The Petrovs take to the podium post-race. © Jeff Jakucyk
by Judi LoPresti
A mother and son who race and train together — Malissa and Spencer Petrov.
Malissa is a hard working mother of two and a bike racer. Spencer is an up-and-coming Cyclocross racer. Both of them race and train together. When Spencer races, Malissa can be seen running along on the sidelines, cheering loudly. When it’s his Mom’s turn to race, Spencer and his brother Nick can be seen cheering loudly. They make bike racing a family event.
Malissa and Spencer both took time out of their crazy schedules to answer some questions for us. I was happy to learn more about this dynamic duo: they are a special family, the Petrovs.
Cyclocross Magazine: When did you both start racing bikes?
Malissa Petrov: I started racing bikes three years ago, but this will be my second full year racing ’cross. I started six months behind Spence when I won my sweet Ellsworth Roots at the Harbin Park UCI3 race.
Spencer Petrov: I started racing ’cross two years ago; this will be my third season.
CXM: Tell me about how you found cyclocross.
MP: Spence really wanted to get involved in bike racing; we were looking for opportunities for kids to ride and race thinking it would be BMX, and few of my friends who race road and ’cross suggested checking out the QCW LionHearts Juniors Team. Spence did his first race in at Kingswood, and was hooked from the start. He was also playing football at the time, and I remember many a Sunday where we went right from an OVCX race to a football game. One time he suited up for football in the car and ran out on the field in his ’cross shoes, because we forgot to pack his football cleats. It was pretty funny.
CXM: You have such a great relationship, has cycling brought you closer together as a family?
SP: Yes, definitely. We spend a lot of time together, more than we do when I play football, basketball and baseball. For those sports my parents would drop me off at practices and then sit on the sidelines and watch my games. In ’cross we spend time together training, racing and just riding for fun. Even my little brother Nick, who is eight, rides with us.
MP: Riding and racing has given us the opportunity to spend a lot of time together and have fun as a family. We train, race and travel together, and we all have something in common that we love, bikes, so we always have something to talk about and do together. We are spending quality time with our kids doing something active, and hanging out with good friends. Your kids grow up so fast, it’s great to be having so much time with them now.
CXM: What is your favorite cyclocross race?
SP: I really like the Devou Park UCI3 race. It’s technical and hilly, which is what I love and plays to my strengths.
MP: Every race where we are together racing with family and friends is my favorite!
CXM: Least favorite?
SP: I don’t have a least favorite, I love cross racing all around, and get pumped to race anywhere!
MP: Don’t have a “least favorite;” every race, even the ones that don’t go your way or ones that really challenge your abilities as a racer, are opportunities to learn and improve. So every race is an opportunity for fun and growth.
CXM: Worst race experience?
Malissa Petrov is being cheered on by her two cyclocross racing sons, Nick and Spencer. © Jeff Jakucyk
SP: I would say that my “worst” experience was also a big character builder for me. In Bend at Nationals last year, I was in third place coming off the pavement to the last section two turns just before the fly-over. My right shifter got caught in the mesh fence and I flipped over the bike and the fence. I went from third to seventh in a matter of seconds. My friend Ian, came by in fourth, and screamed at me “Get Up!” I untangled my bike, jumped back over the fence onto the course, and got moving. It was pretty hard to take, but that’s bike racing, and there’s always the next race. I finished knowing, “yeah, I crashed, but I had a strong race.”
MP: My worst experience was also one of my best experiences. I had a mechanical in the last lap of Fisherman’s Park, “the Fishstix race,” in the OVCX series, and was riding really strong. I could not get the bike fixed, and had to run it in about a quarter mile, lots of uphill. My teammate on BioWheels finished her race, then ran back for me and ran with me to the finish. It’s one of my favorite race memories, even though it was a last place finish for me.
CXM: Best race experience?
SP: Definitely winning my first Cat 4 race, the UCI3 Devou Park race last year right after my twelfth birthday. It was awesome!
CXM: Do you train together?
SP: Yeah, we do.
MP: Yes, we train together about two times a week. We have our own training rides to do, and sometimes Spence checks up on me, sometimes I check up on him. He cuts me no slack. When we are riding together he is my entertainment, no Ipods needed when Spence is around, that’s for sure. He will find something funny to talk about guaranteed.
CXM: Spencer, how do you keep it all together with school and racing? And Malissa, how do you keep it all together, the house, the kids, with both of you racing?
SP: It’s definitely hard sometimes, but I feel happy inside knowing I’m going to have good grades, and be stronger at racing because of my dedication to school, training and racing. Racing is my fun time. Also, after the races I get to hang out with my racing buddies and that’s what I look forward to after races.
MP: It’s a challenge come ’cross season. The house doesn’t get really cleaned from September through December. But you do what you have to do. At the end of the day, as long as homework is done, everyone is fed, we’ve trained or raced and had fun, then we’ve had a good day.
CXM: What kind of goals have you set this year?
SP: Always my first goal is to have fun racing. I want to continue to grow as a rider in my skills, strength, and knowledge of cyclocross. My major goal this year is to win Nationals, just like I ‘m sure it’s the goal for every kid who plans to go to Nationals.
CXM: How do you feel about Nationals being held in Madison this year? Besides the sub zero temps!
SP: I feel that there will be advantages for some people who have the opportunity to race in snow and cold temps where they live. Having raced in Bend for the past two years in the snow, and having raced here at home in snow, I’m really looking forward to the challenge.
MP: It’s going to be cold that’s for sure. It will be interesting to see how the longer cross season goes, and we haven’t been to Madison, so we will prepare for the cold temps and be ready to race! I hear Madison has pretty vicious winters so it should be epic.
CXM: Who gives who the most advice?
SP: If we’re talking biking and racing, I think I give more advice to my mom. But my mom knows more about nutrition and training plans.
MP: Spence definitely likes to give me advice on racing and my technical skills. He has good insight and intuition about skills and racing. It’s pretty funny when I’m racing, he’s there on the course “coaching” me and cheering me on, just as much as I do him when he’s racing.
CXM: How do you unwind after a long weekend of racing, like the UCI3?
SP: We usually take a couple of days off from training, and I hang out with friends, watch movies, and play basketball.
CXM: Favorite meal after a race?
SP: After a race, I usually grab an almond butter and jelly sandwich and chocolate milk.
MP: Chipotle on the way home! I’m not cooking after all day at the races!
CXM: For Spencer: how did it feel standing on the podium with Jeremy Powers?
SP: Oh my gosh, it was amazing to stand up there with him. He is definitely one of my role models. I would love to grow up and have the success that he has had in cyclocross and on the road. It was also very cool to stand with Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks who are also great pros and equally awesome. They are all cool guys, who are easy-going and love racing.