By Carrie Schmeck
Ally Stacher is Two-Wheeled Tough
If home is where the heart is, then Ally Stacher’s heart resides in the State of Jefferson. The 26-year-old professional cyclist lives in Asheville, NC, and only gets to visit a few times each year, but her connection to the area runs deep and it’s here she wants to eventually land. “My family has been in Etna for seven generations,” she says. “It’s where my roots are.”
Growing up, Stacher shared her home with three brothers she describes as big and burly. As the only girl, she honed a fierce and competitive spirit as she learned to hold her ground. In high school, it was no surprise when she showed up to join the wrestling team. “It kind of came naturally,” she says. “I was actually more addicted to the practices—all the running and push-ups. I loved the hard work and physical challenges. And the fact we got to beat each other up doing it? It was great.” Turns out she was a pretty decent wrestler and joined the Lassen College team after high school.
She found cycling as an outpost to wrestling. After doing a senior project on endurance sports with an emphasis on cycling, specifically the Tour de France, she recognized a new way to challenge herself. When a broken elbow kept her from practice, she set up a stationary trainer and found a new love. She bought an old road bike “with top tube shifters” and rode all over Scotts Valley. “I just love the remoteness and ruggedness of Northern California. There are so few cars and long beautiful roads. I love adventure and I just wanted to ride all over.”
A friend suggested she try a mountain bike race, and though she had no idea what she was doing, she did well enough to hear from Lees-McRae College in North Carolina. “They said, ‘If you want to come out here, we will give you a small scholarship.’ Everything just sort of fell into place. It wasn’t that I wanted to quit wrestling, but this just worked out.” The U.S. National team took notice and offered Ally a position in 2009.
Now a member of Team Specialized-lululemon, Stacher quenches her sense of adventure with a rigorous training and race schedule that has her back and forth, exploring mountain terrain throughout Europe and the United States. And while the Olympics is always a goal for high-level athletes, she says it’s a hard team to make. “I don’t win a ton of races,” she says. “My specialties are short and steep power climbs, but what I’m really known for is being an incredible worker as a teammate. I do a good job and I’m always there when I need to be.”
When she isn’t on the bike, the newlywed might be found hanging out with husband John Murphy, also a professional cyclist for United Healthcare, or in the kitchen. “It’s my comfort zone, like therapy for me,” she says. As a professional athlete, she needs constant fuel and started experimenting making food bars from a mashed sweet potato base. “I took them to races and everyone liked them. Next thing I knew, I was making 500 bars at a time in my kitchen. I couldn’t keep up.” Never one to give up, Stacher shut down her home business, connected with key players and is ready to launch Ally’s Bars for real, in what she calls a more sustainable model that will allow for nationwide distribution.
As for her future, Stacher expects she’ll race for another eight to 10 years, after which she hopes her career and Ally’s Bars lead her back home to the valley she so loves. “How am I going to get there?” she asks. “I don’t know, but I’m going to get there.”