Mary McConnelough Talks MTB-ing for Cyclocross and What It Means to Live the Dream
Mary McConneloug never seems to be in the same place when I talk to her. But then again, she and her husband live and travel from race to race in an RV, so that makes perfect sense. We finally managed to be in the same time zone at the Windham World Cup, and after McConneloug finished and we managed to hunt down the one square yard of shade, we got to catch up on her mountain bike season so far and what’s next for the MTB- and cyclocross-er. Most recently, she snagged podium spots in Sun Valley, but that’s a post for another time.
She also found time to answer a few questions for us, between races.
Cyclocross Magazine: How have the World Cups been going?
Mary McConneloug: We just got back from racing the four World Cups that determine Olympic Qualification. We detailed the journey in our blog.
CXM: We know it isn’t really, but what are your “off-season” goals?
MM: There really isn’t an “off-season” for Mike and I. It is a year-round endeavor to manage our team and prepare all the details necessary to continue on in this profession. Although … each “off season,” after XC World Championships, I find the space for a little “down time,” taking a personal inventory to see how I am feeling underneath and in what ways I am motivated. It’s pretty grueling to travel and race the World Cup XC circuit; I sometimes just need to stay put for a few months to recover, rebalance and get stoked for the next season. However, my husband/teammate/everything, Mike Broderick, and I are considering the options for this Fall. Perhaps an exotic off0road stage race? Also, I’m excited to race some cyclocross!!
It can be hard to plan exactly what we will do. We like to stay open to interesting opportunities that arise. This life is too short, we must maximize our time here and if we remain inspired in our racing, we will be that much happier.
CXM: What’s next?
MM: I love to race my bike and look forward to More Racing! Our next events will be three weekends in a row: We are currently on a road trip on the East Coast in our van and camp trailer to compete at the fifth and sixth rounds of the World Cup in Quebec and New York. Then we hop on a plane to go race National Championships in Idaho, then back to Europe to race the WC finals in late July. It’s kind of a lot of running around to be at the big races, but we are really psyched to have this opportunity to make these races our priority. There are so many great races in so many beautiful parts of the world, it’s sometimes hard to choose which ones to attend!
We plan to still race XC, but we look forward to racing some more endurance-based MTB events, like stage races as a mixed team and perhaps some marathon style events. For us, to work closely as a team, riding across beautiful natural terrain of mountains and valleys is inspiring.
Also, cyclocross is always on our radar … This great spectator-friendly sport is fun for everyone. The challenge of navigating a race course, getting off on on the bike and playing the race tactic games is really fun. I’ve always fancied World Cup cyclocross, but with our current MTB schedule, have not been able to commit. We will see.
Competitive cycling has given us so much, taught us so many lessons and we plan to remain involved. We have gotten to know some of the coolest people through bike racing and it feels like a family. I don’t imagine too much will change, I really like the idea of competing a few more years.
CXM: How has MTBing helped for cyclocross?
MM: Fitness, power, technical skills, starting
CXM: Favorite MTB World Cup so far?
MM: There have been some really great venues, tracks and exotic WC venues all over the globe. It has been a dream to be able to follow this top-level circuit with Mike for the past eight years. My favorite race? Well, getting on any podium at a WC makes the effort that much sweeter. In 2005, I had three WC podiums, but finishing fifth in Houffalize that year was pretty memorable with the huge crowds and wild energy … I won a huge tray of smoked meats. However, if I have to choose just one WC, it would be the WC in Calgary (2004). The track was great, the weather was biblical, and I finished second (to Gunn Rita). It was right before the Olympics and my family was there.
CXM: Any other pre-cyclocross non-MTB plans?
MM: Well, pretty much everything I do revolves around some aspect of racing bikes. I will be at my computer a good bit, communicating, planning logistics, etc. Running our team program requires a lot of desk time and energy; however, I will be sure to enjoy some other activities like paddle-boarding and running in the woods while I can.
CXM: How do you handle all of the travel? How’s living in an RV been treating you?
MM: I love to travel and see the world, especially with/on my bike … but it can be difficult living on the road most of the year. I have a few ways I can ground myself, despite all the moving around. Having access to cooking facilities, whether in a small apartment or mobile vehicle (even a camp stove) is comforting and keeps us healthy. Also practicing yoga has really helped me feel like my body is “home.” If I can touch in several times a week, this really helps keep me stay grounded. Also, to travel with my best friend/husband/teammate, Michael Broderick, is awesome. It has been amazing to see some of the world and taste soils in new lands. Even though it can be really challenging sometimes, I consider myself lucky to be doing this: to live so closely and such an intense lifestyle together. I love my job and my life. In order to live a dream, we all need to make certain sacrifices.
Living in an RV when the weather is nasty, like it was this past spring in Europe, makes it more difficult. I’m lucky that Mike is so tolerant and understanding, because with him we can usually manage to laugh it off or make it work … Having a sense of humor and not taking ourselves too seriously is key, but also a fine balance of respect is necessary so that we can do what we need to be professional athletes. With the cold, wet spring weather, I’ve gotten particularly creative with my yoga practice somehow fitting it inside the RV in the narrow aisle in front of the stove. I love roasting a chicken while doing yoga, even though I need to interrupt my moves to get up and baste the bird!
Keeping a positive attitude and good perspective on how lucky we are to be living this life as we do keeps us in check. Yes, our job has its challenges and can be incredibly stressful and difficult, but at least Mike and I can say we truly love what we do!
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