After what she called her best mountain-bike season ever, Georgia Gould of the Luna Pro Team is back with a vengeance in the cross scene. She now leads the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross after sweeping in a commanding fashion the Derby City Cup presented by Papa John’s Pizza races in Louisville.
So far so good for Gould, who is aiming for the USGP overall and then the US Cross National Championship in Bend, Oregon in December, which she called “a big focus, a big goal”.
Even with years of racing and winning under her belt, the 30-year old is still learning about the toll racing can have on her body, you see last year, she had to stop at the end of November and take a long-needed break. A tough call for Gould who simply loves to race which she told podiuminsight in Louisville.
“Did I just run out of fast?” was the question she was asking herself a year ago. After exploding on the mountain bike scene in 2006 topped off with a win at the U.S. National Mountain Bike Championship, the back to back seasons finally caught up to her during the 2009 cross season.
“I wasn’t racing how I should have been racing and I wasn’t able to train because I was just blown out.” Then it started to impact her mentally.
“Alright I can’t train. At racing I have one speed. was it always this hard? It totally starts messing with you mentally, I was really unsure by the end of the season how I was going to feel the next year and what I was going to do. It ended working out, you know my husband’s like ‘oh you’ll be fine, you just need some rest you’ll be fine’ an I’m like ‘I don’t know maybe I won’t be fine’. It was crazy.” she explained.
So after the Southampton race in November, she hung up her bike. “I talked to my coach and he said that could start impacting your mountain bike season, so let’s just shut it down which is hard because I really wanted to go to Nationals and I wanted to support the USGP and go to the Portland race but it was just too much.”
Not only did she come back fresher for her mountain bike season where she won the US XC National Championship and the the US Pro XCT overall, but she also took these lessons into the cross season.
“I’ve been a little more selective in my racing and allowing myself a little more time to train and be at home and that’s also hard because there are so many great races, Gloucester, the races in Ohio are fantastic and I wish I could have been out there, every year I’m like “I hope I can go to everything’ but you can’t. So yeah it was hard to watch everyone else out there racing and stay home and ‘oooohh’ but I feel it’s been good for me to get some time in to train.”
Now that she is incorporating more rest in her schedule, Gould is ready to face the rest of the season and to race against her teammate Katerina Nash and 6-time and current US National Champion Katie Compton again.
“This mountain bike season was my best one yet so I think it was definitely good to just, you know you think you know a lot of stuff but you just keep on learning about what your limits are and listening to your body. I’m still learning a lot of stuff, every year is another learning opportunity. I’m looking forwards to the rest of the season and getting to race against Katie and Katerina, having some really good racing.”
Following our conversation, she went head-to-head with Compton at a pair of races in Colorado, where she finished second at the Colorado Cross Classic and took the win at the Boulder Cup.
As far as the UCI Cyclocross World Championship in Louisville in 2012, she offered up her often seen big smile and said “I can’t plan that far out, I’m a very short-term type of planner.” but she does admit of thinking about it.
Mentor. Want to find Gould the morning of a cross race? It’s easy, look for the kids. She always spends time cheering and giving advice to the young racers coming up, especially the girls.
But did she have a mentor when coming up? “No.” she replied with a laugh. “I was also in my twenties when I first started racing. My husband had a lot of experience racing because he started racing when he was a junior but I just think that that is the kind of thing I wished that I had when I was ten or eight. I think that that is the future of the sport and it’s really easy to get caught up in ‘oh I need to do this or that’ but it’s like taking five minutes or whatever to make someone else’s day better.”
She calls it “good karma”. Not only will she cheer on the kids but you will often see Gould by the side of the course, before and after her race, cheering on the other categories.
“We all, as pro racers, we know what it’s like to have people cheering, having great fans cheering the races, more spectators is great for us. It’s the same for everybody, it’s the same for the cat 4 racers, it’s the same for the juniors, to have people cheering for you helps you go faster and makes you feel better in a race so I try to share the love.”
A huge supporter of women’s cycling, Gould is optimistic about the future. “Right now there’s a bunch of juniors just starting out, like young kids and that’s really cool.” she said about the cross scene.
“You look at the US mountain bike scene, there is sort of a gap, there’s not a lot of young up & coming racers. I think it’s really great to see the high-school mountain bike league and things like that that are really helping to bring girls into it a little bit earlier. And hopefully there are people that are keeping it real and not getting it too serious. Because you know, I’m sure everyone can name you off ten people that were super-fast juniors, hopefuls for world championships and totally burned out.”
For Gould, it’s important that the young riders keep their lives in balance and well have a life. “I think trying to find a balance between having it stay fun and not having these kids worry about how light their saddle is or getting too stressed about it and still being able to do soccer, gymnastics or whatever other things that they are doing and keeping them well-balanced but bringing them into cycling a little earlier.”
“I think right now the US is the best women’s cyclocross scene in the world in terms of promoter support, quality of races and all that stuff. Right now, the USGP is better for women than the World Cups. They take it just as seriously as the men races, it’s really nice that they share that respect with us.”
Equal Prize Money. Back in 2007, Gould sent a petition signed by nearly 3,500 supporters to the UCI to request equal prize money for women.
The response was, well, nothing. “I never heard a single thing from the UCI. No one ever told me that they got it or anything.”
She send out copies to the president of the UCI, to each of the different committees, rod, mountain and cyclocross.
“I never heard anything but the one thing that it did accomplish, except for the fact of being totally ignored by the UCI, was that a lot of race promoters and a lot of general people that had no idea that there was that kind of disparity, it brought the issue out.”
Starting in 2008, the top 3 elite women received equal money at the USGP. “And now every year there’s more and more promoters that are coming on board.”
Gould commented, “It was expensive. I sent a giant copy of all the things to all the different committees, but at least if more people get to see it, someone will care.”
The cycling world is better for Gould caring and doing something about it.