Among the 750 participants at the 2016 Grinduro, there were a few notable surprises.
Current and former World Tour roadies, pro mountain bikers and Meredith Miller—a former Noosa-sponsored cyclocross racer and CrossVegas winner who had hung up her pro ’cross number after the 2016 U.S. National Championships.
Miller isn’t the only top American cyclocross racer to retire after last season. Earlier this year we saw Ryan Trebon also call it a career, but unlike Trebon, Miller hasn’t stayed away from racing or UCI events, and might be riding more than ever. With a track record like Miller’s, retirement didn’t slow her down too much—she bested her competitors in the Grinduro Pro Women’s race by a relatively-comfortable margin of 40 seconds.
Cyclocross Magazine’s own Grinduro-racing John Proppe was able to catch up with Miller after the race to ask her about retirement, World Cups in the U.S., her Grinduro bike setup and most importantly, how her race went.
Cyclocross Magazine: First and foremost: how’s retirement from the pro cyclocross scene treating you?!
Meredith Miller: So far, so good! I’m still getting plenty of opportunities to ride my bike a lot. There are some days when I have no desire to ride at all and other days that are too good to pass up. Otherwise, I’m still trying to figure out the next step in life, but at the moment I am working with the Raleigh-Clement Pro Cycling Team during the cyclocross season as their PR/media manager. It’s been fun as it still keeps me in the game so to speak!
CXM: Was it bittersweet to see two World Cups in the U.S. the year you decided to retire?
MM: It was a little bittersweet. CrossVegas will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first ever cyclocross race back in 2008. Of course, winning it in 2014 will remain at the top of my all-time achievements.
As for Jingle Cross, I had been going to Iowa City since 2009 (I missed a year or two between then and now) and got to watch it grow over the years. In the beginning it was more of a small town, Midwest race, but each year it attracted more and more pros until it became what it is today! Although I didn’t race, I was still able to be part of the race in a small way as I was the social media manager leading up to the race. I was on the ground each day of the event cheering and working with Raleigh-Clement. Regardless of being on the sidelines, I was thrilled to be a part of the excitement. And the race was damn hard so there was a little part of me that was happy that I wasn’t suffering like everyone else!
CXM: What convinced you to come out for Grinduro?
MM: Last year I wasn’t able to race since I was still racing cyclocross full-time. I heard a lot about Grinduro after the event and knew it was one to keep my eye on. This year my friend Kristen Legan—who went last year and had so many good things to say—convinced a whole group of us from Boulder that we needed to go. So, there were about 12-13 of us who hopped a plane or drove out to California for the event.
Really, after hearing so many people applaud the event, there was little convincing that needed to be done.
CXM: What sort of preparation did you do for the race? Any specific workouts or equipment tweaks?
MM: I have to admit that I did zero specific training for the race. Two reasons: First, I don’t “train” anymore. I ride. Sure, I ride hard sometimes, but it’s either the terrain or the group that I’m with that pushes me to go harder. Second, I didn’t pay too much attention to the format or ‘stages’ until the week before, so I wouldn’t have known what to train for!
Honestly, the idea of racing to win wasn’t something I had thought about prior to the event. When we were pre-riding a couple sections the day before, I go all amped up because I just knew it was going to be so cool!
And, lo and behold, I felt good on race day so I thought “Why the hell not, just go for it and see what happens.”
Ok, I’m just a little competitive too!
I raced with 36mm Clement tubeless MSO and didn’t have a single issue on my cyclocross bike with drop bars and a double chainring, and the set-up was great. Sure, the final singletrack section would be ripping fast on a mountain bike—but I didn’t do too bad on my ’cross bike either—but I was happy to be on my ’cross bike for the rest of the ride. I ride my ’cross bike on the dirt a lot so it felt very comfortable and natural to me.
CXM: Did you have a strategy going into the race? If so, tell me a little about it.
MM: My husband, Johs Huseby, and I stayed with our friend Jason Moeschler—who won the men’s race last year—a couple nights before Grinduro [Ed. note, Moeschler was third in 2015, as Barry Wicks won]. Jason told me that if I wanted to try to win that I should make sure to be in the ‘fast group’ on the gravel descent and road stages. Going over the climb I wasn’t able to stay with the front group so I rode the gravel descent by myself but was able to regroup with them at the aid station before the road stage. That was key. There were only three women who were in that front group on the road, and you can see from the results that that group was the fastest by far on the day. Gaining time on the road and then finishing consistently in the top of the pro women’s group was what helped me take the overall win.
CXM: As a former road pro, putting in nearly a minute and a half on your competitors on the Indian Creek road time trial may not come as a surprise, but you also held your own on singletrack and downhill stages: what would you attribute that to?
MM: In the last few years I have been mountain biking a lot and riding a ton of gravel/dirt roads here in Boulder, so I am used to going fast on dirt. I wouldn’t say that I ride a lot of singletrack on my cyclocross bike, but once you know how to move a bike around in the dirt, it doesn’t matter so much which bike you’re on to go fast. It’s not unusual to ride a ride bike on dirt around here. And I would say that I’ve always had strong descending skills so it was just a matter of adjusting my style to the dirt to go fast in the loose stuff too. There’s a dirt road here called Magnolia, which has fast descents with some flowly and some tight turns. Riding on that road in particular has definitely helped me sharpen my skills in the loose dirt.
CXM: Which segment(s) did you prefer? Why? Any you didn’t care for?
MM: I loved them all!! I may not be the fastest climber, and the climbing stage was my worst stage, but I still loved every stage.
I think it’s special that there is a little something for everyone. Someone might not be a great climber but they can rip the downhills so that’s what they focus on.
Or vice versa. For me personally, the stages incorporated everything that I ride at home so they were perfect!
“I think it’s special that there is a little something for everyone. Someone might not be a great climber but they can rip the downhills so that’s what they focus on.”
CXM: What bike did you ride for the event? Were you happy with it?
MM: I rode my Focus Mares that I raced ’cross on last season. During cyclocross season I had SRAM 1x on it, but I’ve since put a double chainring on there so that it is more suitable to all the climbing we do around Boulder. It’s not unusual to have a 5k climbing day without even trying.
Next year the only thing I would change is that we would drive out so we could take multiple bikes with us. I would still race on my cyclocross bike, but I would take mountain bikes for the rides pre- or post-race. I admit that I was fully jealous of all the people shuttling to the top on their mountain bikes!
CXM: If someone were on the fence about attending Grinduro, what would you tell them?
MM: Just do it. You will not be disappointed. If it’s the only event you do all year, or if it’s the 10th event you do in a year, you will not be disappointed.
It’s a race and social event all mixed into one. My ‘race’ time this year was just over 48 minutes. My total ride time was just under five [hours]. You get to go hard and be aggro and competitive and then you get to kick back and chill with your friends (and even different groups of friends throughout the day) as you take in some of the most beautiful and serene nature around. It was really nice that you didn’t have to be gnawing on your stem for five straight hours.
CXM: Would you like to see Grinduro events offered elsewhere? Anywhere in particular come to mind?
MM: I would love to see Grinduro expand or someone else create another event like it. Obviously I’m going to say Boulder would be great! Actually, although dirt roads are great for riding around here, I’m not sure that the roads could handle that many people because there’s still enough traffic that the roads would have to closed. The beauty of the race being in Quincy was that they didn’t have to close the roads because there’s so little traffic on the logging roads. Obviously closing the roads would add a big expense. Where else in the country do you have such quiet roads? Maybe in the northeast?
CXM: Can we expect to see you at any other events this year?
MM: Well, I am racing the US Open of Cyclocross this weekend [Miller would finish fifth on Day 1 in Valmont]. It’s kind of hard not to when it’s a 12-minute ride to the venue from my house. I had said that if I was riding enough to have some fitness that I would jump into some local races. It’s local and I’ve got some fitness. So why not?! Of course it just happens to be UCI as well, so there’s that element that will attract a stronger field to really give me a reality check of how well ‘retirement’ is going for me!
Aside from a few local cyclocross races, I can’t say that I’ll be at any other events this year, but there is a group of us from Boulder who are going on a mountain bike trip to Sedona over Thanksgiving. If there isn’t an event to go to, we’ll create one ourselves!
CXM: Anything else you want to add?
MM: When I retired from racing, I still loved my bike. I still loved racing, in fact. I was tired of intervals. I was tired of having to ride my bike. Without the stress of structured training, I’ve enjoyed riding my bike even more.
And part of what attracted me to racing for so long were the friends and camaraderie that came along with it all. Now I get to ride with my friends and enjoy getting rad on the bike but with no pressure at all!
“Without the stress of structured training, I’ve enjoyed riding my bike even more.”
CXM: Sounds like quite a fun retirement. Thanks for your time!
MM: Thank you!