Interview with Pro Mountainbiker Sonya Looney:

Credit: Sonya Looney

1. What is the difference between a pro women mountain biker and a pro man mountain biker?

There isn’t a huge difference!  The men are usually quite a bit faster, but there are a few pro women who tend to beat up on some of the pro men (not me!)  There are less pro women than pro men.

2.What is it that appeals to you about the sport?

I love that you can get on a trail and ride way out into the middle of nowhere in a relatively short period of time.  You can get places cars can’t go, and places it would take days to hike to!  The adventure and being in the trees is my favourite thing about mountain biking.  Also, with trail riding, it forces you to be present and focus on the moment because you are trying to navigate a trail.  It’s harder to space out and it’s mentally relaxing.  Everything else seems to fall to the wayside and I can just be on the trail.  I love racing because it gives me opportunities to ride different places, meet new people, and of course – challenge myself!

3.What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I’ve been so lucky to have a lot of great moments in my career.  The coolest thing I’ve done is the Yak Attack Stage Race in Nepal – a 10 day race across the Himalaya that I was the first woman to ever finish!  Racing Marathon World Championships in my USA kit, winning a couple of 24 Nats titles, and winning the Breck Epic twice have been really huge for me too.  I’m excited about future growth and adventure in my career. I’ve really been pushing myself the last couple years to think outside the box and try races that are considered to be the “hardest” in the world, and in exotic places!

4.How many bikes you have and what are they?

Oh wow, lots!!  I have 2 road bikes, a CX bike, 2 Canyon mountain bikes, a Misfit SS(it’s new!), a beater bike for a commuter, and a Canyon 6inch trail bike.  Next, I want to get a fat bike!  The Surly Moonlander looks sweeeeet!

5.Which is your favourite one?

Right now?  My 29er Canyon HT…I am dying to get a 4” 29er full suspension.  I should have one this year!

Credit: Sonya Looney

6.What do you find is the best brand for gear?

It depends on what you want to use it for!  I am really excited about my Primal sponsorship this year because they not only make great clothing that fits me (think women specific), but they are involved with a lot of events I go to and really give back to the community.  I love my Hestra winter riding gloves!  I’m also a fan of Maloja (I don’t own any yet, but I always admire it) and Capo for clothing.

7.Where is your primary spot to train?

In the summer, I head up to Summit County as much as I can and ride CO Trail sections around Breck.  I live in Boulder, CO and most of my go-to rides are dirt road climbs are 1-2 hours in length, or trails up the mountain!

8. What are next big competitions coming up on the calendar for you?

This is going to be a big year!  I’m so excited at the opportunity!  I just won the first mountain bike race across Haiti called the MTB Ayiti Ascent Stage Race.  I’m heading back to race the Yak Attack in Nepal for my second time in a couple weeks!  After that, I’m looking at a few one day events like Whiskey 50, Breck 100, Pisgah 111K, and Leadville… which will revolve around the Transylvania Epic, 3 day Breck Epic, and one of the  most exciting – Mongolia Bike Challenge at the end of my season.  It’s going to be a huge year for me, it’s hard to believe it’s all going to happen!

9.Whats your diet consist of to keep on top form for the season?

I don’t change my diet all that much throughout the year.  My diet consists mostly of fresh foods.  I normally eat granola+berries or oatmeal for breakfast, almond butter sandwiches for lunch, and various veggie/fish/whole grain dishes for dinner that I’ll cook. Throw in some dark chocolate, beer, and Michael David wine for treats and there you have it!

10.Who is your main competition?

Myself!  I try not to focus on my results on who is there.  I try to focus on performing to my best ability and usually the cards fall into place.

Credit: Sonya Looney

11.You have a job as well?! How do you balance both? Is it because there’s no money in women’s mountainbiking?

It is extremely difficult to get paid to ride your bike as a female mountain biker.  I work for Ergon full time doing sales and marketing which involves some weeks sitting at the computer, and some weeks travelling to various spots in the USA to do dealer visits.  Additionally, I work as a freelance journalist with about 5 different magazines I contribute to.  I stay very busy!  It’s all about time management.  I sit down at the beginning of the week and schedule everything including my training to make sure it all happens.

12.Your favourite distance to race is the 75-100mile range. Why is this?

I like covering more ground because you get to see more!  Also, it doesn’t cost you the race if you make a mistake or have a mechanical.  I also simply love just riding my bike, so the longer I get to ride, the better!  I love the challenge.  I always feel like it’s over too fast if I do a shorter event and want more.

13.How does it feel to represent your country in your sport?

It’s a great honour to wear the USA jersey!  It’s something I never imagined doing, and something I will never forget.

14.How do men in the sport treat you?

They are actually really great –fun and encouraging for the most part. I love kicking their ass too. ;)   They also keep me humble.  I ride with a lot of pro guys and am constantly getting dropped.  Sometimes it really messes with my confidence, but on race day it’s always, “Oh, I’m not as slow as I thought I was!”  That’s a good thing!

15. How did you go from it been a hobby to you turning pro?

I just sort of raced into it.  I find that if you work hard and have a vision, things work out.

16.What do we need to do to grow the sport?

Our sport is actually growing rapidly.  The racing scene maybe not as much. I think lower entry fees and fun, challenging courses with a festival atmosphere are key!

Credit: Sonya Looney

Follow Sonya’s Adventures:

Website: www.sonyalooney.com

Twitter: @looneysonya

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