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Interview With Specialized Rider Lea Davison

Posted by: Matt Williams |June 22, 2012 3:08 AM

Vermont native Lea Davison is no stranger to the front of domestic mountain bike races. This year, however, the multi-time national champion has her sights set on the Olympic Games in London. And while the Olympic roster wonít be released for several more weeks, Davison is now a favorite for the team after several solid rides on the World Cup circuit this spring.

Davison took some time to check in with MTBRacenews midway through her spring campaign to talk about her Olympic dream, whatís new with her Little Bellas program, and what she thinks needs to be done to improve womenís racing.

MTBRacenews.com: Okay, itís the proverbial elephant in the room, how are you feeling about your chances for the Olympic team this year? Is it your main goal?

Lea Davison: The Olympics are definitely my main goal.  Itís been a life long dream and Iím going for it.  Having been the top American in the first world cup and the second American in the second world cup, I feel like I have a solid chance at qualifying for the team.  With that being said, thereís still two qualifying races to go and no one has automatically qualified so itís anyoneís game.  The Olympic long team is stacked with talent so itís going to be an exciting last two qualifying races.

MTBRacenews.com: Other than the Olympics, what are your goals for the 2012 season?

Lea Davison: I want to carry the momentum from the 2011 season and stand on a world cup podium.

MTBRacenews.com: Rumor has it you trained almost exclusively on nordic skis for a couple of months this winter? Why did you choose to do that? What are the benefits?

Lea Davison: I was on almost exclusively on nordic skis for December and January.  I included strength training and light trainer rides in my schedule.  Nordic skiing is such a high intensity, full body workout that I can practically get fitness benefits in one month that would take me twice as long to get on the bike.  Itís the kind of sport where I can train at threshold very easily where it would take a lot of mental effort to get that same intensity on the bike.  I also love skiing and snow so itís great mentally for me to get off the bike and keep things fresh.

MTBRacenews.com: What else were you been up to during the off-season?

Lea Davison: I started the off season with a trip to Disneyland in California with Joanna Pettersonís family.  From there, I went to Kauai until December and did a lot of hiking, surfing, and strength training.  I also traveled to Orlando, Florida in November for Specializedís official launch of their womenís 29er, Fate.  It was a blast. 

MTBRacenews.com: How did racing early in the year at the first World Cup in South Africa effect your season?

Lea Davison: I had to structure my season according to the four early season Olympic qualifying world cups.  The race season turns out to be divided into two peaks.  I also got off the skis earlier than I normally do and started training on the bike in February.

MTBRacenews.com: What will you be racing on (bike wise) this season?

Lea Davison: I will be racing primarily on the Fate, Specializedís womenís 29er.  Iím psyched to race a bike thatís very close to seventeen pounds.  It rides incredibly well. I also have Specializedís Epic 29er on hand for when the course dictates a full suspension.

MTBRacenews.com: What do you have planned for the Little Bellaís program this season?

Lea Davison: A lot!  We are expanding our national reach to three stops on our Little Bellas national tour.  We just finished with our three day camp at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA.  Our next national stop is the Beti Bike Bash in Golden, Co on June 9 and 10 and then itís on  to Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in Cable, WI on September 14-16.  We are broadening our reach at each of these destinations with visits to local schools.  I did four visits to schools in Monterey, CA to talk about cycling, healthy lifestyle, and the Little Bellas.  It was a blast. We are deepened our Vermont roots by expanding to three weekend long camps at Catamount Outdoor Family Center this summer.  We are, of course, still having our weekly Vermont Sunday sessions in June and August where our program got started.  My sister, Sabe, is the new, official Little Bellas director and doing an absolutely fantastic job spreading our wings.  We have big plans in store for 2013 as well.

MTBRacenews.com: From your perspective, what is the status of womenís racing in the US? Is there more that USA Cycling and other organizations can or should be doing promote womenís races?

Lea Davison: For womenís cycling across the board, the difference between womenís and menís racing is prize money.  The women rarely get prize money equal to the men and the difference is staggering.  We race just as hard and the races are just as exciting yet we end up with a lot less prize money at the end of the day.  There are some races that do a great job offering equal prize money.  Mellow Johnyís was the first stop on the ProXCT Tour and they do a great job with equal prize money and race promotion in general. 

For road racing, womenís racing is behind the menís in terms of opportunity.  Thereís no womenís Tour of California.  Jessica Phillips, a female road racer, was sick of there not being any womenís racing at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge so she organized a race that coincided with three days of the menís race.  Luckily, we have sponsors, like Exergy, stepping up huge and doing their best to fill in the gap.  Exergy is not only the title sponsor of a womenís road cycling and development team, they are also putting on a massive UCI womenís only stage race in Idaho with prize money thatís equal to the menís.  Itís great when a company sees the potential in womenís racing.  Itís exciting and leaves a lasting impact not only on its participants but on surrounding communities.  Big races have a trickle down effect thatís hard to capture, but it inspires young girls, young boys, women, and even men to ride, race and participate in healthy lifestyles.  It also opens girls eyes to the fact that they too could be a professional cyclist one day.  Iím a big proponent of the visibility of womenís athletics because I was once that young girl.  I watched the pro women race a short track at Mount Snow, VT and realized Ďwait, I could ride my bike for a livingí. 

Like the UCI did with cyclocross this year, if race promoters are putting on a UCI road race for men, they should be mandated to put on a race for women.  This would provide the road racing opportunities that the women deserve.  Right now, if you are putting on a UCI race, the minimum mandated prize money list gives less to the women than the men.  The UCI needs to equal up this minimum prize money requirements, and, if that doesnít happen, the race promoter should do their diligence to provide equal prize money.

MTBRacenews.com: What is one race you never had the chance to do that youíd really like to participate in?

Lea Davison: I would absolutely love to do Downieville and the handful of other Super D events.

MTBRacenews.com: Do you have a favorite mid-ride lunch or snack you can recommend?

Lea Davison: I train with Clif Blocks a lot especially if itís a training ride with intensity.  For my longer rides this winter, my favorite snack was a huge bear claw from the local bakery.  It barely fit in my jersey and my mouth is literally watering right now as I talk about it.

MTBRacenews.com: Whatís your favorite non-cycling athletic event and why?

Lea Davison: I love watching anything and everything to do with the Olympics.  When the Olympics are on, Iím glued to the TV for three weeks.  Other than that, I absolutely love ski racing.  Since I grew up ski racing and still ski, I have a natural affinity for it.  I love following the nordic and downhill world cup circuits.  

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