cycling Team Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies and the U.S. National Team, Hall has registered Top 10 finishes at some of the world's premier road races while finishing second at U.S. nationals the past two years.
Training nearly year-round, she spends more than 20 hours on a bike every week during the peak training season.
Discussing what keeps her engaged during long rides, the clearly competitive Hall was frank.
"I think back to the races I've lost, and I think about the people I want to beat," said Hall. "It hurts to win, but it hurts even more to lose."
A bright future
Currently competing in the world's top races, Hall aspires toward more.
In addition to winning national and world titles, Hall aims to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"I've already started preparing for it as far as races I want to win now," she said. "It's a year-to-year process, and you have to back up until today to be ready for summer 2016."
Appreciative of the opportunities in the Four Corners, Hall offered advice for young athletes hoping to follow in her footsteps:
"I know this sounds cliché, but don't give up. You get knocked down, and you've got to get up and do it again."