MEET THE STAN’S-PIVOT PRO TEAM
Building on its success, the Stan’s-Pivot Pro Team p/b Maxxis has doubled in size for 2018. Elite mountain bike pros Keegan Swenson and Sofia Gomez-Villafañe, both 24 years old, have joined returning team members Chloe Woodruff, 31, and Rose Grant, 36. Read on for our in-depth interview with Woodruff, who heads the team.
Stan’s NoTubes: How and why did you decide to double your team’s size?
Chloe Woodruff: It wasn’t something that happened out of the blue. I’ve had the idea of adding a third rider to the team for the last couple of years, but working with Rose meant there were two of us, which was a great number. However, with both of us having dealt with injuries and illness this past year, we realized the advantage of having other riders on the team; it relieves some pressure. Sofia was already riding Stan’s wheels and a Pivot bike, and I had talked to her a lot leading into last year. She’s risen up through the ranks in cyclocross and has a vision of where she wants to go on a mountain bike. Last fall, Keegan was looking for a team, and while I hadn’t yet considered a four-rider team, I went back and looked at budgets and what would be required support-wise. We had to add a mechanic anyway for a third rider. I got excited about adding another rider; working to make it happen was a motivating project for me. It’s been rewarding to set up a team where others can have the kind of experiences that Rose and I have had. Racing as an elite athlete can be a self-absorbing, narrowly focused way to live your life. Growing the team is a way to bring perspective and break from that mold a bit.SNT: What do Keegan and Sofia bring to the team?
CW: Keegan effectively doubles our participation in events because he’s an elite man. He’s been racing for awhile and his name is recognizable, but he still has room to improve. Elite men’s cross country racing is at a critical time ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and Keegan is a natural fit for our team. Sofia comes to our team with less experience, but she had a phenomenal race against Rose last year in Missoula, Montana. She’s close to turning out those kinds of rides with consistency. Besides racing, she’ll be helping out our team with some marketing.SNT: What do you mean by “elite men’s cross country racing is at a critical time”?
CW: When it comes to cross country World Cup participation, there are fewer opportunities for riders to race them, especially the rounds in Europe. It’s become more and more challenging as there are more opportunity costs. For example, there are now great opportunities stateside to launch your career, such as Epic Rides’ races. You have to actively turn away from some of those to do World Cups, but it’s a tall order to go race in Europe without support. My hope is that with the U.S. national team formalizing its program, there will eventually be more support for riders to get their feet wet in Europe. SNT: Does that mean you and the team will be focusing on World Cups in 2018?
CW: We’ll race World Cups and have a presence on the domestic side. Epic Rides events are still a huge focus for our team, and for me, the Whiskey Off Road is still one of my biggest events of the year. Keegan and I will miss out on the Grand Junction Off Road while we’re racing a World Cup, but otherwise, we’ll have a full squad at the Off Road Series. Keegan and I have started our season with the Andalucia Bike Race, a stage race in Spain. In April we do another stage race in Brazil. We are playing catch up with gaining UCI points, so we’ve strategically picked those races. Both are new events for us, so we’re getting to try something a little bit different while also still preparing to race a full World Cup series. Rose and Sofia will kick off their season at the Cactus Cup in Arizona while we’re at the World Cup opener in South Africa. They’ll do all the spring domestic UCI races, and we’ll all meet up at Sea Otter. Of course, we’ll all race nationals. What’s cool about expanding our roster is that we can now be at two places at the same time. SNT: Are the 2020 Olympics part of the team’s plan?
CW: All four of us have talked about the Olympics, and I definitely have my eye on them.
SNT: What did you learn from your 2016 Olympic experience?
CW: I learned a lot. I was struck by how unprepared I was and with how emotionally and physically taxing it is to maintain that type of focus over such a period of time. It took a lot of work to figure out how to maintain that focus. Going into that Olympic qualification process, I’d drawn up a list about why I was doing what I was doing. The Olympics were definitely on that list, but they weren’t at the top. That gave me some perspective and balance so I could handle the bumps along the way better. I love the opportunities that mountain bike racing has brought me - opportunities to travel, explore places on a bike and meet new people. Whether or not things are going as you planned, you still have those opportunities. Yes, there are things that I would have liked to have done differently for the Olympics, but I think I handled the stress fairly well. I’m always still learning, and I’ll try to do things a little better this time around. Keegan was also on the Olympic Long Team in 2016; he had his own experiences, and I think we’ll all learn from each other.SNT: You and Rose have dealt with injuries the past few years. How has that changed you?
CW: For me, it means more time in the gym doing rehab and stretching. I put more emphasis on maintenance and off the bike work, and I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt at the beginning of the race reason. I’ve been working to become a more resilient athlete. Unfortunately, injuries are part of racing at this level. I had surgery for the first time last season so I’ve gained some different perspective. Fortunately, I was able to make a full recovery and come back stronger at the end of the year so now it’s another thing that I know I can handle and overcome.
SNT: How do you juggle running the team and racing?
CW: Technically, TJ [Chloe’s husband] is managing the team, but it’s a challenge, and I’ve had to learn along the way. Back in my days with the Crankbrothers Race Club, I started managing my own race travel and budget. At this point, I don’t know any other way. I put in some long works weeks for the team, but then I appreciate the actual time on my bike even more. I’m not afraid of challenge; I think running the team helps keep balance in my life.
SNT: What trends are you seeing in cross country mountain bike racing?
CW: I don’t see anything dramatic. Mountain biking is still a participant sport. For every racer, there are a huge number of riders for whom racing is not important. For them, it’s about the enjoyment of getting outside and getting exercise and challenging themselves. Cross country racing remains a small piece of what’s happening in mountain biking, but that doesn’t make it any less significant, and we can still inspire others to ride. However, a big change for me for this year is that there will be a short track at the World Cup rounds this year, starting with the second round in the Czech Republic. The short track will be on the Friday ahead of each Sunday’s cross country. The top 10 or 16 finishers at short track will get a top call up for the cross country, which is a big deal. Plus, given short track’s history, this is a huge opportunity for North American racers. For me personally, before I could ever finish in the top 10 of a national-level cross country race, I could fight for a podium in the short track. So this will give other young riders the chance to get extra race experience and for all racers to get more exposure for their sponsors. I really want to be on the start line of the World Cup short tracks which is why I’m working to hard to get the UCI points I need to be there.SNT: What wheels are you riding in 2018?
CW: We're on the Stan’s Podium SRD wheels, and we'll also have some custom-built Crest CB7s. On the performance side, wheels just continue to get better and better. Our current wheels have slightly wider rims than previous wheels, and they have great vertical compliance built into them. They are all around exactly what we want for cross country riding and racing.
SNT: Anything else you want to say?
CW: I’d like to specifically call out how supportive Kenny Wehn of Stan’s NoTubes has been. From year one of our team’s program, he’s been a huge part of what we do, especially for race support. I’m also excited to have our first non-endemic sponsor: Natural Delights. They are our official fresh fruit sponsors.