Tammy Jacques, front, competes at a race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

While riding her bike up and down the hilly streets of greater Auburn, making a career out of peddling was the last thing on the mind of young Tammy Jacques.

But those treks were the basis for a professional cycling career that has earned Tammy Jacques-Grewal induction into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame.

The 1984 graduate of Edward Little High School was one of the most successful bike racers in the country for a decade — first as a road racer, then as a mountain biker — until her career was cut short due to injury.

Before cycling could become a career, however, it had to become a love.

“I guess I’ve always ridden my bike,” Jacques-Grewal said. “I lived across the street from Lake Street School. And even as a child I loved to ride my bike. I’d ride around the block, or I’d go pick up my friend Debra Trafton, and Jane Deshaies, and Laurie Reynolds, and we’d go pick them up before school on my bike, even though I only had to ride across the street. But I’d go pick them up at their houses as a child because I just loved riding my bike.

“I remember the four of us would ride our little one-speed Huffys out to Lake Auburn on the Spring Road, and go get fresh water from the spring. That’s a pretty big haul when you’re 10, 12 years old on a one-speed bike. So I guess I’ve always liked riding.”

Living in Auburn provided a solid training base for Jacques-Grewal.

“I was one of the best climbers in the world,” she said. “I attribute some of that to growing up in Auburn, Maine, and riding on all those hills, trying to climb the big hills out in Turner and Poland — Poland has great road riding — Mechanic Falls. Of course I loved riding around the lake to see how fast I could go, time trial it. That was really fun. I attribute a lot of that to growing up in Auburn just learning how to climb, just loving to embrace climbs, and finding the longest, biggest climbs you could wherever you are.”

Despite all of that training — though she didn’t know it was training at the time — Jacques-Grewal didn’t think about competitive cycling until her father took her brother and her to a road race around the lakes near Augusta the summer before her senior year of high school. It was that race that made her realize how much she liked the competition, and it’s where she met Susan Elias, who won the race before eventually becoming a member of the U.S. National Team.

“She ended up going on from that race and her career took off,” Jacques-Grewal said.

Jacques-Grewal’s own career still hadn’t started yet. First she went to college, and it wasn’t until her senior year of college that she got her racing license and started to pursue the sport competitively.

“The next year I went to the Olympic training camps during the winter, the development camps, and basically lived there for three months, and just kept getting invited back for more camps,” Jacques-Grewal said.

Jacques-Grewal was invited to the U.S. Nation Team camp in 1990, and there she got to ride with Elias, who she called a hero at the time, as well as a mentor and inspiration.

They rode together in the Tour of Texas race, then Jacques-Grewal made it onto the European tour for the U.S. Cycling Team.

“I made the U.S. Cycling Team basically my first year of cycling and I was there with the big shots,” she said.

It didn’t happen that fast for no reason. Besides the talent, Jacques-Grewal also had the drive.

“Once I decided to race, I was like … ‘OK, next year (I had all my goals) I’m going to be on the Weight Watchers cycling team, I’m going to make the U.S. Cycling Team, I’m going to these development camps first,'” Jacques-Grewal said. “I had it all planned out, I wrote it down on these goal sheets. I read (1984/1988 U.S. Cycling Team director Eddie Borysewicz’s) book, front to cover, followed his training plans, and it all worked out, exactly.”

“It’s so strange how it worked out,” Jacques-Grewal said. “But I guess when you start to believe in things, you can achieve it. And I worked really hard. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Jacques-Grewal competed in road racing for three years — finding success on the World Cup tour — until she got off the pavement and turned to mountain biking.

“That was the hot sport. There was a lot of sponsorship at that time during the 90s. It was a great way to see the world and make a pretty good living as a professional athlete racing a bike,” Jacques-Grewal said. “Mountain biking was the new sport, and it was really hip, tons and tons of TV coverage and print ad and just big sponsors all over the world. Everybody wanted to be a part of that sport, so it was kind of a perfect fit for me.”

The success continued, and Jacques-Grewal was an alternate for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team, though she didn’t get to compete for the team.

She said she was poised to make the team again leading up to the 2000 games, but an injury derailed that hope, as well as her career.

“I didn’t get to go and race in the Olympics,” Jacques-Grewal said. “That’s one thing that was, it’s not depressing to me, but it’s like, OK, well it would have been nice to at least raced.”

The injury actually occurred in 1993, when she crashed her bike and sustained damage to her pancreas, which wasn’t properly diagnosed until 2008. Recurring sickness after the crash finally forced her to retire in 1999.

“I was pretty sad,” Jacques-Grewal said. “I didn’t really look at any type of cycling magazines or even TV — I didn’t watch the Tour — I was really quite sad to have left the sport that I loved so much and had brought so much opportunity to me, and I feel like I gave a lot to the sport as well.

“I feel fortunate, but then I was sad at the same time because I retired at the top. I guess that’s a good way to go out, on the top.

“I got to go to the World Championships 10 times, and when I retired I was ranked a top-three road racer in the U.S. — I was the second-ranked U.S. racer and top-five in the world.”

Jacques-Grewal, who now lives in Cordillera, Colorado, said she has no regrets about how her career turned out. She turned something she loved into a successful professional career.

That it could even be a career at all was something Jacques-Grewal said she was unaware of until she pulled a poster of 1984 Olympic cycling champion Alexi Grewal out of an issue of Winning Magazine and put it on her bedroom wall.

“Ironically he became my brother-in-law. It’s kind of strange,” said Jacques-Grewal, who is married to former pro cyclist Rishi Grewal. “So I had his poster on my wall, and I was like ‘Cool! Wow! People race bikes.’ I didn’t know the history of it, then I kind of indulged the sport.”

Jacques-Grewal couldn’t stay away from the sport forever, and once she got her health back she started to race competitively again. Then after a couple of years of doing that, she took up cross-country skiing while living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

“I love that sport. It’s so fun, and I’m actually pretty good at it,” Jacques-Grewal said. “I guess that would be something I wish I would have done when I was younger. And Auburn had a great program.”

Jacques-Grewal did participate in a variety of sports growing up, from swimming to softball to track — though never distance events, just long and triple jumps.

But it was on her bike where she was the most happy.

“I’ll never forget, kind of nostalgic, but spring would come, and that smell in the air, and then my dad would take my bike out from the garage and clean it up, and I’d go out on my bike and cruise around the neighborhood,” Jacques-Grewal said.

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Tammy jacques looks behind her during a race in Europe in 2015.Tammy Jacques climbs a hill during the 2010 mountain bike nationals.


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