When Marissa Kellogg ’03 first came to Yale, she traveled around campus in her vehicle of choice: a nine-year-old mountain bike. Little did Kellogg know that three years later she would use a $1,000 Cannondale to win road races around the country.
It was the Habitat Bicycling Challenge North 2000 that was responsible for introducing Kellogg to the cycling scene the summer after her freshman year.
“We were a happy nomadic herd, clad in spandex and bright yellow jerseys, which would only get washed every three days,” said Kellogg, who is now the top-ranked female cyclist in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference. “The trip gives you the chance to truly see our country and meet people along the way. We met bricklayers, prison guards in towns with six prisons, football coaches and ministers.”
After biking across America, Kellogg was hooked. She joined the Yale cycling team, competing for the first time during the spring of her sophomore year.
Through her strong sprinting in criterium races — a cycling competition that occurs over many laps of an approximately mile-long course — Kellogg was a quick study in the art of road racing. In that same year, Kellogg paired with then-teammate Amanda Lawrence LAW ’02 to capture the national championship in the Division II women’s team time trial. Despite these accomplishments, Kellogg remains humble.
“You have to ask [Kellogg] if you want to know how she did in the race,” teammate Paige Atkinson ’04 said. “She doesn’t often spout off her results, even though she usually finishes in the top five.”
Kellogg and Lawrence won the national championship again in 2002, while Kellogg was the second-best female cyclist in the nation among Div. II competitors.
“She’s been by far the highlight of our team this year,” co-captain Chris McPhee ’04 said. “She’s been on the podium for all the spring races.”
Throughout the season, racers accrue points based on their finish at each race. Kellogg is currently atop the ECCC leaderboard with 796 points.
“No one will be able to knock her down,” McPhee said.
While Kellogg has a 130-point cushion between her position atop the ECCC and the second-best female cyclist, only five points separate second from third.
Teammates claim that Kellogg’s immense energy drives her through a race. However, Kellogg’s success in cycling has been more than a result of pure energy.
“I’ve heard cycling best described as ‘chess for people who can’t sit still,'” Kellogg said. “It’s a sport that’s heavily dependent on strategy.”
She asserts that winning a race results from a mix of fitness, humility, patience, intelligence and guts.
Last summer, USA Cycling sponsored Kellogg and 24 other top female collegiate cyclists for an all-expenses-paid eight-day development camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
“We got instruction, guidance and physiological testing from national team coaches and the chance to meet other badass female cyclists,” Kellogg said. “There are about five men to every woman in the sport of cycling, so USA Cycling is making a big push to get more women into the sport.”
At Yale, Kellogg is the co-captain of the cycling team.
“We have a bunch of rockstars who just like to come to races to hang out as well as compete,” she said. “Races are like tailgates without the beer, and more people running around in technicolor spandex.”
Atkinson says that Kellogg remains composed and in “captain mode” throughout a racing meet.
“You’d never know [Kellogg] had a race coming up,” Atkinson said. “She often doesn’t warm up until just before her race starts. Her relaxed attitude during race weekends is one of the things about her that makes her a fantastic captain — she just wants to make sure everyone’s having a good time.”
On the competitive side, Kellogg’s incredible number of points has single-handedly helped the Bulldogs qualify for nationals. Teams qualify for nationals based on the total number of points they earn throughout a season.
“Kids like me get to ride her coattails,” McPhee said.
Though Kellogg pursues the sport with intensity, she also has a bevy of “nutty” anecdotes that betray a more casual approach to her passion.
On a one-day bike trip from the Italian Alps to the Mediterranean, Kellogg biked with two alcohol-loving Slovenian boys.
“They insisted we stop and drink a beer every 15 kilometers in order to keep hydrated and energized,” she said. “I was drunk by the time we reached Trieste.”
This summer, Kellogg will add to her cycling stories. In a return to her road cycling roots, Kellogg will ride 4,000 miles across the country once again for the HBC — this time as the designated leader of the troupe.