What do you do for a day job?
I’m a full-time professional bike racer, but I’m working part-time, well, it’s full-time at Lululemon but part-time hours so I can focus on racing right now. I’ve been off and on professional for a couple of years now but before that, I was a geologist but I decided to take a break from that to race full-time.
How long have you been racing?
I started mountain bike racing when I was 21, so probably about 12 years and I’ve been racing ‘cross for about ten years based on counting how many Nationals I’ve done. As far as full-time goes, it’s been off and on for five years.
What disciplines do you compete in?
I used to do a full summer season of MTB and then work during the winter, but I switched to ‘cross about three years ago. I really fell in love with ‘cross; I love how wacky and fun it is and I think my physiology is more suited to cross being almost 6 feet tall. On the MTB side, I’m racing against women that are probably 40lbs lighter than me, so the power/weight ratio going uphill is something I always struggle with. So you fell in love with this shitty weather we’re having? The nastier, the better!
I’ve dabbled in road; I do a token road race every year and I’ve recently tried some enduro racing. I started on the track last year, but just the stuff in Victoria.
What is it about ‘cross do you love so much?
I think part of it is the culture; it’s still got a very grassroots feel in North America. For example, at Island races, you’ll get 400 people coming out and everybody is cheering everyone on. You’ve got kids out there and people of all abilities on course so I think that’s really appealing to me. How does this differ from your experience in Europe? I have limited experience, just one year so far, but from what I understand it’s more of a sport for the pros. You still have age group races, but the big races are pro-only, so the courses tend to be a lot more technical, which I do enjoy and is quite a difference from North American races. It’s a different dynamic too because people in North America are excited for everyone whereas in Europe, I find that they cheer for their racer, except if you’re Canadian because they cheer everybody on.
Balance is probably a little bit different for you as a full-time pro athlete. What do you find that you have to juggle?
It’s definitely not as big a deal now that I’m not working full-time, but you do still have to take care of responsibilities like chores at home, taking care of my dog, and helping my partner since he was recently injured. But I still struggle to find balance in life and it’s almost harder because you focus more on just riding and you forget about other parts of your life. I find it’s easier when you’re working because you have a schedule and you have to plan around it but when you’re not working, you always think “I can do that later,” and you end up not doing it at all. Basically I try and schedule my day out and budget my time as best as I can.
As somebody who does the racing thing full-time, do you ever feel burnt out from having cycling as your main focus?
It’s never the only focus. Having it as a constant focus means it’s something I have to manage and for me, it’s tough because I really enjoy doing a lot of other stuff. I mean, there are times when I should focus more on cycling, but sometimes I want to go surf, or go hiking. It’s good and bad for me because it keeps cycling exciting, but I don’t think I’m burnt out. There’s always enough variety.
What made you want to dive into the competitive side of cycling?
I started bike racing in my first year of college in the summer. I had followed my dad and my brother to some races and decided to do some Alberta provincials in Hinton. I was grossly underprepared equipment-wise: it had snowed and I had shorts and half-finger gloves and I couldn’t see anything, but I fell in love with the atmosphere of it. I did a couple of local races and started realizing I was getting good at it so I thought I’d give it a try.
It was a slow progression to the pro ranks. I did the local stuff for a while and then I did the Canada Cup races and those used to be quite big. I did that for a number of years and won that series three times and started doing US races and moved on to the World Cups and during all of that I started racing ‘cross and that was kind of the same progression. My first Nationals was in Nanaimo in 2006 and I ended up on the podium with Lynn Bessette and Wendy Simms and realized that I was good at this and enjoyed it too.
Do you remember your first race? Tell me what was going through your mind
Like I said, I was really unprepared equipment-wise. Course-wise, it was a 40-minute lap course. As a beginner, I think I did two laps and as the only female, I was racing all of these old men which was super fun, especially kicking their butts on the downhills. It was up in Alberta so it was brutally cold. The downhill was scary, but the adrenalin took care of that. Aside from that nervousness on the downhill, were you nervous during your first race? No, not at all. I hadn’t had a good crash yet. I just showed up and since it had never happened, I wasn’t afraid to crash, I wasn’t afraid to blow up, I didn’t know any of those things so I just went for it.
What are your thoughts on the current state of women's racing?
I think there’s been some great progress made. There’s been a big push, especially on the ‘cross side for equality in prize money. North America has become really good; there aren’t a lot of races that don’t do equal prize money. There are a lot of big sponsors who are boycotting races that don’t have this and there’s been a real movement towards it. At the UCI level, it’s still pretty unbalanced. I remember last year was my first ‘cross World Cup and I finished 29th. If I was a guy, I would have made 500 euros because prize money went 50 deep for men, so you would have made money even if you were lapped, but prize money only went 25 deep for women and at that place, it was only 100 euros. In terms of sponsorship, it’s still more of a challenge for women to find sponsors. It’s getting better, slowly. Baby steps. It can’thappen all at once.
What can riders, racers, organizers, promoters, and the cycling community in general do to encourage growth in women's racing?
I think for women, it can be intimidating to get into the sport. I think having more introductory clinics for women would be a huge help. Having women who are not just good at the sport but are also positive role models and ambassadors front and centre and leading those clinics and showing how much fun racing is can be a big movement. On the Island, the intermediate women’s field regularly sees 30 women out, so it’s starting to grow. Starting them young is a big thing. There are kids’ programs like Tripleshot Racing that are getting girls involved and if a girl has friends involved, she’s more likely to stay with it.
What advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to women who are thinking about lining up for their first race?
Don’t worry about looking like a fool because everybody’s been there, done that. Everybody’s crashed, gotten muddy, has been last or lapped, so don’t worry and just do it.
It’s been a stellar season for you this year. What would you consider the highlight?
The start of it was pretty slow, but it’s going pretty decently right now. Definitely winning Nationals, but I almost think winning the 2012 title was rewarding for me because everybody was there: Catherine Pendrel, Wendy Simms, Pepper Harlton, and Emily Batty, to name a few. Everybody who was in cyclocross was there; it was a good field. This one was rewarding because I had some not-so-stellar years, so being able to find that form again was rewarding. And definitely Worlds last year in Tabor; it was surprising, but super cool.
Would you say you’re more excited about winning the National title, or going for the SSCXWC title?
(laughing) I’m super stoked about that. I would love to win that. It’s not “serious,” but it’s competitive. It’s that fun, down-to-earth side of cyclocross. We’re serious when we’re doing UCI races but then we have this bastard child of cyclocross, and I say that in quotations (still laughing).
Any final words that you wanted to mention?
I wouldn’t have been able to make it to where I am this year without the partnership and support of Sam from Naked Bicycles. I’m super-excited to work with him and I haven’t been this excited to ride a bike in a while. Built it up with full Shimano Di2 and it’s the cat’s ass. Or bee’s knees. I had talked to him last year about building up a bike for Singlespeed World’s and we got talking about what it would take to do a season and this was before I found out that I would no longer be riding with Stan’s NoTubes. I had started working with Michael Van den Ham and Craig Ritchey to get something going with the Redtruck Garneau team and out of the blue, Sam called and asked me if I wanted to ride for him with a full program and everything and that was that. It’s a two year deal, so I’ll be Naked again for next year. Naked Dyck, yaaaay!