Stanford cyclist pedals herself onto Jewish calendar

Stop! Because Shula Reinharz has heard them all.

Shortly after she decided to put out a calendar solely featuring Jewish female athletes, she heard her first “guess it’s going to be a short year” crack, followed shortly thereafter by the second, third and fourth.

Reinharz’s response is the same one Muhammad Ali gave to George Foreman after absorbing a barrage of blows in the early going of their “Rumble in the Jungle” — “That all you got?”

In fact, the “Jewish + Female = Athlete” calendar has proved so popular that Reinharz can’t keep them in stock, even though this is the first year they aren’t free. (They’re $13.95, and information is available at (781) 736-8114 or

Reinharz even decided already to do another sports calendar next year.

“There are so many different kinds of sports, kite sailing and all these other sports I wasn’t familiar with. And, I’ve learned about these individual women, their extraordinary talents and historic personalities,” said Reinharz, the co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute in Waltham, Mass., which has previously put out calendars featuring Jewish female scientists, writers and rabbis from around the globe.

Nicole Freedman would probably giggle if you described her personality as “historic,” but she’d thank you for the compliment.

The Stanford grad and member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic cycling team laughingly refers to herself as Ms. May in the September 2005-September 2006 Jewish calendar. And she’s not the only one.

“I was just in Bermuda racing last week, and one of the racers there asked, ‘Are you in that Jewish women’s calendar?’ Yeah, I’m the one,” she said.

“I actually went to preschool at Brandeis, so I thought that’s why they contacted me [to be in the calendar] … When you look at the calendar, you see how good all the other athletes are. What am I doing there?”

Freedman, to be fair, did win the U.S. National Cycling Championships in 2000 and 2001, and also a collegiate road cycling title in 1994, her senior year at Stanford.

And among the current and historical athletes in this year’s edition, Freedman was probably the only one to spend four years living in a mobile home — that wasn’t mobile.

Living in Palo Alto during the height of the tech boom, Freedman needed to find a way to save on rent yet still work less and train more. She ended up living in a broken down 1977 Ford Econoline in her friend’s driveway.

And was that, you know, legal?

“Technically not, no,” she said with a laugh.

As the cycling coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Freedman has now just purchased a house — “I’m moving up in the world!” — and still trains 30 hours a week.

A dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, Freedman, 33, hopes to build up the Jewish state’s cycling team and possibly compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for Israel.

It’s been a long and winding road for the Boston native, who wouldn’t spend more than $35 on a bike when she was at Stanford (that way you don’t go berserk when they’re inevitably stolen) and didn’t join the cycling team until she was a senior.

In her first few years as a professional, she frequently fell so far behind in races that organizers forced her to stop, for fear of the race leaders colliding with her as she was being lapped.

“It’s kind of like the pitcher being pulled,” she explained.

But success in 1996 snowballed, and she won the U.S. Olympic trials in 2000.

And now? She’s Ms. May.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.