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Rider Interview: Specialized racer Lea Davison

Posted by: Matt Williams |August 11, 2011 2:33 AM

After a hip injury sidelined her for the entirety of the 2010 season, Specialized racer Lea Davison has been on a tear in 2011. She kicked off the season with a 2nd place in the cross country at the US PROXCT in Bonelli Park, and has kept up the pace all season, wrapping up the PROXCT Overall with a win in Missoula last weekend.

Lea recently took a few minutes to talk to us about her injury, the race season, the Little Bellas organization she helped found, and how to stay fit for mountain bike racing in the middle of a Vermont winter.  2011 is a comeback year for you, but you had a terrific start this spring, starting with a 2nd place in the cross country at the US Pro XCT #1 in Bonelli (followed by a win in the Short Track the next day). How did you manage to find that kind of race fitness without having raced in a year? Did you plan to be fast for those early races?

Lea Davison: I went into those races kind of blindly because I really had no idea how it was going to go.  Having not raced for a whole season, I did my best to prepare for this season but there was always an unknown in the back of my mind.  I didnít plan to be my fastest for those early season races, but I did want to go in prepared.  I think being totally fresh and rested from a season off combined with a completely renewed motivation played a big part in those good early season results.  Stepping back a little bit, can you tell us about the hip injury that kept you off the bike for the 2010 season?

Lea Davison: I sustained a torn labrum in my left hip in early January of 2010.  The labrum in a semi-circle piece of cartilage that lines the hip joint and can tear when the hip is in flexion.  The pain resonated to my groin so it went misdiagnosed as a muscle tear for about a month and a half.  I was in pain and couldnít do anything.  Even twisting to get out of the car caused pain.  It was frustrating and I was relieved to have a MRI and finally get a diagnosis.  I made the difficult decision to have surgery in April and forgo the season because I didnít want to race injured.  I also wanted to be healed and start the build up process for this season as soon as possible.  Iím really happy with how everything worked out. I worked with a phenomenal support team including Bill Knowles, my trainer, at iSport.  He, along with a handful of other doctors and PTs from Vermont Orthopedic Clinic, were absolutely essential to coming back stronger from this injury.  This wasnít the first time youíve had to spend significant time off the bike due to injury? Has your approach to dealing with cycling-related injuries changed over the years? 

Lea Davison: My rookie year on the Trek/VW team I dislocated my elbow and then got a bad case of mono that lasted for months.  That was a significant time off the bike, but the 2010 season was the first time in my ten-year career that I missed a race season. I think the hip showed me that rest can be really good, mentally and physically.  It also has created some new perspective.  If I have a muscle tear or catch a cold during the season, I donít panic as much as before.  I just have to think I spent a year off the bike and Iím racing this well so whatís another couple of days recovering from a cold.  You switched things up and will be riding for Specialized this season. What prompted the change of teams?

Lea Davison: An opportunity arose to ride for Specialized for the 2011 season and I had to jump on it.  They make fast bikes and amazing gear, and Specialized has the industryís leading line of womenís bikes.  It really is the perfect fit since getting more women to ride bikes through the Little Bellas is one of my passions.  Specialized has been very supportive and Iím thrilled to be riding for such a great company.  What are your goals for the second half of the season this year?

Lea Davison: My goals are to win a ProXCT cross country race and stand on a world cup podium.  This past weekend I completed that first goal at the last PROXCT in Missoula, Montana, so Iím aiming for those last world cups and world championships.  USA Cycling recently released the qualification guidelines for the 2012 Olympics in London. Is making the Olympic team something youíre aiming for? 

Lea Davison: Yes, Iím definitely aiming for the Olympics.  This goal played a big part in deciding how and when to have hip surgery.  Speaking of the Olympics, there have been a lot of comments made about the course not being a true mountain bike course. It seems like, more generally, World Cup cross-country courses have become shorter and less technical. Have you noticed the changes affecting the way the racing plays out?

Lea Davison: The new world cup courses have more punchy climbing and shorter laps.  Most of the world cups, especially my favorite course, Mount Saint Anne, are really technically challenging courses.  If there is a start and a finish line, the best legs will still win. Fitness is the trump card so, in that respect, I donít think itís changed the outcomes of races.  Youíve had a lot of success in Short Track racing in recent years. Are the shorter efforts associated with Short Track something you train for specifically? 

Lea Davison: I actually donít train specifically for short track so itís just worked out that Iíve had short track success.  I have spent some time road racing so learning some racing tactics has definitely helped in some of the short track victories.  In 2007 you founded the Little Bellas bike organization. Can you tell us a little bit about what the organization does and what youíve been doing lately?

Lea Davison: The Little Bellas is an all girls, mentoring on mountain bikes program based in Vermont.  My sister, Sabra, Angela Irvine, and I founded the organization four years ago to get more girls riding bikes.  Forty girls and twenty mentors meet every Sunday in the summer and we break into smaller groups based on age and ability. We aim to create a community that will empower girls through the sport, emphasize the importance of goal-setting, promote a healthy life style and recognize the positive effects of strong female bonds.  We went national last year and currently hold two Little Bellas camps at the Sea Otter Classic in April and at Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in September. (  You grew up in Vermont, where cross training for cycling is a necessity. Do you have any off-season training tips for riders in cold climates?

Lea Davison: Cross country skiing.  There is nothing better to get in shape.  I try to spend as little time on the trainer as possible because it saps motivation. All of my training in January and February is done on skis.  Itís good to focus on different movement patterns and work on overall strength as well. Never be afraid to cross train. Itís refreshing for the mind and body.  Youíve gotten to ride in a lot of cool places all over the world. What is your favorite place to ride and why?

Lea Davison: I love traveling around Europe and getting to see different places, and itís really hard to narrow it down to one favorite spot. I absolutely love riding in the Dolomites because I love the climbs in those rugged mountains.  The gelato and food is amazing so that definitely tips the scales in favor of Italy.  When youíre on the road traveling to races, what is one thing that you couldnít do without?

Lea Davison: Fruit.  I buy fruit wherever I am traveling. 

Richard La China 07/27/2011 8:44 AM
Well done Lea, hope to see you in London! Great interview..
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