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Interview - Mara Abbott
By Bart Hazen
Date: 10/18/2008
Interview - Mara Abbott

Interview: Mara Abbott (Team Columbia Women)

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
Photo © 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!

Photo © 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 in Europe?
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 races?
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 next time!

How does your ideal preparation look like for the new season?
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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