Is there a favourite route that you’ve cycled so far?
I just got back to Switzerland a couple of days ago to race the Hope 1000. It’s a 1000km self-supported mountain bike race in the Swiss Alps with 30,000 meters of climbing. I last raced it in 2018 and the route was extremely challenging and gorgeous. I’m so excited to be back. The race starts on June 19.
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I did a project a few years back where I rode all of the major roads in Alaska (about 8,000km). It’s so wild up there and it’s so far north that it’s almost never dark in the summer. It’s an incredible feeling to ride through the night in daylight. It’s also an amazing place to see wildlife – moose, bears, caribou, lynx, muskox, bald eagles.
In 2019, I raced the Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan, and Rue (my wife) and I got to tour the route before the race. What a beautiful place! It’s mostly high elevation (above 3000 meters) and people are still nomadic there. They put up yurts in high valleys in the summer for the horses and cattle. They mostly still ride horses. The mountain passes are massive – sometimes climbing 2500 meters in one go. We loved it there.
Are there any places on your bucket list that you’re hoping to cycle in the future?
So many! I’ve wanted to ride in Georgia (the country) for years. There are mountains above 5000 meters, it has an ancient wine and bread culture, and even has its own alphabet. It looks like an absolutely stunning place. It’s so steep it might be better for walking than riding, but I think I’d want a bike there too. It also seems best to go in the summer – with such high mountains the weather is very temperamental.
I’ve always wanted to ride the Torino Nice Rally – it just looks like a lot of fun. We hope to ride in New Zealand and Australia too. I’ve heard great things.
Really, I’d love to ride anywhere with mountains.
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Likewise, are there any races you’re just dying to compete in?
I was supposed to ride the Race Around Rwanda, known as the “Land of 1000 hills”, last January but had to cancel our trip because of COVID. I hope we can make it happen in the next couple of years.
Badlands in Spain looks like fun. I’d love to ride the Oregon Timber Trail. Any race with a beautiful route and lots of climbing is good for me – it’s a great way to see the world.
I read online that you’ve even been cycling in Scotland. How was that? How does the terrain and climate compare with other places you’ve cycled in?
It was fantastic! We got really lucky with the weather – it was actually sunny! We were there for the Dukes Weekender in Aberfoyle and got to spend time with Lee Craigie, Jenny Graham and Rachael Walker. I’d love to go back for more riding. I’ve heard really great things about the Highland Trail 550 and the Badger Divide.
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Do you have a favourite place in the UK to cycle?
I haven’t gotten to spend too much time riding in the UK. We went a few years ago for a weekend in Hope Valley in the Peak District and had a total blast. We’d like to go back this August or September, weather permitting.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your cycling career so far?
Initially, it was really hard to get the support of sponsors. Even after breaking the women’s record on the Tour Divide twice in 2015 and outright winning the Trans Am in 2016, I was still working full time in restaurants and bike shops to pay for my racing and travel. Media and storytelling play a big role in the work that I do. If I share stories about my rides, I have the ability to inspire more people to get out there and ride themselves. The tricky part is that I can’t be the rider and take photos of myself (and I’m not a good photographer). I’m so lucky to have Rue. She’s the love of my life and she’s also a very talented photographer. It’s really great that we can work together.
“I’m extremely motivated to encourage more women and girls to ride.”
Since we’ve made videos together, we’ve gotten more support from different sponsors and that’s helped us transition from working other jobs to focusing on cycling and bike-related projects. This also gives me more freedom to organise GRIT (my girls’ cycling mentorship program) and host women’s scholarships. I’m extremely motivated to encourage more women and girls to ride. It’s not something I knew was an option when I was young and I’m so glad I stumbled upon it.