The amazing ride of Mary McConneloug

A degree in vocal performance isn’t often a stepping stone to a career in professional cycling.

A degree in vocal performance isn’t often a stepping stone to a career in professional cycling. But it has certainly worked for Mary McConneloug ’93.

In the amazing ride that is her life, McConneloug has shifted gears smoothly from singing for her supper to biking for it. Since she graduated from SCU with a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance, the 2004 Olympian in cross-country mountain biking has racked up numerous cycling honors, including two U.S. National XC Championships (2003, 2005) and six World Cup podium finishes. Currently she’s pedaling toward Beijing, vying for a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team by competing in top races all over the world.

McConneloug says she had no inkling of her future career while at Santa Clara. In fact, she says with a laugh, “I didn’t have my own bike.” Instead, she borrowed other people’s bikes for occasional treks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She didn’t develop her competitive passion for the sport until she was 27.

Yet she sees many connections between her undergrad experiences and her current vocation. While at Santa Clara, she developed skills and techniques that still have relevance for her today. Proper breathing. Keeping a steady tempo. Balancing your life.

“Being a professional athlete, you need to be disciplined to practice so that you can perform when you’re supposed to perform,” she says, her speaking voice still musical. “At Santa Clara, I really learned about practicing any discipline, going to the music room to do my work so that I could be ready for my performances.”

She also credits her facility with language to her SCU Italian classes and her voice teacher, Nancy Wait-Kromm. “I had to sing in Italian and French and German. She really made me get the pronunciation right. She made me translate all the songs before singing them, so I knew what I was singing. Believe it or not, I can speak Italian now when I go to Italy,” McConneloug says. Thanks to her training, she makes herself understood in France and Germany as well.

But McConneloug came to the University with little training in theory. “It was really difficult for me to learn the ‘theory in the ear’ training. One professor—Prof. Shurtleff, the director of the music department—was so wonderful. He just kept saying, ‘Mary, you can do it. You can do it.’ He really worked with me and pushed me through this so that I could learn,” she reminisces. “It really taught me that I could, if I pushed through things, really make things happen.

“I’ve definitely dedicated my life to reaching my potential on the bike. It was a hobby that was my passion and became a profession.”

Anne Federwisch

Ile de Sta Catarina, Brazil

Ile de Sta Catarina, Brazil

Ready to race, Italy 2006

Ready to race, Italy 2006


RV living and good nutrition

Team Kenda-Seven cycles

Team Kenda-Seven cycles

Photos: Courtesy Mary McConneloug

Learn more about her racing or e-mail her at

post-image Photo: Courtesy Mary McConneloug
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