OGDEN — Seventy-year-old Vicky Nielsen of Ogden did something recently not many her age are able to do: She biked 90 miles. Not only that, but the 90-mile distance gained nearly 6,000 feet in elevation from start to finish.
The bike ride was part of the Mesquite Madness event on Saturday, March 20, that took place in Southern Utah, and through Mesquite, Nevada. According to race results of the event that has taken place for several years, Nielsen may very well be the only 70-year-old woman to complete the course. And this makes sense because according to Nielsen, it was one of the hardest events she's ridden.
"I've done several 100-mile rides, but this race was different," she said. "This race has a lot of climbing, and I expected that. I actually really like hill climbs, but what I didn't expect was all of the wind. There was a huge headwind for the first 22 miles, that was about 23-35 miles per hour with gusts of 50 miles per hour, and the last 10 miles were right into the wind. The wind was so strong that I even had to pedal downhill."
Events manager Margaret Gibson confirmed how challenging the course was, particularly this year.
"Vicky was the only one her age to complete the entire 90-mile course," Gibson said. "It's a tough climb going up Utah Hill for anyone, but this year we had tough winds that blew riders all over the place and they had to pedal on the downhill. We had many give up and many change to a less mileage option due to the winds. She definitely endured!"
Nielsen took the obstacles of the race all in stride (or pedal, rather) completing the event in 7 hours, 5 minutes and 39.9 seconds. Nielsen was one of four females to finish the race and was nearly 20 years older than any other woman in the field. Not only that but her completion of the race set a new record for her age group.
Nobody was more proud of her accomplishment than her son, Travis Nielsen, who documented her journey on his Facebook page. In fact, it was he who reached out to KSL.com in an effort to give his mother the attention he thought she deserved.
"My mom is incredible, and she doesn't realize how incredible she really is," he said. "When we asked the race director if she knew of any other 70-year-old woman who had completed the course, she said she didn't know of any who had. That just shows how great of an athlete she really is!
"Not only is she a great bike rider, but she spent her career as a nurse, was a fantastic mom to me and my sister, and has always been a great example. She and my dad came from meager beginnings, and have lived a life of service. I want to show the world just how awesome she really is."
When asked to talk about her accomplishments, Vicky Nielsen was quick to pass the bar to others who she aspires to be like, hoping to shine the light on anywhere but herself.
"I really feel like I'm not worthy of attention," she said. "I have such a supportive family and biking community. I have a friend named Norm who is 83 years old who rides his age every year and a friend named Kent who is 69 who has biked the Lotoja which is over 200 miles! If you like what you do, you will have more success at it. I love riding my bike, and I am grateful to be healthy enough to do it."
As for her next big riding adventure, Nielsen says she plans to just keep on riding.