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Interview: Georgia Gould
By Bart Hazen
Date: 1/6/2009
Interview: Georgia Gould

Interview: Georgia Gould

Interview with Mountain Bike star, NACT Champion and Vice USA Champion Cyclocross Georgia Gould!

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Georgia Gould. I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland (USA) and now live in Fort Collins, CO USA. I race MTB and cyclocross for the Luna Pro Team.

Why did you choose cycling, especially cyclocross and MTB, as your sport?
I started cycling in the summer of 1999 as a way to get healthy after I quit smoking cigarettes. I was living in Sun Valley, Idaho at the time, and there was fantastic mountain biking and not-so-great road riding, so naturally I started riding MTBs first. I am a pretty competitive person, so it was only a matter of time before I decided to try a race. I really loved it, and after a full year racing as an amateur I decided to get my Pro license. After my first season racing elite (in MTB) my husband suggested I try a cyclocross race. After hearing him describe it (mud, cold, running with your bike up a muddy hill) I thought "that sounds horrible!" But after my first race I was hooked on 'cross too. For the last 4 years I have been racing mountain bikes and cyclocross. This is the first year that I have raced cyclocross in Europe (but hopefully not the last!).

Georgia Gould lines-up for the start at the Zolder World Cup
Photo © 2009 Bart Hazen

Which of them do you prefer the most. cyclocross or MTB?
I like both. They are different, but I think they complement each other well. I feel like my MTB racing, especially at MTB world cups, has gotten better as a result of my 'cross racing experience. Likewise, having good fitness and technical skills from MTB season helps me during 'cross. One thing that I like about both types of racing is that in order to be at the top, you have to be good on all kinds of courses in all kinds of conditions. I really like the variety.

Which hobbies do you have next to cycling?
Not many right now! When I am home (which isn't too often) I like working in my garden, and I like cooking (this fall I have been attending Culinary school, which is why I have to go home, instead of staying in Europe for the next world cups).

Click on photos for a larger image:

Georgia Gould at the USA CX Nationals
Photo © 2009 Dan Elavsky

How do you look back on the past season both MTB/USA Cyclocross season? And on your first ever CX races in Europe?
I am satisfied with my MTB season, I had a few setbacks early in the season that forced me to readjust my goals, but I had some promising results in the World Cup races. At the end of the MTB season, I was tired from all the travel and racing and I was considering a much lighter cyclocross season. After racing at crossvegas, and experiencing the crowds there (maybe not as many people as at a European World Cup, but louder and more rowdy!) I got really excited for cyclocross. I ended up racing almost every weekend in the US. I won the NACT series and finished second to my teammate, Katerina Nash, in the USGP series.

I have always wanted to race 'cross in Europe, but I didn't know how the extra travel and racing would affect my MTB racing, and with the Olympics on the line I didn't want to take any chances. This year I decided to go for it and planned a two-week trip so I could race a few races and get prepared for Worlds. I am definitely learning a lot from racing Europe. So far I have experienced 2 very different types of races: muddy and slow, and frozen and fast. The frozen races have been very fast, and I have definitely suffered from not being aggressive enough at the start- it seems like the selection for the lead group happens very quickly, and if you get stuck behind, it becomes very difficult to make up time. The muddy and slow races have been easier for me because it is like a mountain bike race: you just go as hard as you can the whole time and the strongest person wins. I'm hoping that with a little more experience I will be fast on both types of courses.

What performance/achievement you are the most proud of?
My top-5 finishes at the MTB World Cup races in Houffalize and Madrid in 2008.

In action at the Zolder World Cup
Photo © 2009 Bart Hazen

You finished as eight in the Olympic MTB Race. Did it go to your expectations?
Not really. I was hoping for a medal, and I knew it was possible. For a race like that, everything has to come together to give you the perfect race. I didn't have the perfect race!

What's the main difference between competing in the USA or overseas in Europe?
For MTB or cyclocross? I will answer for both- with respect to women's racing.

For MTB racing, there are several differences.
-Deeper talent. There is more competition at the World Cup races- we have strong riders in the US, but the depth of the fields is greater in Europe. This means that you end up riding with other riders more often in a World Cup, whereas in a US race, things get spread out, and people are often racing alone.
-Courses. I think the courses in the US have much more diversity- you get muddy, wet, sandy, dry, hard-packed, loose, dusty, etc. The courses also tend to be longer and so often feature longer climbs and descents. The European courses tend to be shorter and have shorter, steeper climbs and descents. Those are generalizations of course, and I think there is value to both types of racing.
-Crowds. Definitely more spectators at European MTB races.

Click on photos for a larger image:

During the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross #1 (L) - At the cross in Vegas
Photo © 2009 Ben Ross & Photo © 2009 ActionImages

In cyclocross, I don't have as much experience with the European racing, but here's what I have found to be different.
-More extreme course features. Because the races in Europe are sometimes elite-only, you see features in the courses that you wouldn't see in a US race where amateurs and younger juniors have to race. Some of the downhills in the Zolder course, for example, would never be in a US course- they would be seen as too difficult or dangerous.
-Barriers. Every cyclocross race in the US has a set of barriers somewhere on the course, but in the 4 European races I did there wasn't one race that had barriers. Not really a huge difference, but an interesting one.
-More tactical. When the races are frozen and fast, groups tend to stay together, and being a saavy racer is very important.
-Deeper talent. I don't think that the racers at the World Cup level are head-and-shoulders above the US racers, but the talent is definitely deeper. Because the World Cup is the highest level of racing, you have more fast people at those races.
-Crowds. There is no US race where the crowds even come CLOSE to the crowds that show up to watch 'cross in Belgium. However, the crowds in the US seem to be more enthusiastic, and the races in the US have a more party-like atmosphere. In the US, people aren't afraid to scream their lungs out for their favorite riders, whereas in Europe, people seem to cheer only for the leader or lead group.

Also, racing in Europe (cyclocross or MTB) also presents a whole set of travel and logistical challenges for U.S. riders. Long plane travel, finding housing, dealing with jet lag and trying to speak different languages are just some of the extra challenges of racing outside the U.S.

You are preparing for the World Cyclocross Championships in Hoogerheide (The Netherlands) in about one month. What are your own expectations regarding the worlds?
I want to win the race, of course that is always my goal! There are many strong women out there, but I think it is possible for me to win. My expectations are always that I do the best that I can in the situation. You never know what is going to happen- a crash, a mechanical- so my goal is always to do the best that I can and try my hardest.

With amongst others Compton, Lloyd, Butler, Van Gilder and you the USA has a strong team for the CX races in Europe. Do you have an explanation why more and more Americans come to Europe to compete in races? Because in the past we saw sporadic Americans in Europe. The same counts for the men's categories.
Cyclocross is becoming very popular in the US. Right now it is more popular than MTB racing. There is so much enthusiasm amongst racers and fans alike. I would say that the spectators are a little more involved in the US, which makes racing really fun- it's always more fun to race when there are a lot of people out cheering! Naturally, as more people start racing cyclocross, more people are going to want to compete at the highest level, which is the World Cup. Now we just need to get the World Cup to have a couple of stops somewhere other than Europe- to truly make it a "world cup." It would be great to see more European racers come to the US for some races.

Georgia Gould at the USA CX Nationals
Photo © 2009 Dan Elavsky

What race has been a favorite of yours?
I really enjoyed the Nommay race, not just because of my result, but because I enjoy races that have more challenges and on-and-off the bike sections. The mud made it more interesting- some of the climbs were rideable, but only if you got in the right line. The other races I have done (Zolder and Azencross) have been frozen and very fast. I really liked the Azencross course too. I was frustrated with my start, as I would have liked the opportunity to race at the front with the other women.

You are racing for the Luna Chix team. Can you tell us more about the team?
Our team started out (in 2001) as an all-women's MTB team. Over the years the program has grown and now we have a pro women's triathlon team and a pro women's x-terra team. Our team have several functions: mainly, we aim to serve as positive role models for women and girls in sports and to represent our sponsors well. Our team is also affiliated with the Breast Cancer Fund which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding and fighting the environmental causes of breast cancer. In addition to numerous national titles, we have been the top-ranked women's team in the UCI standings for 2 years in a row, and last year we won the Team overall in the World Cup Series.

Who has inspired you, or currently inspires you to race. (Or in the present)?
I enjoy the challenges of racing: mental and physical. I like competing against others and pushing myself to tackle new challenges and accomplish new goals.

Click on photos for a larger image:

At the World Cup in Zolder
Photo © 2009 Bart Hazen

How does your ideal preparation looks like for a new season?
I will continue to do everything that I have done up until now, I think it has worked well so far. I race 'cross, train throughout the winter and start racing MTBs in March/April. This will be the first season that I have raced cyclocross for this long, so I am interested to see how it affects my 2009 MTB season.

What are your goals for the remaining of the 2008/2009 season? and if you don't mind…. long term career goals as a person and cyclist?
I would like to have a good result at the Cyclocross World Championships- a top-3 would be great for me. For the 2009 season, I would like to have more trips to the podium at MTB World Cups and Cyclocross World Cups. I am hoping to spend a little more time racing 'cross in Europe next year, but a lot depends on the race calendars and our team schedule. I don't really have any specific goals, but I want to continue to improve, have good results and have fun riding my bike.

As far as long-term plans go- I don't really have any! I know from experience how quickly things can change, so I just try to be as flexible as I can and that has seemed to work well. I feel very lucky to be able to race bikes as my job, and I hope it stays fun.

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