An early October win at the Cross Crusades for Sue Butler. © Pat Malach
Sue Butler has been a dominant force in women’s cyclocross in the United States for years, racing primarily on the West Coast but dabbling in World Cup races in Europe and even Worlds back in 2011. We caught up with her during one of her more relaxed off-seasons, and even during a “fun” season, MTB Nationals are still in the plans.
Cyclocross Magazine: What does your off-season look like?
Sue Butler: I took a rather long off-season this year, and jumping into my first MTB local race on April 1 hurt more than normal. Since then, I have been doing some local road and MTB races. I did go down to Prescott to do the Whiskey 50, but that was more of an excuse to hang out with Wendy Simms for the weekend than anything … and to get out of the rain. I suffered like a dog, but it was so much fun. I will do it again. I plan to do some more fun local mountain biking, the Mt. Hood Classic stage race, and Cascade. I was going to go back to MN for Nature Valley, but not sure anymore due to finances and some conflicts. I am going to do MTB Nationals this year. I had to miss them last year due to my nagging injury and being so darn slow. This year, I am going to try to be faster.
CXM: How will you start prepping for cyclocross?
SB: I am already prepping. Getting back on the bike, my coach is always focusing on my weaknesses to try to get me stronger during the summer. But very cyclocross-specific training will happen in the fall. For now I spend most of my time on my MTB and road bike. It is easy to want to be on my road bike, because Ridley has set me up with a new Noah. I pick it up this week. Yahoo!
CXM: Doing anything different this year?
SB: Well, this year I am not going to ignore an injury for over three months and then be back at square zero by May. I am already so far ahead of last year and continuing to heal and strengthen the muscles that were whacked out last year. I am actually getting Rolfing done too. Leaving no stone unturned. I do not want to be dealing with this come fall. I am being proactive!
CXM: Staying on the River City team for cyclocross?
SB: That is yet to be determined. I would ideally have a more comprehensive sponsorship. One that has support at the races, refunds expenses, etc. I am working on a few things and continually have my name out in the arena. Ridley has committed to bikes. But, I really cannot say what will happen. The hard part with cyclocross is that a lot of potential sponsors don’t want to hear from people yet. Yet when I contact them later, it is too late. I started in February sending emails, following up on leads, etc. Anyone have a job for me? But I am actually interviewing for jobs. Real jobs. Lots of potential changes in the Butler household. It’s a financial thing. Ideally, I would be able to put it off until the 2012-2013 cyclocross season though.
CXM: What are your MTB goals for this season?
SB: I would like a top 10 at Nationals. Some may say that is not aiming very high, but the women are super fast and I am not competing in that arena constantly. I cannot afford to do both sports full-time. But since Nationals is in driving distance, I am going to go. I am kind of bummed the Wisconsin race is in August this year, because now I probably won’t make the trip back for that one. But most of my racing will be regional/local this summer. Saving it all up for cyclocross.
CXM: I have to ask … what’s it like being married to another racer? Does it make things easier?
SB: That is a loaded question. My husband is my biggest supporter for sure, and the fact that he races and ‘gets it’ is great. Sometimes, however, it can be more stressful having a spouse also racing. Especially when you are both self-supported and depending on the goodness of others for help, etc. And for those that know Tim know that he is not the most mechanically inclined guy, so when we travel, I pack up the four bikes, rebuild them, repack them, bring them home, wash them and rebuild them. But technically it is my ‘job,’ since he is supporting me so I can live the dream. But, it does not make things easier. I think it makes it a bit more difficult, though the reward is pretty great. He is super competitive and I really enjoy seeing him be successful. I do not enjoy, however, when his bikes get sent to Florida when we are racing in Colorado. That just adds to the stress and workload for me. But mostly because I really care. And I know how important racing is to him, too.
CXM: Favorite non-cycling thing to do in the off season?
SB: I love to ski. Every February, we have a backcountry ski trip in the Wallowas, staying in a yurt. It is something I look forward to every year after cyclocross season. I did a fair bit of XC skiing and skating too. I thought I would do more lift serve after not making the Worlds team, but we had such crappy snow in January/February for downhill. It didn’t get good until March. My coach finally had to ask me, “Are you going to start riding your bike again anytime soon?” So, I did. But I got some good base fitness on the snow. I also like playing with paper, sewing, etc. Which reminds me, I have an Etsy shop set up selling some bike cards, trying to support my racing habit. And I just bought a serger. I have yet to find time to play with it. Dorky Midwesterner at heart.
CXM: Best advice for women looking to get into cyclocross this season?
SB: Smile while you ride. It makes suffering more fun. Also, I would say just do it. It is the most fun you will have in less than an hour. I put it off for years, but once I started, whoa. Watch out. Addiction at it’s finest. I would also recommend looking for a local clinic to learn skills ahead of time. It makes racing more fun. Practice, practice, practice. And really, just go out there and give ‘er. It is one of the most friendly cycling disciplines out there. Very supportive crowd. Getting into it is easy. Getting out of it is harder!