Sports

3 epic bike races, 2 titles and 1 crown: Ana Jager’s journey from bikepacking novice to elite rider

Ana Jager, endurance cyclist, bicyclist

Ana Jager’s introduction to long-distance bikepacking has provided an abundance of experiences — an opportunity to challenge herself, time to reflect and a chance to meet new people and traverse new terrain.

It’s also been a bit of a slapdash adventure. And that’s just the way she likes it.

Jager, a 25-year-old Anchorage resident, recently completed the triple crown of major bikepacking races, winning the Arizona Trail Race after finishing second at the Colorado Trail Race in August. She started her streak of rides with a surprise victory this summer in the Tour Divide.

Racing as a rookie in all three races, Jager has gone from a relative novice to an elite rider in the sport in a matter of months. She is only the second woman to complete the triple crown challenge of finishing all three races in a calendar year. Alice Drobna was the first in 2015.

And while her success has sprouted almost overnight, she has been motivated not by wins but by those experiences.

“I just like the adventure of it really,” she said. “I get to travel and cover so much ground on my bike, and that feels really cool. It’s a big physical and mental challenge, which I also enjoy. I mean, I don’t always enjoy it in the moment, but it feels really satisfying after the fact.”

After winning the 2,745-mile Tour Divide, which ate up much of the month of June, she raced the Colorado Trail Race almost on a whim, borrowing a bike and entering the August race in the 11th hour.

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[Anchorage endurance cyclist Ana Jager wins 2022 Tour Divide]

“I’ve kind of learned this summer that I’m not great at planning things out super far in the future,” she said. “I’ve kind of come across these things a little bit last minute and then scrambled to bring them together, which has been kind of fun for me.”

Ana Jager

In Colorado, she found out about the Arizona race, which makes up the third leg of the triple crown.

“So I was kind of like, ‘Well I guess I’ll do the Arizona Trail,’” she said. “It’s a pretty special opportunity to have done the other two. So I kind of took advantage of that.”

The Arizona race runs 800 miles through desert and mountains, and like the other two it is completely self-supported.

There was snow on the ground in Alaska when she departed for the race last month.

“I showed up in Tucson and it was like 80s and 90s,” she said. “And I was like, “Oh boy. What are we getting into?’”

Ana Jager

The trail was more remote than any of the other two races, providing another set of challenges. Although she met new friends at the events over the course of the summer, she said parts of the Arizona Trail made for lonely riding.

And Jager ran into colder weather in the northern part of the route. She finished 12 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes

In total, Jager covered over 4,000 miles between the three races and biked for 37 days, 14 hours and 23 minutes. She said the process has made her more confident in what she’s capable of on the solo rides.

“It feels cool to know that I can do these things on my own,” she said. “There’s been a lot of self-reflection, I guess, that’s happened throughout them. I’ve learned a lot about myself and just (become) confident in doing these kind of things on my own. I’m just going to keep exploring.”

While she has some competitive races she’s looking at in the future, for now she just wants to ride.

Ana Jager

“I’m kind of ready for some just bike tours,” she said. “I really love riding my bike and exploring by my bike but like lack of sleep component sometimes. It changes it.”

She feels like Alaska is a rich environment for growth in the sport and would like to see more women get involved.

“I just hope the sport continues to grow and more people can get involved in the racing part if they want,” she said. “Or just like going out and riding your bike. You know, for fun, just camping. I think that’s the best part of it all.”

Ana Jager, endurance cyclist, bicyclist

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.

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