by Robert Annis for Planet Adventure
To say Shamrock Cycles racer Rebecca Zink has had her best seasons on both the road and on the trail this year would be a gross understatement.
Although the 29-year-old wasn’t a stranger to winning in previous seasons – she earned four podiums and two victories while racing on and off between 2008 and 2010 – she took it to an entirely different level in 2011. Out of 27 races this year, Zink reached the podium 17 times and was on the top step for eight of those races.
“There was a big change in my fitness — and stress — levels this year,” Zink said. “In the past, I put too much pressure on myself. I would get really anxious and that kept me from doing the best I could do. This year, I made an effort to stop stressing out so much and just have fun. When I started winning, I became more confident and that helped decrease the anxiety even more.”
Her mental change paid off some huge dividends this year. In July, Zink donned the prestigious stars-and-stripes jersey after winning her age group in the cross country mountain biking National Championship in Sun Valley, Idaho. Less than a month later, she took the Cat. 1/2/3 Women’s Indiana state championship on the road.
Zink hopes to continue her dominance in cyclocross this fall, but will face a bit stiffer competition; she recently upgraded from Cat. 4 to Cat. 3 status.
Q&A with Rebecca Zink
Robert Annis: What got you into cycling?
Rebecca Zink: In 2006, I had gotten a flyer in the mail for the Team in Training program, and I chose to complete a century ride in exchange for raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Both of my grandmothers had passed away from blood cancers, so this was a tribute to them. I was also at a point in my life where I needed “something to do” and cycling seemed like a good idea. Things snowballed from there and now I’m a racer as well as a cycling coach for Team in Training.
RA: What have been your season highlights so far?
RZ: 2011 DINO Cat 2 Series Winner, Cat 2 Short Track State Champ, Cat 2 Super-D State Champ, Cat 1/2/3 Road Race State Champ, Cat 3 19-29 Cross Country National Champ, OVCX Athlete of the Week
RA: How are you enjoying the cyclocross season so far?
RZ: It’s a lot of fun. There’s a community in cyclocross. It doesn’t matter what team you race for, you end up seeing the same people over and over again at each race, and it’s so much fun to cheer for (and heckle) your friends as they’re racing. It’s the one kind of racing where you don’t mind being there all day long, because everyone comes together and has a good time.
RA: What’s been your proudest moment as a cyclist?
RZ: It’s hard to list any one thing. I was reminded at a race this past weekend of how far I’ve come. When I think back to an early goal of not having to walk up any of the hills at the Hilly Hundred, I’m most proud of the progress that I’ve made.
RA: What’s been your most fun memory?
RZ: Maybe it’s because I have ’cross on the brain, but spectating at the St. Mary’s ’cross race this year was so much fun. I was completely unprepared for standing around in the rain and the mud, but we had so much fun with money and beer hand-ups for the racers.
RA: What are your goals for 2012?
RZ: Keep riding and racing, stay injury-free, and continue to make progress off of an extremely successful 2011 season.
RA: What’s your favorite type of racing?
RZ: There are things that I like about all types of racing, so it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve seen a lot of success in the off-road disciplines lately, so maybe that’s my favorite right now.
RA: What’s your favorite Planet Adventure event this season?
RZ: I haven’t had the opportunity to do as many Planet Adventure races this year as I would’ve liked, but St. Mary’s was so much fun. It was such a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to a lot more fun at the ‘cross races for the rest of the year.
RA: Who do you love or hate competing against during the Planet Adventure season?
RZ: Valarie Gossage with the Speedway Wheelmen. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, and racing against her makes me push myself to the limit and ultimately makes me a better racer.
RA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from a teammate or peer?
RZ: That resting is equally important as riding.
RA: What advice would you like to pass on?
RZ: Just keep riding. It can sound pretty condescending to a newbie who isn’t quite strong enough to hang on (I know, I’ve been there), but it’s the truth. Keep riding your bike and you’ll get there.
RA: What are you riding?
RZ: Shamrock Cycles Team Issue Celtic Cross
RA: What’s your dream bike (or at least your next bike)?
RZ: I’m really in love with each of the bikes that I have now, but I’ve always had a little bit of bike lust for a BMC.
RA: Favorite piece of gear?
RZ: My Smartwool baselayers and Endura MT500 mountain bike gloves.
RA: Favorite beer?
RZ: Currently enjoying Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar, or anything that I happen to brew.
RA: Best pre-ride meal? Post-ride?
RZ: I usually do a whole-wheat bagel with almond butter and apple butter, but I’m doing a little bit of experimenting now since I’ve been doing more afternoon races. I always finish up a ride or a race with milk and chocolate protein powder, but my meal tends to change based upon what is available.
RA: Any weird rituals before a race? If so, what are they?
RZ: I mix a few drops of peppermint oil with some lotion and put it on the back of my neck, and I also put a few drops on my gloves. Peppermint is supposed to be calming, and whether or not it actually works, I figure that anything to keep me calm and focused before and during a race helps.
RA: If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
RZ: I would love to ride and eat my way through Italy.
You can find more information on Zink’s sweet Cyclocross bike at www.lugoftheirish.com.