Not only is Argentinian Cross Country Mountain Bike National Champion Sofia Gomez Villafañe, 24, fast on a mountain bike, but she’s also a talented elite cyclocross racer. As a dual citizen of Argentina and the U.S., Gomez Villafañe resides in Heber City, Utah and races primarily in North America for the Stan's-Pivot Pro Team p/b Maxxis team. We caught up with her between back-to-back MTB and ‘cross race weekends in Arkansas and Colorado to get to know her better and find out how she balances her riding and racing on and off the singletrack.
Stan’s NoTubes: Which do you like better: cyclocross or mountain bike and why?
Sofia Gomez Villafañe: I enjoy training and racing for mountain biking, but I really like the atmosphere and the fans that show up for ‘cross races. It’s more personally rewarding for me to race ‘cross because I do it for fun, but mountain biking is where a lot of my goals are. I have Olympic mountain bike aspirations. When I do ‘cross, it’s for the enjoyment of being out there. There are so many epic ‘cross races that produce memories that last a lifetime. In ‘cross racing, you interact more with fans, and better photos come out of it. SNT: How is your training different for each?
SGV: For ‘cross, I do more workouts that are short and to the point. I warm up, I do threshold or VO2 interval work, then I cool down and I’m done. For mountain biking, I go ride for awhile, do my intervals and then go ride for some more. It requires more volume to train for mountain bike racing. SNT: Are you a full-time racer? If not, what else do you do?
SGV: I’m not a full-time racer. I work part-time for Ritual Chocolate in Park City, Utah, where I am the Administrative Manager. They are very supportive. I work closely with the owner and do a lot of work that doesn’t require me to be in the office. My boss told me the other day that I should never put work in front of a workout. I’m lucky to have a boss who is flexible and understands.
SNT: How do you keep from eating too much chocolate?
SGV: Luckily, the chocolate is dark chocolate so I don’t have to eat a lot to be satisfied. But for a few of the flavors, it’s definitely hard not to eat the whole bar at once! It’s great to be able to bring the chocolate along for gifts to those who host me. SNT: We saw you make the podium at RenoCross, then again at the Oz Trails Off-Road MTB race. How do you handle switching back and forth between disciplines yet do well in both?
SGV: The hardest part of racing ‘cross and sneaking mountain bike events in between them is that you don’t have time to put in much training volume. When you’re only racing mountain bike, you can get away with the longer rides given how the racing works, but you can’t do three- to four-hour rides in between ‘cross racing weekends. Luckily for me, the Oz Trails mountain bike course in Bentonville was very punchy. ‘Cross actually helped me bridge gaps and move up toward those in front of me. I pretended that the Oz Trails Off-Road was four ‘cross races back-to-back.
SNT: With so much training and racing of both types, how do you keep from burning out?
SGV: I have a good relationship with my coach, and I’m honest with her when I’m tired, not feeling well or fatigued. We keep an eye on things. I have lot of flexibility with what I’m doing. I’m very fit right now, but I could feel like I’m over racing by next week. Luckily the different disciplines means different training, different people and different locations. SNT: What Stan’s wheels do you run for cross and mountain bike?
SGV: I race the new carbon Grails for ‘cross and the 29” Podium SRDs for mountain biking.
SNT: What’s a typical setup tire setup for you?
SGV: For ‘cross, it’s very dependent on the course as to which tires I will use, but I’m often at 20-21 psi for pressure. On the mountain bike, I almost always run my Maxxis Aspens at 19-20 psi. SNT: It seemed like you have had a great mountain bike season. What were the highlights for you?
SGV: Definitely winning the Argentinian cross country and eliminator national championships. They were my first national titles. Last year, I went to nationals and had an OK race, but when I go down there, I never know what to expect because I haven’t been racing those girls. My performances at Sea Otter (8th) and Fontana (7th) were also good because I was competitive - in the top 10 - among the best elite women in the world, including other national champions and Olympians. It showed how far I have developed in the past three years. Finishing in the top 20 at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in Canada was also a good race for me. SNT: How has your ‘cross season been going so far?
SGV: So far, so good. RenoCross was a good race. There, I realized that I had good fitness coming into the ‘cross season from all the mountain bike racing this summer. Afterward, I had an unexpected ride at the Trek World Cup in Wisconsin - where I got eighth after starting that race hoping for a top-30 finish. To crack the top-10 was special. SNT: What are your goals for the rest of ‘cross season?
SGV: I am hoping to get a win. I also want to be consistent in my last few races of the season.
SNT: We hear a lot about the movement toward women’s equality in racing. What have you been experiencing as a pro female racer?
SGV: What I notice in ‘cross racing is that the female elite participation numbers-wise is close to the men’s. They used to say that women shouldn’t get the same prize money because there aren’t as many female racers, but now the fields are more equal size-wise. The Trek World Cup organizers, for example, have done a great job of offering equal pay at their races. We have to adopt the mentality that we’re all pros and should be compensated the same. In mountain biking, it’s already pretty equal for UCI races.
SNT: When do you finally get an off-season, and what will you do to enjoy it?
SGV: I’m looking forward to taking three weeks off in November. I’m going to ride my dirt bike and visit family, and I’ll do a two-week trip out west.