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Interview with Stan's NoTubes racer Amanda Carey

Posted by: Matt Williams |March 8, 2013 3:35 AM
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Over the last several seasons Amanda Carey has proven herself to be one of America's top endurance racers. In 2012 she took big wins at the Breck Epic Stage Race, Park City Point 2 Point, Breck 100, and Pierre's Hole 100, was 2nd in the NUE Series, and then followed up her mountain bike season with a full cyclocross campaign.

For 2013 though, Carey plans to mix things up. She's joined a new team, the Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's squad, and is focusing primarily on stage races and shorter endurance races.

Carey was kind enough to talk to MTBRacenews recently about her new team, why she's taking a year off from 100 milers, and the state of women's bike racing in America. You raced quite a bit of cross this season. Can you give us a quick recap? What was the highlight of cyclocross season for you?

Amanda Carey: This past cross season was my best yet. My approach was the same it has always been: race into shape and plan it as I go according to how I feel and my motivation level. I just kept having fun, so I decided to keep it going a lot longer than I originally imagined. The caliber of cyclocross racing in the US is just getting higher and higher. The sport has tremendous energy behind it - itís really exciting to be a part of it all. Plus, I rode for a great regional team (Volkswagen Boise) and the additional support from the team was motivating and kept it fun.

I had a great season overall, but I think my highlight came during the Cincy3 weekend. It was the first weekend that I felt like my legs had finally come up with the speed I needed to compete rather than just participate. I shared a podium with Katie Compton and Katarina Nash on day 1, and was 4th and 5th the other days, but it mostly just felt great to feel fast on the cross bike rather than like I was just hanging on for dear life. What's the most challenging aspect of transitioning from racing 100 milers to doing 45 minute cyclocross races?

Amanda Carey: Being patient. I donít train for cross before the season starts, so that first month of racing into shape just takes a lot of patience to wait for my legs and brain to shift from 100-mile mode to cross mode. Itís easy to get frustrated, especially because I take cross seriously once I start doing it and want to be racing fast right off the bat. Racing into shape hurts a lot more, but itís certainly effective and way more fun than grinding out intervals on my own! Thinking back to last mountain bike season, how much of a disappointment was it to lose out on the overall NUE Series win to Cheryl Sornson at the Fool's Gold 100 (the final race of the series)?

Amanda Carey: I had a great season, but just had some unfortunate luck with illness at the series opener at Cohutta and at Foolís Gold, the finals. It was certainly disappointing, but thatís racing. So much of this sport is luck and timing and sometimes it just doesnít work out in your favor. But, donít forget, Cheryl had a great season, too. She rode very well and earned and deserved the win and the overall title. I just didnít have it when it counted this year.

At Foolís Gold I was coming off 2 hard-fought wins at the Breck Epic and then the Park City Point 2 Point. I had great form and was feeling great on the bike. However, the day after the P2P I came down with a nasty stomach bug and spent most of the week before Foolís Gold horizontal on the couch. I remember packing my bike to fly to Georgia, taking intermittent breaks to dry heave into a trashcan in the workshop thinking "what the hell am I doing?Ē I knew I had no business boarding a plane to race, but the format of the NUE required that I participate in the final to break a tie to compete for the overall, so I went.

Going to the Foolís Gold start line with a deep sense of dread, knowing I had nothing in my tank was the hardest part. I had a good hour in me at the start of the race, but then the lights just completely went out. I spent the next 8 hours sick to my stomach, going backwards and just riding around like a zombie. I wonít lie - it was the worst day I have ever spent on a bicycle. I was so out of it I actually donít remember most of itÖwhich I suppose is a good thing! I somehow finished the race in 2nd but it pretty much destroyed me both physically and emotionally. Looking to 2013, what can you tell us about your new team? What was the impetus behind the switch?

Amanda Carey: A series of events made my switch to the Stanís team a perfect fit. I knew early on in the summer that Kenda/Felt wasnít asking me back, so I had some thinking to do. The most important thing I realized was that I wanted a team situation that made me feel like I was part of something. The 2012 season was a great one for me results-wise, but I was just incredibly lonely. Iíd fly or drive to races alone, stay in hotels alone, do all my prep work on my own, then Iíd go race around the woods for 8-11 hr races, alone. I had good financial support to do what I needed to do, but I was doing it all solo. It was exhausting and isolating.

The turning point for me was at the Breck Epic. It was the most fun I had racing all year. Yeah, it was a kick-ass event overall with incredible terrain, but a big part of my enjoyment was that it was a very social racing atmosphere and my husband (a mechanic for Giant) was with me all week working as my mechanic and doing support. It was the first time all year I had support and it felt awesome. It made the racing a lot more fun.

I first met and hug out with the Stanís No Tubes crew when I did the TransSylvania Epic in 2011. My husband and I immediately fell into their fold and just loved their positive energy, attitudes and genuine love for mountain biking. I just remember laughing a lot! I know all the women on the team - a few are former teammates and very close friends of mine. They are all class and are all intelligent, interesting, fun and incredibly inspiring women to be around. So, when Shannon Gibson approached me this fall about joining the team it was a very easy yes to give. I knew the team would provide the supportive and social atmosphere that I am craving to get my passion for racing burning brighter than ever. Yes, I am a dork, but I still canít believe I get to be on the same team as Sue Haywood! And, I honestly feel like I have joined a family, not a team. Thatís whatís most important to me at this point in my career. What are your main goals for next season? Will you be competing in the NUE Series again this summer?

Amanda Carey: I am more excited and motivated than I have been in a very long time! My three priority races this year will be the TransSylvania Epic, Marathon Nationals and the Breck Epic. No more NUE. I just feel like I need to step away from the 100-mile format for a while. I will go to a couple Pro XCTs and XC Nats. I also have quite a few 50s on the calendar. I think the 50-mile format will be a lot more fun for me and really hit on that distance sweet spot for me to take advantage of my endurance but also keep it mentally engaging, exciting, and fun.

When I finish a 100-miler all I want to do for 3 days after is eat, sleep and slug around. I like to ride my bike a lot, so Iím looking forward to not having that "I feel like Iíve been run over by a truckĒ for the majority of my season.

2013 will also be the first time that I actually plan for a cross season, meaning I am trying to tailor a MTB schedule that will help prepare me better for cross. I hope to land myself on a cross-specific team for this fall, but for now Iím just focused on having a great MTB season. Have you had a chance to check out any of the Cannondale bikes yet? Any idea what you'll be racing on this season?

Amanda Carey: Iíve been fortunate to ride some great bikes in my career, but from what Iíve been told by fellow racers and have read, I expect to be blown away by the Cannondaleís performance. I will be racing on the F29 29er hardtail and the Scalpel 29. Paired with Stanís wheels, I know I will be on the best, lightest equipment on the market. There's seems to have been a big effort in the last few years to bring equality to men's and women's racing in terms of prize money, sponsorship etc. What do you see as the state of that effort?

Amanda Carey: In the two disciplines that I race, cyclocross and endurance, payouts are fairly equal. I only did one 100-miler this year (out of 9) that didnít pay women equally.

So, from my personal experience the prize money situation is good. The US is especially leading the charge towards equal payout for women in cyclocross. Europe is lagging far behind and I think more European women are coming to race in N. America because they recognize that fact.

In terms of sponsorship, itís less equal. There are fewer high-level opportunities for women in both cross and mountain biking - very few are making a salary and most need jobs to support their racing. American women do so much to promote mountain biking in a positive light that extends beyond race results, but we arenít yet equally compensated in sponsorship terms. Most co-ed teams out there are not balanced at all Ė look at most of the major factory teams in North America. They have far more spots for men than women on their rosters.

What bums me out in the state of womenís equality is that the media and industry continues to give female athletes ample opportunity to additionally benefit from showing off their "feminineĒ sides away from the bike, field or ski slope. I get frustrated that female athletes feel like they have to show off their bodies in calendars and photo shoots for attention and to demonstrate that they can be strong, badass athletes AND be sexy, that somehow these two qualities are mutually exclusive. I think strong IS sexy. I want female athletes to be respected and celebrated for what their bodies can do, not for what they look like. But, until women stop putting themselves out there in that light, it will continue. Women are contributing to this problem. Itís self-perpetuating. It wonít stop until we stop it. What's one race out there that's on your bucket list to do in the next few years?

Amanda Carey: Ohhh, tough one. But, I love stage racing the most out of any format, so Iíd say the king of them all, the Cape Epic. You race steadily 10 months a year, year after year. How are you able to stay fit and motivated through such long seasons year in and year out?

Amanda Carey: For me, itís all about doing what I love and what keeps me happy and fresh mentally Ė that makes it easy. For some unknown reason I do incredibly well on high volume, Iíve been that way all my life. Each year is different, however. This year, I feel like I want more home time and want to ski more, so Iím not heading to Tucson to train. Iím going to stay home, take advantage of my Jackson Hole ski pass, tele and skate ski a lot and do my favorite thing in the entire winter world, backcounty ski. For me, nothing beats a long tour with good friends to seek out perfect powder turns. It just so happens to be great base training.

I think a big part of being able to race so much is that 100-milers and cyclocross are just 2 totally different racing worlds: different bikes, different training, different people, venues, intensity and strategy. Racing cross actually feels like a break for me. And, by the time cross season is over I cannot wait to get on my mountain bike.

I am religious about foam rolling and I own Podium Legs - that helps! Having gotten to race all over the country, what's your favorite place to ride and why?

Amanda Carey: Hmmmm, another tough one. Itís a dead heat between Park City and Pisgah. I think I could ride in those two places for the rest of my life and never get bored. They both have endless trail networks and the quality of the riding in both locations pretty much defines mountain bike heaven.

All photos courtesy of Daniel Dunn Photography.

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