The U.S. Cycling Association named pro mountain biker Krista Park (Cannondale-NoTubes), who trains in Tucson each winter, to the U.S. team for the World Championships.
Park will join Americans Georgia Gould (Luna), Katie Compton (RaboBank-Giant), Lea Davison (Specialized), Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek), Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven-NoTubes), and Judy Freeman (Kenda-Felt MTB) in Champéry, Switzerland, on Sept. 3.
“Making the World Championship USA Team was a major goal for me this season,” said Park, speaking from Italy where she just finished the final World Cup race in Val di Sole.
Other achievements so far this year include finishing in the top five at several USA Pro XCT series, a final ranking of 5th in the ProXCT series, and completing the entire World Cup series.
Early in the season, she competed against the best in Europe in the Sunshine Cup in Cyprus. She returned to the U.S. where she finished 3rd in the first ProXCT race in California. She continued globe-trotting for the rest of the season. World Cup races spanned three continents this year — Europe, Africa, and North America — making for a challenging race schedule.
“I don’t really have much time for good training blocks unless I have a weekend off of racing and traveling,” she said. “A typical week has been race, rest, travel, pre-ride with a few opener efforts then race again.”
That’s why Tucson winter base training is critical to her success — putting in long miles while she can, then incorporating more intervals as the season progresses.
Although she hasn’t had as much success in World Cups as she did at National races, she values this year’s experience.
“There is only so much one can do to race when adding jet-lag and acting as travel agent, packer, driver, cook, etc,” Park said. “2011 was an exploratory year to learn what international racing required and to better my UCI standing. Kind of like my first year racing in the National pro class, back in 2005.”
“I was extremely successful at gaining knowledge and now would like to set up 2012 for the best chance at success at the next level.”
This year Park is considered a “privateer” meaning that she puts together her own sponsorship, rather than racing for a major team. Her sponsors include: Cannondale, No Tubes, SRAM, Primal clothing, FRS energy supplements, Osprey backpacks and SRM power meter.
She’s already in talks with teams and sponsors for next year. “I am hoping to stay with Cannondale and that they are in a position to provide a little more support. I do think a racer has to prove themselves first and I don’t think I deserve anything.”
She’s not closing herself off to other options, including European teams, which have larger budgets for pro cycling teams.
“I have talked with one European team, there are so many variables right now that I have no idea what 2012 will look like,” she said.
Right now, her main support on race day comes from husband Todd Park.
Krista is careful to point out, “I’m my own mechanic, I build my own bikes.”
Todd joined her at a few National and World Cup events. “He’ll have tools and wheels in the tech zone and does the bottle hand-offs for the races he attends.”
Like his wife, he is an electrical engineer and instead of running a one-woman bike team, he runs a one-man company called Antenna Measurement Systems. He’s a consultant/contractor to various companies around the USA.
He also works in Europe: “Leading up to the Czech World Cup race, he worked two jobs at Raytheon in Munich, Germany.”
While some American racers complain that European mountain bike courses have laps that are too short, Park disagrees.
“I love the UCI courses, it isn’t a marathon race, it is an all-out fast paced race, on most courses the racers hit feature after feature,” she said. “It would be boring to put in more non-interesting parts to the course just to make it longer and it would be hard to learn a longer course with more features.”
She said the short courses allow greater options for spectators, and there are lots of them in Europe. Fans actually pay for a pass to get on the course.
“There’s an entire walking course built for them complete with paths, signs, large video screens of live race coverage, food vendors and beer gardens,” Park said.
And fans cheer for everyone.
“I hear my name all over the course from people I’ve never met. I hear ‘Lefty!’ (name on her fork) ‘Cannondale!’ and ‘USA!’ too. UCI courses done right are amazing.”
Her last World Cup race at Val di Sole didn’t go so well due to a bad start: “There was a wreck right off the starting line, I was chill enough to stop before running over the downed rider in front of me, but by the time I got going had dropped to the back.”
She said the wreck instantly put her two minutes back. She continues, “There really is no perfect way to race with 50+women in front of you unless you have great legs and can hammer once it opens up. The problem is these are the best riders in the world and they hammer as well. The only thing to do is train hard and show up to the race rested and ready on all levels.”
She’ll return to Tucson this winter for base training with partners like Scott Morris who takes her on epic rides like Round the Lemmon. Next year’s goal is obvious for Park and all elite athletes. “Making the Olympic team is everyone’s goal but the USA will only take the top two women. We currently have five women ahead of me in UCI points, so I would be a long shot.”
As a privateer with limited sponsorship funds, Krista Park was a long shot for this year’s Worlds team. But next weekend, she’ll be in the Swiss Alps, racing against the best in the world to bring the champion’s rainbow jersey back home to the USA.
Editor’s note: This post was written by Tucson Velo contributor, Mary Reynolds. Reynolds is a mountain and road cyclist who also writes about endurance sports for Examiner.com. You can follow her personal outdoor adventures on her blog.
One thought on “Tucson trained mountain biker named to Worlds team”
Great article Mary. It’s inspiring to know that our own Tucson women are represented in the World Cup!