« back to articles

Christine Vardaros - Cycling

Christine Vardaros Vegan AthleteCurrent Residence: Mill Valley, CA (2010 update: now it's somewhere in Belgium)

Sport: cycling, cyclo-cross and road
Pro/Elite since: 1998

Favorite fruit: pomegranate
Favorite veggie: broccoli rabe

Hobbies/Other sports:trail running, baking desserts

1. When and why did you choose to stop eating animal products?

This choice did not happen overnight. It was a 6-year progression from age 14 through 20. (I am now 34) Pork was the first to go after a mandatory pig dissection in junior high school. It was then that I realized where my bacon and pork chops came from. Wilbur the Pig was tortured and killed for my BLT. One by one, I eliminated the various two-eyed creatures from my menu as each moral dilemma arose. I could no longer carry the burden of knowing I am responsible for the relentless torture of predominantly docile creatures.

2. What has been your experience as a vegan athlete? Have you noticed any performance or health benefits or problems?

I am not a physiologist, but I feel like this is a very healthy way to live. I rarely get sick, my bones are good, I build muscle easily, and I recover quickly from hard training and racing. I even recover from routine injuries much faster than animal-consuming co-workers. I have come to the top of my discipline of my profession on a non-animal diet seemingly without any negative effects. I don't feel that comfortable being a proselytizer, but I can certainly recommend it. The foods are much easier on my body; more easily digestible and fewer exogenous toxins, to name a few examples.

3. Have teammates and other athletes been supportive or critical?

My current Velo Bella teammates as well as many other competitors of mine are very supportive of my diet.

In fact, the public would be amazed by how many of us athletes are vegetarian and even vegan. There is a lot of pressure put on athletes to conform to what is the most accepted version of diet, especially when this is known to be such a critical factor in performance. Athletes who are considering this type of diet typically worry that their conditioning will suffer by not getting their full array of essential amino acids and other nutrients, iron and calcium, and so on, that are traditionally come by in animal products. This can easily be taken care of with a sensible vegetable-based diet. In fact, my coach tries to promote a vegetarian diet for all of his clients. He sees animal products as a real obstacle to physiological improvement.

4. A brief history of your athletic career.

I began my cycling career in 1995 as a mountain bike racer out of NYC. It was the only way i could get out of the city on the weekends! The first mountain bike I ever laid eyes on was a Breezer; it belonged to my (ex)boyfriend. It was love-at-first-sight! I knew i had to have that bike! Well, I bought the bike and shortly afterwards was offered a contract with Team Breezer, a women's professional cycling team (i was the only semi-pro on the team.) By 1997, I had packed up my desk at Morgan Stanley and moved to the Bay Area. In 1998, I started to work with a coach named Elmo who brought my fitness level up to the professional ranks within 6 months. I raced for Breezer for one more year as a pro, then ran my own pro cycling team called Team Jamba Juice for two years. The following year, I retired from mountain bike racing and began to focus on cyclo-cross. I started a team called Sally Spicer, a pro cyclo-cross team. At present, I race for Velo Bella, a women's team based out of The Bay Area, with Sally Spicer as a secondary sponsor. Due to a broken leg that i suffered during last year's cross season, I have been racing road full time this year to help get my fitness level back up.

5. Most memorable results or achievements.

1. 2003 US National Team Member for cyclo-cross world's (29th place)

2. 2002 9th Place - Heerlen World cup (NED) - cyclo-cross
3. 2002

8th Place - Wetzikon World Cup (SUI) - cyclo-cross 

4. 2004 1st Place - Santa Cruz Classic Criterium (first event I won since my broken leg incident last november - also first criterium win ever!)

5. 2002 US National Team (1st alternate) for CX world's

6. Why did you join OA's PRO-Activist team?

I chose to join OA's Pro-Activist team so that my experiences and successes as a vegan athlete can be shared with a wider audience in hopes that I may serve as a role model for other athletes who are considering a vegan diet. 

Christine Vardaros