31, from Anchorage, Alaska, but lives on the road
Before she discovered long-haul potential of the bicycle, Wilcox was a bike commuter (she doesn’t drive and only got a driver’s license because it was required for a pedicab job). One day, she was going to ride the bus to visit her sister, but didn’t have the fare. So, she decided to ride her bike from Tacoma to Seattle.
“During the ride, I thought if I could ride to Seattle, I could ride across the country,” says Wilcox, who is now an ultra-endurance bike racer. “It was weird, but I could picture riding day after day and camping at night.”
She and her boyfriend worked for the summer to save money, then set off on their grand tour. They’d ride for a few months, find seasonal jobs, save money, and repeat. They capped off their seven-year sojourn bikepacking through Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East, ending in Israel with a tour of the route for The Holy Land Challenge. Wilcox entered the challenging 900-mile race—complete with her touring bike and tennis shoes—and shocked herself by performing much better than she expected.
“I knew I didn’t get tired, but I didn’t know I could race,” she says.
Inspired, she flew back home to Anchorage, then hopped on her bike for a 1,900-mile ride from Anchorage to Banff, Alberta, where she then started the Tour Divide (2,745 miles from Banff to New Mexico) and set a new women’s course record. The following year, in 2016, Wilcox won the Trans Am Bike Race, a self-supported race across America.
After a hard season of racing, she and her boyfriend went to Baja, Mexico. “I just wanted to rest and not even ride,” she says, but, of course, they brought bikes. After riding “mellow” for about a week and falling in love with the terrain, they began putting together a route for others to enjoy. The result is the Baja Divide, a 1,700-mile bikepacking route from San Diego, California, to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. And yes, Wilcox has the fastest known time for the route.
Wilcox, who works seasonally as a guide at endurance bike camps, is now ramping up for a summer of races, including what she calls “shorter” 600-1,300 mile events in France, Nevada, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Lael’s Globe of Adventure.
We can relate: “I love to run. I do it for mental reasons more than anything else; it’s when I relax. But I don’t want to race, I save it as a special thing I get to do.”