Interview: Mara Abbott (Team Columbia
Interview with American Mara Abbott of
the Columbia Women's team. Abbott is one of the best climbers in the
women's peloton. In September she won the queens stage of the Giro della Toscana
on top of the Volterra.
Can you introduce yourself?
Mara Katherine Abbott: lover of Colorado, the mountains, my family, yoga and
spirituality, sunshine, flowers, fresh fruit, farmers markets, happiness and
my new kitten! And Colorado again.
Why did you choose cycling as your sport?
I started riding in college as my life as a swimmer was winding down. My high
school swim coach, Grant Holicky, sort of had a creed of attaining greatness
in whatever you pursue. I look on cycling as one way to strive for greatness.
It allows me to be outside, challenge myself, encounter new experiences and
stretch my limits. There is a culture around cycling that a lot of sports don't
have, and that is something that makes it very special.
You started as a swimmer. Do you still swim when not
riding on the bike?
I didn't stop swimming until last January or February… so I haven't had
much time to establish new habits yet! I didn't swim during the season this
year, but I have gone a couple of times since being on the off-season, which
has been fun, nostalgic and also humiliating.
In action during the 2008 Redlands Classic
© 2008 Action Images
What kind of rider is Mara Abbott?
I think the ultimate goal in cycling is to gain versatility and longevity. There
have been many riders who have been amazing, and the next great thing, but who
have just faded away. Then there are also the riders who have been around for
years and years and have been consistent throughout their careers. To look at
old results and see that people who were dominating when I was in middle school
still be the top riders today is so inspiring and excites me for my future.
What kind of rider would you like to be?
I also want to be able to become the kind of rider who can excel in any situation.
We all have natural gifts, and the really exciting victories or personal successes
are when you overstep what you thought you could do. I want to expand myself
and my capabilities to be confident and effective in every situation!
How do you look back on the 2008 season; your first
year at international level with Team Columbia?
The 2008 season probably provided me with as much experience and learning as
the whole of my college career! I felt so lucky to be able to race with a team
as professional and experienced as Columbia because it allowed me to establish
good habits from the beginning. They have taught me so much about all aspects
of succeeding as an elite cyclist-by the off season my brain needed more of
a recovery than my legs!
© 2008 Action Images
What performance/achievement you are
the most proud of?
The one in recent memory is the victory on Volterra in Toscana this year…
it was not only exciting to be able to take a big victory like that, but it
was one of those stages in where everyone on the team was such a part of the
victory-it sounds really cliché written, but it made me feel like I had
learned and integrated and that I was able to race with my team and my head
rather than just my legs.
How do you see the Columbia team? and what do you think
of the team for next year with the new arrivals?
This team contains some of the smartest, most professional, most talented and
most ambitious people and cyclists I have ever seen. I am so lucky to be there.
And we will have a lot of continuity for next year, which makes me even more
excited. I don't know the new riders very well but have heard so many positive
things about them that I am looking forward to meeting them!
What do you enjoy more. Racing in the USA or racing
Racing in the states is fun because of the familiarity and ease, but racing
in Europe draws from such a much larger talent pool that there is an extra challenge.
As much as I love some of the races in the US, racing in Europe is such a challenge
and is ultimately where I want to be able to succeed.
On the podium in Redlands together with Katherine Caroll
Photo © 2008 Action Images
What do you prefer the most? Stage races or the classic
I generally prefer stage races, but this is also what I have done primarily,
so that may be a bias of inexperience!
Who has inspired you, or currently inspires you to
race (or in the present)?
My teammates. My coaches, swimming, cycling, past and present. People who smile.
You are one of the best riders in the United States.
Was it a surprise that you didn't get a selection for the Olympic Games in Beijing
and the Worlds in Varese? It must have been a pity that you were not riding
in Varese despite your great form in the Giro della Toscana.
The selection criteria that USAC puts out are very specific, so while it was
a disappointment to not go, it wasn't a big surprise because I pretty much knew
ahead of time. Luckily I am young, and hopefully I will only get better for
How does your ideal preparation look like for the
Hanging out in Colorado!!
Are you going to start the 2009 season like last year
with the USA Races? Or are you going to ride more in Europe?
We don't have the schedule set yet… I think I will start in the US, but
who knows! I want to be open to all opportunities.
What are your goals for the 2009 season? and if you
don't mind…. long term career goals as a person and cyclist?
Stay happy, be my best, LEARN, develop as a professional, keep going toward
finding balance in life, finishing my college degree this December, improving
in my yoga abilities and going for that greatness!
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