Mountain Biker Allison Mann Races Worlds
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Time to give it up for Allison Mann. This girl has had a big year. Along with going Pro early last year, earning well deserved podium spots at the Bonelli Triple Crown, Fontana and Mellow Johnny's Pro XCT, and US Mountain Bike Nationals Super D, she helped her husband recover after after a horrific crash, and she was selected to represent the USA this year at Worlds. All of this while punching the clock 40 hrs a week, being a great cycling ambassador and following the paleo diet. Nice work girl. You deserve every shining moment you got this year. Here. Mann discusses the World Championship race in Quebec.
How was it being in the stars and stripes and in the opening ceremony?
Honestly it was amazing. I really had no idea what to expect. A lot of the team wasn't there, but many of the U23 and a few juniors went, as well as Spencer (Elite Male who also is a full time job guy). We were sort of staged in the Parliament building in downtown Quebec with the riders from other countries snacking on veggies and dip and trying to find water while figuring out if we should be standing or trying to lean against the walls. Imagine a bunch of elite bike racers at dinner time, with only finger foods and no couches, and most of them don't speak the same language. We all were having a blast with it. We came outside and it's dark out, but with the lights we can see there is this massive crowd. It was seriously cool.
Would you say you are more patriotic now?
I don't think I am more or less patriotic. It has been a great experience representing my country here at the World Championships, though. It is amazing to ride with the best of the best on the course here. I look around at any given practice time and there's Catharine Pendrel, Irina Kalientieva, Burry Stander, Todd Wells, Julien Absalon. I'm still trying to learn all of the U23's. There are just so many amazing and talented individuals here.
You have a large fan base on FB. Are you addicted to tech now?
“I've been addicted to tech since I was 13! Nothing new there. I think mostly it is friends or family, or strangers trying to get me to “like” their company on Facebook!
Are you gonna start to tweet?
I've been on Twitter for a bit now. I don't use it as much to communicate, but it's a good tool as well.
How is the course?
The course is bitchin. I was pretty nervous before arriving and riding the course as everyone says it is uber technical. It isn't like most of the US courses where you really can clean the entirety of it first try (IMO). It's a challenging course. That being said, after 2 laps I just wanted to ride it all day. Good thing for me it was about 95F and really humid all week, so my laps were kind of kept to a minimum. It's a bit different of a course slick than super dry; when we arrived it was almost like riding in So Cal summer conditions: rocky with a LOT of loose dirt/sand. I felt right at home.
Are they expecting rain?
Rain has been in the forecast all week. So far it rained Thursday night, which left the course slick but not muddy for practice Friday morning. I think it probably dried out a lot with the Junior and U23 men racing on it, and it was pretty warm for U23. Rain is forecast in the early morning hours and a guy posted online it looks like weather is targeting the Elite Women's event Saturday.
The course looks fairly gnar gnar…are you sweating it or flowing it?
I'm sort of middle of the line I guess? Some sections I hit really well the first 2 days and then Friday I struggled with, so will just be playing it by ear. My plan is just to go out and try to nail it, but racing is always different. There will be traffic, likely rain/wet/slop, and wet roots are not that prevalent in So Cal. Either way it'll be a great experience, and I really enjoy the course. It's super fun and a great challenge.
Who else is there with you?
Georgia Gould is an automatic for winning US Mountain Bike Nationals. Willow is an automatic for being on the podium at multiple World Cup events. Katie Compton was an automatic also for a World Cup podium. Discretionary selections were Mary McConneloug, Heather Irmiger, Kelli Emmett, and me.
Are you giddy?
I'm super thankful and excited to be here. It has really been an amazing experience for me. The first time I was cruising down the street in my USA kit and today laying out all of my gear for the race I definitely was getting choked up. Two years ago, and even two months ago, I never would have thought this was possible. I just want to take everything I can from this experience, soak it all up and hope to be back again!
Has it been hard to feed yourself on the Paleo diet?
That would be an understatement! Keep in mind, though, most of the athletes staying here at the “compound” (and most of the Elites and some of the Juniors do their own thing) all have very similar diets (a lot of gluten free, a lot low sugar, no butter/creams, etc.). We all for the most part have embraced it a little and just gone with the French-Canadian cuisine. Lunch and dinner are 4 course meals and all very good, but I just kind of have to look the other way. We have all gone to the local grocery store for extra supplies. I had my own dinner tonight and will be doing my own breakfast tomorrow. Sunday, though, I may just eat two chocolate croissants at breakfast!
How is the Canadian Beer?
I haven't tried any! Justin had a Maudite with dinner the first night in, and a Belle Greuille white ale at the Oakley safehouse a few days ago. They were all right, but we're pretty into the IPA and DIPA brews from Cali at the moment!
How is Justin recovering after his epic crash?
Justin, I think, is doing great. He rode with a member of the French national team (who wasn't racing this weekend) Friday and the guy basically said, “Whoa you shouldn't be riding yet! Take it easy!” I also met a Canadian early in the week (a big Emily Batty fan!) that was a year and a day from breaking his neck and I was glad that I got to introduce him to Justin during the week and they talked a bit. He was a little older than Justin, but also a big cyclist, so it is good for Justin to get some perspective from others in the same or similar situations. His overall fitness is obviously down after 3 months of no activity, but he's ripping it up really well.
How did that affect your own training?
I was in the middle of my sesamoiditis issue anyway, so was taking a few days off when his accident happened. That hadn't gotten any better a week later, but I got an email from an acquaintance that told me that I had to get back to training. I didn't think it was possible from a time perspective, but he eventually helped me plan out a program that took me through Nationals. He basically said that Justin would want me to keep training and continue my season. It was awesome to have the help with coaching, especially while Justin was down.
Was it hard to table your goals until he recovered?
I didn't, really. I was ready to call the season quits, but Justin wanted me back out there. It was tough the first few weeks, but once I started training my goal actually became to hit Nationals and do well to sort of salvage my season. I think it worked out pretty well overall! Without my coach, Keith, and Justin’s blessing, it would have a been a different story.
How has Justin's injury shaped your mental game this year?
I actually had never really thought of it that way before now. I slowed down probably a bit technically because I did a lot of solo riding, and a lot more road riding, but the first few rides out he sent me on my way saying to live it up and enjoy every moment because you never know what's going to happen. We both made the best of it, I think, and life goes on. He will be back better than ever and I've had a great season despite a few challenges. Life is good and we are just trying to enjoy the moment.
So did you race in the rain?
It rained pretty hard the morning before the race, but I don't think it rained during the race itself. We had some sprinkles. It was really damp/wet/slippery and misty, though. Definitely not the conditions I am used to in Southern California. My experience in the wet is very limited.
Sorry about the flat. It happens. How long did it take you to fix it?
I have no idea! I was in traffic going in to the steep chute early on lap 1 and when I got to the bottom my tire just slid out. Girls were off on the steep climb coming out of it, so I got off and ran also, and once I hopped back on realized my tire just had no air. I had no idea if I had sliced the sidewall or just burped the Stans, but I figured the quickest thing to try was to use my one and only C02 to refill the tire. I think I actually got some air in it pretty quickly, then hopped back on and started pedaling. It was likely 30-60 seconds, but it could have been more or could have been less. Time is funny when racing!
Looking back, how do you think you got it? Just one of those things?
Coming in to the steep chute/G-out there aren't really any rocks so I'm not sure where it happened. I was off the line a little with traffic in front of me and women running down the chute. I was using tires that I don't normally run (for traction in the wet roots and rocks that we don't have in So Cal), and to try to get more traction had my tire pressure set a little lower than normal. Basically just an instance of some inexperience with the gear trying to set myself up for good traction and maybe pushing it a little too much.
You were running stans right?
Yes, I have Stans sealant in all my tires. It held and worked great after re-inflating. I don't know what my tire pressure was at the finish, but I didn't have any other issues during the race.
Besides Rock N' Road, who else is sponsoring you right now?
I get a little support and pro deals from companies like Oakley, Ergon, CycleOps and First Endurance. Of course racing is expensive and I am always looking for sponsors and support. I am so new to the industry that I don't have many contacts.
What bike did you race?
I raced my 2010 S-Works Epic, which I've been on all year. I only have the one bike, so I don't have a choice what bike to ride. I am pretty lucky, though, as I feel it was a great bike for the course!
What tires did you run?
I went out there with Fast Trak LK's and ran those in practice Tuesday and Wednesday. It was dry and dusty and I felt very much at home. With the rain and wet terrain I switched to Sauserwind's for Friday's practice and the race on Saturday. I've only used these once before – Windham for the Pro XCT final in 2009.
Was it hard to pick your tires?
It was a bit. If it was going to get really sloppy with soupy mud everyone was suggesting Storm tires, which I didn't have. We did some panicking looking for those on Friday, but wound up running the Sauserwind's and it was fine. Justin (and a few of the U23 men) rode the LK's and said they were actually working pretty well also, but I didn't have a chance to practice the course on those in the wet.
You posted you got all choked up on the line. What was going through your mind?
Just what an amazing opportunity and experience it was to be there on the line with literally the best in the World. It's a huge event and I was honored to be there. Participating in this events was definitely one of the highlights of my entire life, not just racing bikes.
FB was all a flurry with photos taken from FreeCaster. Your girl Stephaine was on it.
It was really cool that so many friends and family purchased the race and got to see some shots. It was cool for me to see the screen captures since I have only seen the last 1/2 lap of the race!
How was the after party?
We pretty much missed the XC party. Saturday we had the team dinner and then went to the venue, which seemed pretty dead, so Justin and I went with Lydia Tanner (from the women's U23 squad) to downtown Quebec looking for gelato. Those places were all closed but we found Bel Gaufre and got waffles with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream, and I got chocolate/caramel topping. Sunday we did hit up the closing party at the venue. It was a lot of fun hanging out and dancing in to the wee hours of the morning, but we kept it pretty mellow. I did get to dance with Sam Schultz, which was pretty cool as he was the top male from the USA.
Did you learn anything from another racer while there?
From the US squad Katie Compton definitely took the toughness award. She crashed pretty good on the rock garden (La Beatrice) in the Team Relay on Wednesday. I saw her that evening and the next day and she was having trouble walking around and up and down stairs. Friday she was moving better on her bike and seemed to be walking okay Saturday morning. I knew she was still in a lot of pain and discomfort, but she lined up and was ready to go for the race on Saturday. She crashed again on her injured side, opening up her elbow and getting some more bumps and bruises so unfortunately had to call it a day, but I know she toughed out a lot of pain to be there.
I think other than that Canada's Catharine Pendrel (UCI World Cup winner and 4th at World Championships this weekend) slowed up her Friday spin to talk to me after I crashed in practice that morning and it really meant a lot to me that despite her being one of the race favorites and having a LOT going on she spent 10-15 minutes riding and chatting with me trying to help me keep everything perspective about the race.
All of the athletes that compete in these events are amazing. I like to think I learned a thing about how to race in traffic and how to deal with the conditions, but that didn't come from any specific riders, just that the level of competition was so high.
What did that race reveal to you about yourself?
Mostly that I have a LOT to learn! Races in the US I think are trying to become more like the UCI XC events, but without the level of competition and the less technical terrain/courses it just really is a lot different. Everyone warned me that the start would be super fast and that girls would be really aggressive, but hearing about it and experiencing it are two different things. I wasn't sure how hard to go on the opening climb of the start loop, but I think I wish I would have pushed harder to make up more ground and get in some more passing, and I need to stick to my own line choices whether riding or running instead of thinking maybe others know something I don't and following them instead. I also need to spend more time doing CX dismounts and remounts!
What were your top 3 moments.
The Opening Ceremonies at the Parliament in downtown Quebec was a killer start to the week. The organization and the city really put on an amazing event. The lights, the bike stunts and show, and just all of the racers made it awesome. The city itself is gorgeous and was a great place to visit. Aside from that, the call-up at the race start and climbing up La Marmotte on lap 2 to thunderous cheers; I felt like I was Lance Armstrong climbing up Alpe d'Huez in the Tour!
What will you do differently for this race next year?
I think getting a World's nomination next year will be really tough. I hope to make some more progress and get a little faster again next year, and hopefully take what I've learned this year and apply it and race stronger. World's in 2011 is at Champery, which I've heard is either the most or the second most technical course on the tour (with Mont Sainte Anne being the other). Ideally I'd like to feel more comfortable on the course, hopefully have some more wet rocks/roots experience, and try to start harder and hope I don't blow up from it. Having more UCI points would help with a higher call-up (I was called up second to last), but if you can put in some passes early on then what box you are staged in doesn't always mean you finish in the same/similar position.
Is Sam Shultz a good dancer?
Let's just say we're both quite “white”!
How did you swing the time off work for this, weren't you all maxed out?
I had taken unpaid time finishing up my US Nationals trip in July, so the time for this trip was all unpaid. I am extremely lucky that my Supervisor allowed me the time to go, but I worked hard to tie up the loose ends and now that I'm back I'm working hard to get back on the train.
How long will this buzz last for you?
The post-race period is always interesting. It's exciting and pushes me in a way, but also I think leads to a little postpartum depression in some ways, too. The financial cost of trips like this often take a bit to sink in. We will be working on recovering from the cost of this trip for awhile. It's fun to “live the life” but then reality hits and it's back to work and trying to squeeze in training.