Specialized Pro Rider Rebecca Rusch graced the stage among the boys last week for the premiere of Race Across the Sky, a documentary about the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race. I got a chance to talk to Reba after she celebrated her win. Tuesday, Nov 9 is the encore presentation. Check out this site www.raceacrossthesky.com for ticket info and theaters.
How did it feel to be the only woman on stage?
In my life as a professional athlete and firefighter, I am fairly used to being outnumbered by the guys. However, I was really honored to be on that stage not because I was a woman, but to be recognized for my accomplishment along with those other amazing athletes. It's icing on the cake to have the women's race represented and getting press.
What do you hope this movie does for women's cycling?
Was it weird to be filmed before and during your race?
It was weird to be filmed before the race because it had not yet happened and I was very focused on my preparation and showing up at the start line absolutely ready. The day before the race was full of interviews, poster signings, going through my gear and tons of last minute things. I tried hard not to let the media or crowds distract my usual pre-race focus and preparation. People were really nice, but I do not like to make predictions before a race. Once the gun went off, I honestly did not notice the cameras. I was 100-percent focused on my performance, my feed hand offs, listening to my body, my competitors and my time splits. After the race, I was on cloud nine, so it was all a blur. I just remember being so happy that my boyfriend Greg was at the finish line and the first one to give me a hug.
Can you relate to reality shows a little more now?
I've always sort of related to reality shows because my main professional sport before mountain biking was Adventure Racing. I've done 8 Eco Challenges and those were the very first reality TV shows created by Mark Burnett (of Survivor and the Apprentice). We athletes were the very first, unpaid "actors" in the phenomenon that became reality TV.
Do you watch any?
I've obviously watched all the old Eco Challenges. Now, I occasionally get sucked into Project Runway.
How much of the actual footage did they use from all the filming?
The producer from Citizen Pictures told me they had over 100 hours of footage to edit from the race and interviews.
What did you wish didn't get cut?
I wish they'd been able to show a bit more of the top women's race. Amanda and I were together battling back and forth for 40 miles until I was able to break away on Columbine. We were hammering, trading leads, trying to break each other and rolling very fast through aid stations. I wish that had come across a little more. I also wish my boyfriend Greg would have made the cut into the film. He was my one man crew and used his motorcycle to get to so many places on the course. We had practiced musette bag handoffs and we nailed them all. He was running alongside me in his motorcycle boots and jacket and getting to me every time. It would have been cool to see one of our hand offs.
Why should I see this film? What is it about this film that inspires people?
You should see this film because it's unique to get to see mountain bike racing on the BIG SCREEN! It may never happen again. Whether you are a cyclist or not, the spirit of so many people setting a goal and committing to it 100 percent just oozes out of this film and gives you courage to do anything! On top of that it's gorgeous scenery and really exiting racing.
How was it to sit and watch the race, did you finally catch the scenery?
It's wonderful to get to see a race after the fact. It's such a blur for me during the event that to get to re-live it later with a clear head just reinforces how special the experience was.
Did you ever think you'd find yourself in a limo, and have it attached to racing? Seems so flash!
I'm still blown away that I make a living as a professional athlete. I still giggle a little and smile when people ask me what I do for a living. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to create a career out of this. I tell you it was WAY harder to figure out what to wear to a red carpet movie event than an all day bike ride in the wilderness!
What about the girls chasing you for the last quarter of the race got you all choked up?
I guess I was just surprised to see such enthusiasm and energy coming from girls in that age group and that it was directed at me. I ran cross country in high school and have been into endurance sports since that age, so I could completely relate to them. The fact that they were screaming and yelling for me and to know how excited they were to see me was like a huge wind on my back. They pushed me forward. I got to meet them after the race as they were volunteering at the awards ceremony. They are the future and it was so incredible to have them inspiring me and me inspiring them at the same time!
Would you say this salt shaker award and that moment in your race describes the essence of Leadville?
Absolutely! Leadville is a special place. In 2009, I breezed in one day before the race and it was still a fantastic experience. This year, I went to Leadville four different times during the summer to pre-ride the course, help organize the 24 Hours of Leadville, and just spend time up there. I got into the rhythm of the place, met the locals and felt welcomed immediately. The scenery is amazing, but more than anything, the people are genuine and honest and it shows.
I know you had a great support crew behind you for this one, is it hard to show them or explain how much they mean to you?
My boyfriend, Greg Martin, crewed for me. He knows the ups and downs that I go through. He knows the nerves, the insecurity and all the stress that goes along with being a professional bike racer. He's a pro rider himself, so he gets it. He worked super hard that day ripping around on his moto, getting to more places than were humanly possible and just being there for me with food and moral support. Anyone could have handed me water bottles, but the energy I got seeing him every time was even better than Red Bull. There is no way for me to thank him. I do know that he shared my joy at the finish line. He said he has never been more excited or stressed as a spectator in a race. I know he felt like he actually did the race himself with me.
How did it feel to be in hair and make up? Were you jealous of all the time Levi got with the hair stylist?
You know, it was funny to go into hair and make up. As soon as I walked in, I made a joke to Levi and said "I love what they did with your hair!" He wasn't laughing as much as I was! Maybe he's more used to that sort of stuff than I am. I was pretty nervous at that point about the live discussion, so I was masking it with humor! I was actually pretty happy that the hair and make up women didn't throw their hands up and have to change my look completely. They actually said I looked great and didn't have to do much.
How does if feel to be in the limelight?
I don't race to be in the limelight, but it feels extremely rewarding to be recognized for all my hard work and effort during the season. It's like getting a giant pat on the back.
Will you go for a three peat?