Rebecca Rusch wins the 2009 Leadville 100
Back in September I got a chance to chat with 2009 Leadville winner and 2-time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Rebecca Rusch about racing, training, and mountain bike trails. Meeting Rusch for the first time I was instantly struck by how friendly she comes across despite being such a fierce competitor on the racecourse. A cool confidence seems to underlie everything she says and her enthusiasm for mountain biking is seriously contagious.
Rusch tells me she got into mountain biking through adventure racing several years ago, though MTB wasn’t exactly her favorite part of racing. After winning a qualifying race for the Australian Eco-challenge in 2001, Rusch quit her job and decided to go pro. In the beginning she says she wasn’t great at mountain biking (hard to believe) but ended up doing well at 24 Hours of Moab so she stuck with it. At age 40 she’s in top mountain bike racing shape and in her first Leadville 100 appearance she proved it, coming in a full 25 minutes ahead of the second place woman. For those who got a chance to watch “Race Across the Sky” last month, you’ll remember Rusch saying she had no idea how she was doing during the race so she just pretended every rider in front of her was a woman she needed to catch. Talk about determination.
As a 24 Hour Solo champion, 100-mile race winner, and MTB stage racer I asked Rusch if she thought the trend toward longer, more extreme mountain bike races would continue.
“Limits are where we put them,” she replied, as naturally as if I’d asked her favorite color. Races like Leadville and stage racing are becoming more accessible to amateur competitors, allowing anyone to push their limits and Rusch sees that trend continuing for the next several years.
Of course to be competitive in mountain biking it’s super important to use the most effective training tools available. I asked Rusch how she was using technology to boost performance and she surprised me by saying she only recently started tracking cycling power data this year. More important than geeking out with measurements and computers, she says training is all about listening to your body and enjoying the ride. If only it were that easy for the rest of us…
I asked Rebecca to tell me about her favorite mountain bike trails and she says her favorites are the ones that combine plenty of pedaling with interesting terrain. The McKenzie River Trail in Oregon tops her list along with the Alpine Trail, also in Oregon. Rusch lives in Ketchum, Idaho so many of her training rides take her through Sun Valley, ID where the singletrack is scenic and never ending.
As a Specialized Team rider, Rebecca has access to the latest and greatest mountain bikes and she tells me her primary rig is an Era FSR Marathon with 4” of rear travel. Rusch has been experimenting recently with a 29er hardtail for competition and after alternating between her FS and 29er bikes during a 24 Hour race she decided to rock the 29er HT at Leadville. Apparently the decision paid off for her, despite the fact that none of the top 5 male finishers rode 29ers at Leadville this year.
Last month Rusch competed in the women’s duo class at 24 Hours of Moab and took first with teammate Gretchen Reeves. She was also on hand at the premier of Race Across the Sky in NYC on October 22 and even hung out with fans at the after party. This month she’ll be competing in Vuelta al Cotopaxi, a 2-day MTB stage race in Ecuador.
Rebecca Rusch is truly an amazing competitor and an inspiration to anyone who likes to ride fast and long. Keep up with her (if you can!) on her blog @ rebeccarusch.wordpress.com.