GEORGE, SOUTH AFRICA'S WESTERN CAPE - She was made of solid iron, this little gal, but had a heart of solid gold. I met her at a dinner table in California, after she and her bike teammates had a long day of practice (and their practice could make any weekend biker cry, just so you know). They were all so beautiful, so feminine, so full of sprite and sass. Carla was so very young and lovely; long fire-red hair and a gleam in her eye to match. For the record, I have never seen little ladies consume so many carbs in one sitting. I was baffled. Awed. Jealous.
We lost her last month to a terrible bike accident. It wasn’t long after I’d met her that I learned of the hazards of riding a bike in the world today – particularly for pro riders. Since I met her, I have read on a weekly basis of the dangers and pray for my friends who have a passion for cycling. These challenges don’t sway these riders, sometimes it seems to motivate them even more. What a lesson for the rest of us, to just keep going, keep trying, keep persevering no matter the obstacles.
So to you, my dear Carla, bright light that you remain to be: Thank you for riding for Team Vera Bradley Foundation, and for those of us fortunate enough to meet you. For your inspiration and your dreams. Your dad told me in an email that you "were a role model without realizing it" and that you are in the arms of the Lord now. I hope all the little girls who watched you whiz by realize that they, too, can go out and achieve so much, and be a graceful example while doing it.
I’ll leave you with the application line from her green card, which I find to be absolutely perfect as a description: You are an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability." I should say so. RIP, dear one.
11/26/87 - 1/19/11
"The most decorated collegiate rider in U.S. history"
Photo credit: Velo Images