Everything about this photo is posed. It comes from a shoot I did in 2004 for Sugoi apparel. We drove out to Borrego Springs, a flyspeck town in the Southern California desert, hopped out of the vehicle next to an abandoned restaurant, set up the bike, and arranged the girl just so. Fake, right?
But that’s not what I see. What I see is a rare bit of shade in the middle of a monster loop ridden nearly every day by hardcore San Diego cyclists. I see a brick wall where I once sat and thought I would hurl if I got back in the saddle and tried to climb out of the Anza-Borrego desert in that heat. I see a bike that was ridden more miles in a month than most bikes see in two years. And I see my friend, Dotsie Bausch.
Dotsie had been competing as a pro roadie for just two years, having taken up cycling for just five, when I snapped this. Only a few months before the shoot, she’d finished 25th in the Giro d’Italia. Pretty damn impressive. But what was even more impressive was that Bausch had started cycling to help recover from cocaine abuse, anorexia, and bulimia, addictions and dependencies she’d developed while in college and modeling, destructions that had driven the weight of this 5’9″ woman down to 90 pounds.
After a few years of plugging away in the peloton, Bausch hit the ceiling in road cycling and in 2007 switched to track. She was so nervous at first that she hyperventilated and had to do jumping jacks to focus elsewhere; at the 2009 national track championships, she fell in the starting gate and lay on the ground trapped in her pedals. It was an inauspicious start, but she persevered and went on to win two national titles in her first year.
As Dotsie’s success grew, she used her platform to speak publicly about eating disorders, to share her story, and to encourage treatment. It’s estimated that only one in 10 men and women with eating disorders actually find recovery, and treatment can cost north of $30,000. “I feel it is my duty as a survivor to help others who are currently suffering from the chains of an eating disorder,” she’s written. “I work almost daily with women around the country as a mentor and a guide to assist in their healing. I love this work and feel extremely blessed to be doing it.”
This past summer, Bausch was in London representing the United States in track pursuit. She and her teammates won the silver medal, finishing second behind a team from Great Britain that, inspired by their hometown crowd, took the gold with a world-record time. Dotsie was 39.
So, yeah, everything about this photo is posed. But when I look at it, that’s not what I see.
For more on Dotsie Bausch and her work fighting eating disorders, visit dotsiebauschusa.com.