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Interview With Kenda/Seven Cycles/No Tubes Racers Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug

Posted by: Matt Williams |February 21, 2013 3:14 AM
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Kenda/Seven Cycles/No Tubes racers Mike Broderick and Mary McConneloug bring a unique approach to high level mountain bike racing. A husband and wife team, they live out an RV and race a mixture of stage races and World Cups in North America, Chile, Argentina, Europe, and elsewhere.

Mary and Mike were kind enough to take a few minutes to catch up with MTBRacenews.com recently to talk about their unique lifestyle, team stage racing, and why they're not at cyclocross nationals this weekend.

MTBRacenews.com: Let's start with cyclocross. You've both done a hand full of 'cross raced in New England this fall. Are you planning on doing any more? Is nationals a goal?

Mike and Mary: Mike and I transitioned into the cyclocross racing directly after (another) full international XC race season (2012)…  We raced the XC World Championships in Austria and 10 days (and a few flights) later we were in Las Vegas racing CX under the lights…

We know racing cross is a huge commitment both physically and equipment wise.  It takes a lot of energy and planning so we chose to focus on 9 races and ended up doing 11.   After sitting last year out so I could fully recover from lymes disease, Mike and I really enjoyed reconnecting with the New England cyclocross scene this Fall.  The NEPCX series ended up being a great way to get back to our roots of racing locally and a solid way to bring more exposure to our sponsors' awesome products.  

So… the finals in Warwick were our last cross races of the season…  We took a short 3 week rest over the holidays and here we are -  beginning the base miles for the XC season and preparing for our first event of the year - the Trans Andes Challenge (Jan 21-26)… SO, unfortunately we will not be joining the fun at Nationals or try for the Worlds Team…at least not this year!  

MTBRacenews.com: What will your off-season look like?

Mike and Mary: We always have a very full year, ebbing and flowing with race calendars, training and managing our team…  When we are not out training, we are "in the office" planning our season and managing all the little details that go into running our 2 person team program.   Not sure there is truly an "off season" for us since there are always a million things to do!  But we sort of consider this past Fall our "off season", where we could stay at home and race locally in New England.  During this time we were surely training for the cross races, but also adding elements of strength work and other activities into our daily training.  It was especially nice  Not getting on an airplane for a few months and being where we could catch up with (some of our) family, friends & sponsors and ride our favorite trails - which feels like a rest or a break for us.     

MTBRacenews.com: With the Olympics out of the picture for 2013 will your season look different that last year? Are there any events you're particularly excited to include?

Mike and Mary: We are looking forward to continue on a similar path as years past.  We are definitely excited for our season opener here in Chile:  the Trans Andes Challenge - which is a 6 day off road stage race in the Patagonian region of southern Chile.  It is an event where Mike and I race together, as a MIxed Duo Team.  (http://www.transandeschallenge.com)  

Chile and Northern California (my native born state) have been our winter training grounds for the past 5 years and we will be enjoying them both again this year before we get into the European racing... SO our migrational patterns will be much of the same for 2013.  

We are planning to race World Cups and other XC races across the globe for 2013.   We also are interested to include more off road stage races into our calendar - to ride and race together as a team is incredible!  

MTBRacenews.com: You have a pretty unique lifestyle. What's you're favorite part of living, and racing, out of an RV all around the world?

Mike and Mary: My favorite part of our mobile lifestyle is the cool places and people we get to meet via the bike.  Flowing with the moment and having everything you need right there in your vehicle is more efficient and comfortable - especially if it is a camping car.  To be able to cook your own food and sleep in the same bed every night makes all the difference in being grounded so we can perform.    

MTBRacenews.com: What's the biggest challenge when it comes to training, traveling, and racing with your husband/wife?

Mike and Mary: Hmm, where to start?  I think we are getting used to managing the finer points of traveling, training and racing all over the globe… but it is never really easy.  You just get more relaxed about certain things.  

The hardest part I think is that Everything is so tightly wired.  We are self coached, manage all aspects of our 2 person team and have other duties to cover on top of these athlete and managerial roles… Mike is our team mechanic and does a phenomenal job of keeping all our bikes dialed - cleaned, tuned & fresh.  He is also our R&D specialist and works with many of our sponsors on prototype projects.  Good thing he was an English major in college, because he gets to think & write a lot - blogs and all.   SO when he is not training, there is more than enough to do!  Me, well, I'm the cook, laundry lady and logistical planner… so any time I'm not training is spent in the kitchen and office. 

It is not easy to run our team program, but we prefer to be in control, making all the decisions as to where we want to race, what our goals will be and how we will piece it all together.  It is incredible to live this way but it is also a tremendous amount of work and pressure… however, we consider ourselves lucky to manifest this dream so far - HUGE thanks to our supportive family and friends and all the awesome companies we are honored to represent - we could not do it with out them!

I suppose one of the more difficult issues is making sure we separate the stress of our business from our personal relationship…. It can be hard to find time to just be a couple when every aspect of your life is so connected.  We spend a lot of time together, and we train until exhaustion and this can lead to crankiness.  So being aware of this separation is pretty important.  We feel lucky to be able to work so well together & share this dream… So despite all the challenges, we step back and always appreciate the bigger picture.

MTBRacenews.com: When did you begin your current lifestyle of RV living and World Cup racing? Have either of you ever raced for a traditional "trade team?” Would you want to?

Mike and Mary: Racing as we do now has taken  years  to evolve into…  We have carefully built our team program up from our grassroots over the past 13 years.  

Mike and I met at a bike race in Northern CA in 1999.  We shared a similar passion for the great outdoors, mountain biking, travel and competition - which bloomed once we joined forces.  At first, we did not have sponsorship and were pretty much fueled by passion for our sport - although we were both lucky to have university educations, vehicles to drive and families who did not mind us living with them occasionally…  We worked odd jobs that (sort of) fit into our training schedules, earning just barely enough to buy food, pay off student loans and put fuel in the tank to get to the races. 

Mike and I continue to focus our lives around being fit and getting to the races - it can take ALL our time and it is how we've wanted to LIVE/spend our time.  We truly love riding and racing our bikes and the lifestyle that comes along with it - travel to new incredible places with a dedicated mission and a community of super cool, down to earth, motivated people to go with it.  Also the feeling of pushing our physical boundaries in the race and completing something we set out to do is perhaps this is the truly addictive part. 

We have always been motivated to work with the resources we have to get to the races and have managed the cost of travel by camping out, which is always a good affordable option.  Back in the day, we camped out either in a tent or in our cars, we made food on a camp stove and took solar showers.  We raced the domestic NORBA circuit together for many years and scrapped hard to pull it off… still with our frugal ways, going into debt… a little.  I was starting to get noticed as I made podiums at the national level… and Mike was posting awesome results as Pro racer and as our team mechanic.   It was at this time and that we started to connect with some sponsorship.   In 2001, Seven Cycles offered us beautiful custom bikes and some money to race… it was incredible to be given some resources which inspired us to work even harder.  Our results continued to improve and more companies became interested in signing on.  The next few years we made contact with a few more product sponsors who have come to be the core supporters of our program today - Kenda Tires, Stan's  NoTubes.com  and SRAM being at the top of our list.  One by one, we have nurtured these relationships and our support network has grown beautifully.  We are honored to be representing over 20 great companies in our racing!

A long time ago we we spoke briefly with one of the big domestic trade teams - but they wanted to limit my racing to the domestic circuit and hire Mike as the truck driver… :-( We quickly ended that conversation and set out to work with our own resources.  The next year (2004) we pulled all the stops with our grass roots program, rented an RV in Europe for the first time and, long story short, ended up going to the Olympic Games!!!

If we had accepted an offer compromising our ideals, we would have never began this path.  Keeping things in our own hands has turned out to be a good thing.  Also taking risks and stepping into the big unknown can be the best thing anyone can ever do for themselves.  Dreaming BIG is perhaps one of my specialties (as well as logistical planning) - and thank goodness Mike is so practical and realistic - because  together  we are making it happen!

We truly are grateful and feel lucky to manifest a team program which has supported us and allowed us this unconventional lifestyle we have come to know and love. With our minds set on reaching our potential, figuring a realistic plan, believing we can do it and working together are all key components.  We could never have made it this far without each other or the support of so many people who care - family, friends and some of the finest companies in the industry.

I think at this point a traditional trade team would not suit our styles… unless we dreamt up our own version and started it.

MTBRacenews.com: Can you talk a little bit about team stage racing? What strategies separate that discipline from simply going out and doing a long, hard ride together?

Mike and Mary: When we do a long hard ride together, we often separate and regroup. Mike is much stronger than I am and in order to maximize his training for his personal race goals, he needs to climb the hills and ride at his own pace… so he goes ahead and turns back to regroup, reclimbing the hill again or practicing whippy tricks on his bike while waiting for me.

In stage racing, we need to be very in tune with each other because every little move can make a difference. Drafting especially is important… and if Mike goes too far ahead, those moments I am trying to catch up will be slower than if we were working together (me in his draft) . SO he rides at whatever pace I can maintain and supports me to ride faster by being there at all times. Assisting with a push is not considered illegal at the stage races we've done, so he will put a hand on my back and expend twice the watts to help my pace along (something we don't do on long hard training rides). He is also the pack mule so I can carry less. If the pace is too fast, I risk blowing up, so I have to be very careful to ride within my limits, and communicate to Mike how I am doing… It is pretty humbling for me b/c I know Mike must put aside his natural pace and tune into mine… It takes a pretty special and unselfish relationships to come out smiling after an epic team stage race. Staying positive and giving your absolute ALL becomes the goal. Working as a team like this is a very bonding experience for sure!

MTBRacenews.com: Do you typically train together, or do you do separate rides?

Mike and Mary: We spend so much time together, we try to train separately. But when we are in foreign lands or unfamiliar areas, we train together. It is a challenge we have becomes more relaxed about. NOT knowing where to ride when you have a specific workout in the plan is sort of difficult… so I do a lot of map studying and we tend to revisit certain places just because we know where to ride and what to expect. It is always a relief to return home or to familiar training grounds so we can do our own thing.

 

MTBRacenews.com: I've heard you do a lot of cross training. What do you see as the benefits of that?

Mike and Mary: Being strong and balanced is something both Mike and I strive for. We don't just ride the bikes. We enjoy mixing up the riding routine at certain times of the year. Other activities we enjoy to stay strong and balance out our cycling specific bodies are paddle boarding, hiking and running. We would also xc or back country ski if we had the opportunity. Mike's other passion is surfing - so he tries to squeeze that in where and when ever he can  We also spend as much time on the yoga mats as possible and have created strength workouts that do no need to happen at a gym, but can be carried out anywhere we are. 

MTBRacenews.com: What one thing you couldn't live without while traveling from race to race in the RV?

Mike and Mary: EACH OTHER!!! (oh and our 300 count cotton sheets, pillows and yoga mats).

:-)

Off to train!

Please visit our personal blog for more stories and to find out who our sponsors are.  http://www.maryandmikeride.blogspot.com



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