In honor of this weekend’s United States Cyclocross National Championships, Pro Cyclocross Rumors and Rumblings will trot out a couple of interviews with big time favorites for this week’s action. First on the list is Olympic mountain biker and terror of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, Mary McConneloug, who rides for the Kenda – Seven – NoTubes team. McConneloug has seven wins this season, finished up first in the Verge NECCS overall standings and is hoping to ride her winning streak – she won both days of the NBX Gran Prix over the past weekend – straight into Bend.
1) What has your favorite race of this season been so far? What about of all time?
I have many incredible memories from the past 12 years of racing on average 40 races a season, so it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite race. But it’s pretty special any time that fitness, equipment, mental game, luck and everything else come together at one time.
I am primarily an XC mountain bike racer; winning my 4th national XC title at Mount Snow in 2008 was certainly a highlight as it was hard-fought and decided, atypically for a cross country race, with a final sprint.
As far as cyclocross… my favorite ‘cross races tend to be the smaller, local venues that are often a part of a regional series. These venues often have the best laid-out courses and are a less stressful an opportunity to get to know the people you are competing against. When I first began racing cross in 1997 out in Oregon, the Cross Crusade Series was incredibly fun and got me hooked on the sport. Over the past 7 years (with a 4 year hiatus due to cross-country Olympic aspirations), Mike [Broderick] and I have really enjoyed racing the Verge New England Cyclocross series where the vibe, the people and the course designs are amongst the best.
My favorite race this season was probably the Verge New England Cyclocross series finals in Warwick, RI. The course was really fun despite the nasty cold, muddy and wet conditions. And the best part of all, after another set of weekend victories, I ended up winning the overall series for what I believe was the 4th time; it was pretty sweet to be able to pull that off!
2) Speaking of victories, what’s your ultimate post-race meal after a big win?
I most always have a good food stash in the van. Since I am usually scrambling to get changed and running to watch Mike’s race from the pit, I’ll grab whatever I can, just to replenish some carbs, protein and fat. I usually have leftover pasta on hand.
But when I get “home” to a kitchen, I love to make Buffalo Burgers with oven baked sweet potato fries, a salad with grated beets, carrots, feta cheese and walnuts.
3) What’s your biggest career achievement to date?
Having the determination to make it to the professional ranks at age 28 and participate in two Olympics, so far!
4) If you could be anything besides a bike racer, what would it be?
I don’t want to be anything but a bike racer – for now. For sure my future employment and free time will have lots to do with some aspect of cycling, perhaps advocacy or coaching. When the time comes to stop racing, I’m sure I will figure it out, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop riding if I can help it. You’ll probably see me with long, gray braids, pedaling in the woods.
5) That’s a great image! Let’s shift from your old age to your beginnings. How did you get your start in cyclocross? What’s been your biggest influence?
In 1997, I was living in Bend, OR, just beginning to experience bike racing. The cycling community in Bend was super-friendly and supportive, helping me get started. To experience this open, friendly vibe helped to inspire me to continue, even when the going got tough.
6) What was your first bike?
My first ‘cross bike was a mountain bike. I wanted to race and the fact that I didn’t have a ‘cross bike didn’t stop me. It was heavy on the run-ups, but super fun on the technical. I got into racing ‘cross because it was fun, and I haven`t forgotten that. This bike taught me that rolling with what you got and being content is the key to having fun.
7) How about aspirations. If you could win one race, which would it be?
World Championships – but racing that race (in late January) really conflicts with my XC mountain bike aspirations. So, I’m excited for Nationals… and a bit of a break after.
8) Who is your biggest rival on the North American Cyclocross Scene?
I like the ladies I race with and am friendly when we are not on the course. But everyone coming to the line with their A game and challenging the lead positions are my rivals.
9) Who is your biggest idol?
No one comes to mind in particular but my idols tend to be the type of people who push through adversity with a positive attitude, appreciate what they have and can be a positive role model for others.
10) Got any crazy pre-race rituals?
Yeah, my whole lifestyle. I eat, sleep, train, do yoga, plan logistics, communicate – all to get to the races.
As far as race day, I eat 4 hours out, oftentimes bacon, eggs, toast and good french press coffee. Mike and I arrive to the race venue with enough time to be relaxed for proper warm up.