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A rebirth and a ride to the top

by Jennifer Johnson,

Veronica Ewers

Turning a hobby into a career isn’t unusual. Then there’s the hobby that lands you in the top 10 at the Tour de France Femmes

Veronica Ewers
Veronica Ewers ’16. Photos by Russ Ellis | Cycling Images.

Veronica Ewers ’16 started cycling just three years ago. Although she’d been an athlete since she could walk — she played women’s varsity soccer at Willamette University — she figured that chapter of her life had closed. 

She had been living in Seattle and working at Seattle Children’s Hospital, contacting insurance companies to get coverage authorization for cancer patients. A career in healthcare was her aim — a class with Associate Professor of Anthropology Joyce Millen drove her to pursue the field and Ewers, an anthropology and Spanish double major, had also volunteered as a medical translator at Salem Clinic, often translating on behalf of migrant farmworkers. Both were heartbreaking and emotionally-charged experiences, she said.  

But her job at Seattle Children’s wasn’t the right fit, and she’d reached a crisis point with her athletic career. She turned to Olympic weight lifting and running. A friend in her running group who was training for a duathlon asked Ewers to join a team ride, and there she met and impressed former cycling pros Jennifer Wheeler and David Richter, who now lead Fount Cycling Guild. Ewers became a member. 

That was the end of 2018. The next year, she competed in her first race and Wheeler offered to coach her. 

“I was taken aback,” said Ewers. “I’d never had somebody see potential in me and be willing to risk putting that energy for me. I had nothing to lose, so I just went all in.” 

Her grit and determination paid off. Last year, the 27-year-old earned a pair of podium finishes in the U.S., including a bronze medal at the U.S. National Championships, and cut her teeth racing in Europe. Her streak continued this past year with wins in Spain and Luxembourg, as well as strong performances in Great Britain and France. In late July, she placed ninth at the Tour de France Femmes, the first race of its kind since the Tour de France Féminin in 1989. 

As one journalist proclaimed, “Veronica Ewers has well and truly arrived.” 

Meanwhile, amid the races and training, Ewers stumbled on UX design — “I found that it was similar to anthropology, in that I’m able to apply my quantitative research methods within UX/UI design and research,” she said — and started a certificate program two months before signing with her current team, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. In February, she completed the program and lives for now in Rixensart, Belgium, a town south of Brussels. 

But her pursuit of UX jobs is on hold as she’s fallen into the intense, solitary rhythm of a professional athlete — ride, shower, eat, Netflix, sleep — and eyes the 2024 Olympics. 

Willamette alumni have been rooting for her every step of the way. Scott M. Schoettgen ’10, who helped staff a study abroad trip Ewers attended, recently sent her a jersey from the now-defunct university cycling team. For several years it hung in the Bistro, where Ewers loved to churn out cookies as an employee.  

“Everything came full circle,” she said. “When I finally have my own place, I’m going to have it framed.” 

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