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Interview: The Talented Miss Carla Swart
By Bart Hazen
Date: 3/22/2009
Interview: The Talented Miss Carla Swart

Interview: The Talented Miss Carla Swart
Interview with
Lees McRae College's multi talented USA Collegiate Champion in Track, Mtn. Bike, Cyclocross and Track... and  "Alien of Extraordinary Ability"

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Carla Swart. I have no middle name :. I moved from South Africa to Georgia in 2003. I am a junior at Lees McRae College where I run cross country and ride for the cycling team. I love the ocean and the mountains. I also love going to school. Sunny days are my favorite!

Why did you choose cycling as your sport?
I have been riding bikes since I was a little kid and once I got my driver's license I wanted to pursue something that looked fun to me. I started racing in 2005 with the Fulton Flyers (junior team in Georgia). They were very helpful in trying to teach me the sport of cycling. I am very thankful for all the support they gave me through the years. Junior teams are such a great environment for young riders to learn about cycling and to enjoy riding with kids their age.

What kind of rider is Carla Swart?
I am an aggressive rider but also very conservative when I need to ride smart. I love climbing and sprinting. I love riding in most kinds of weather as well.

Which hobbies do you have next to cycling?
I love ultimate frisbee. I also like to paint. My downfall is baking - I love baking! I also like wild blueberry picking.

Carla Swart wins the Collegiate Road Championships
photo courtesy USA Cycling  - © 2009 Casey B. Gibson

How do you look back on the 2008 season?
I am very fortunate and satisfied with what I accomplished. I am most happy with what my national titles were able to do for my career. Because of it I was able to apply for an "Alien of Extraordinary Ability" green card and got approved. - In my world that is huge!

After winning the road and track nationals I wanted to try to win all four disciplines in one year. I am always motivated for mountain bike nationals - it's such a fun event! I wanted to do well on my home course - there is nothing else like winning at home! Cross was the icing on the cake - I put a lot of pressure on myself to win that race.

Trying to win all four disciplines in one year is hard to do - you have to take into consideration how lucky I was that I had no mechanicals during any of my races - thanks to the Lees McRae cycling team. They are very supportive and are always ready to give me a feed or to fix a mechanical. Without team support very little cyclists would be able to succeed.

In the past years you rode the Collegiate races in the USA. How did it happen that you ended up in the USA in college and racing there?
I moved to Georgia in 2003 and finished high school there. I wanted to continue my schooling in America so I decided to go to Lees McRae. Lees McRae was a great option for continuing my cycling career and to learn more about racing. I think that it is very important for students to go to college and keep developing as cyclists while they are getting a degree.

How have you liked the collegiate scene and in particular at Lees McRae College?
The collegiate scene is WITHOUT A DOUBT THE MOST FUN EXPERIENCE YOU WILL HAVE AS A CYCLIST! Lees McRae makes the collegiate racing stress free because it is a fully supported program. We are able to learn a lot from each other and work together like a professional team. It is a great environment.

Lees-McRae College is one of the top cycling programs in the USA, could you tell us a little bit about the team and their program when you rode for them?
Well, I still ride for them - and absolutely love it! The LMC cycling team consists of over 50 riders from all over the world. The team is run very much like a professional team. Most of us are best friends, roommates, or training partners. It is a very good environment for all types of riders. I have learned so much since I have been on the team. The coaching is great and the riding in the area is absolutely amazing.

The program just gets better and better each year. All the riders are very competitive and eager to get better. We have great mechanics on the team that are students as well. The team is very diverse which keeps things interesting. If you want the most out of your college experience while trying to become a great bike racer - Lees McRae is your ticket to success.

As a (former) collegiate racer, what benefits or advantages do you see with other riders pursuing their dreams as a cyclist in a collegiate setting?
I am still in school. I ended up not taking the semester off because my green card was not yet approved. It just recently got approved for it and will start traveling overseas in May. There are many juniors that decide to go pro right out of high school. I think that they can go to college and still develop as cyclist. Collegiate racing is a very neat and fun experience and puts things in perspective for young riders. It is doable for riders to race at the professional level and still go to college. I think that it helps cyclists look at the bigger picture and not make cycling their one and only mission in life. You can only race professionally for so long until your body says no more. It is very important to have a plan when you decide to retire.

What is your major course of study?
I am a sport management major with a minor in business. I also plan to go to grad school for nutrition or alternative medicine.

Being so talented in all three disciplines being a collegiate champion in mountain bike, cyclocross and road is one a favorite or one that you have more future goals in?
I am a collegiate national champion on the track as well. My main goals for the future involve mainly road racing. I am very open to all kinds of racing though. I have also take into consideration that road racing offers the most support. I am mainly a road racer but I also love mountain biking. My future goals are road based but I am very open to representing South Africa in any discipline that they would need me for.

What performance/achievement you are the most proud of?
I am most proud of my mountain bike national titles. It was very important to me to make my home town proud. The community is very supportive of the team so it was very rewarding for me to repay them for their support.

You are riding for the South African MTN team. Can you tell us more about the team?
The team is a UCI Pro continental team that supports both a women's and a men's squad. They also have a mountain bike team and a few track riders. I am very excited to race for MTN/Energade. The girls on the team are very talented and most of them have represented South Africa in world class events. We also have a few European racers on the team. We will be doing several UCI events all over the world and I am confident that we will represent the team well.

What do you prefer the most in racing?
I guess it depends on how I feel. I love hilly races.

What race has been a favorite of yours?
I love the Nature Valley Grand Prix. It shows how the sport of cycling has grown for women over the years. It offers awesome courses and great competition. The fans there are incredible.

What race will be the 2009 debut for you and the team? And how does your schedule more or less looks like.
At the moment I have a split schedule between Team Lip Smackers and MTN/Energade. My schedule starts with Redlands and plan on doing some UCI events with MTN in Europe over the summer. My schedule is a bit cloudy at the moment as I have to take school into consideration. It should be more clear before summer.

Who has inspired you, or currently inspires you to race. (or in the present)?
I am inspired by my family. They are very supportive of me. My dad was brave enough to start a new life in an unfamiliar country in order for me to have a better future. My mom has been very supportive of me all my life and I admire her for her dedication to me. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis almost 20 years and inspires me to do well.

How does your ideal preparation looks like for the new season?
I am trying to stay free of injury. I am also trying more compu-trainer work and focusing on leg speed.

What of the Olympics of 2012, what events are you targeting at this point?
At this point, I am targeting the road race.

What are your goals for the 2009 season? and if you don't mind…. long term career goals as a person and cyclist?
I am not quite sure…right now I am mainly focusing on rehabbing an injury. Once I am 100%, I would like to focus on the Nature Valley Grand Prix and possibly getting selected for road worlds. Long term - I want to grow as a cyclist as much as I can for as long as I can.

Lees McRae College
Lees McRae College Cycling
MTN Energade UCI Continental Road Team

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