With the launch of this year’s Diamonds in the Dirt Women’s Only event, we would like to introduce the Rocky Trail Women’s Ambassador 2019: Gwynn McLeod. Gwynn contacted us a few days ago and told us that she wanted to “become an ambassador of females in MTB”. It was perfect timing as we were working on preparing the Diamonds launch and we think she is a perfect fit for this role.
Gwynn has been a #rockytrailracer for many years and as a Fizo Cycling team rider has been a regular at our start lines – and podiums at that! I admire her tremendously – she has always such a positive attitude, always a smile on her face out on track, she is such a talented rider and a determined racer at that – in the I’d like to share the chat we had recently. I hope she inspires you the way she has motivated me.
Enjoy the read, Juliane
I’ve been wondering about being an ambassador for women in MTB for a while, because a recurring theme when I talk to women about mountain biking is ‘I could never do that!’ And all these beautiful strong women really could do it if they wanted, but so many of them don’t know where or how to start.Gwynn McLeod
- Name: Gwynn McLeod
- My home track: Stromlo, Majura Pines, Bruce Ridge and various tracks around Canberra
- I’ve been riding since: 2005
- I’ve been racing since: 2006
- I ride for: FIZO Cycling
My chat with Juliane from Rocky Trail:
J: Gwynn, you’ve been one of the rising stars on the Canberran and national endurance racing circuit, what’s your riding background?
G: I started off on a mountain bike in 2005 and have never looked back really! I have done a little downhill riding, and some road riding (under protest!) but the challenge of riding off road has always caught me.
J: When did you catch the racing bug?
G: I entered my first race as a team of six in the Mont 24 Hour in 2006. I was not very fast, co-ordinated or fit, but i loved the adrenaline rush of trying to do a lap of a mountain bike course as fast as I could. I’m fairly (read VERY) competitive as well so the race spurred me on to find another one to see how much better I could do. I realised that I was much better at longer races than shorter ones and started to enter more of those. Then I made the podium for some of the races I was entering. I decided in 2012 that I would enter my first solo 24 hour, and I have been doing it ever since.
J: What are your favourite distances or race formats?
G: XCO racing is way too short for me, I’m barely warmed up by the time it finishes! I love long lap based races, like the Rocky Trail Shimano MTB GP 7 hour and the ultimate – a 24 hour race. These sorts of races really let me just get into a race at my own pace, allow me to chat with anybody I encounter on the track and just really enjoy the trails. Admittedly there is not much enjoyment, chatting or relaxing when completing laps at 2am. I can never keep up with Moxie if we do short punchy rides, but I smash him on the long rides!
J: Tell us about your 24 Hour Solo racing experience in Australia and overseas!
G: It’s a team experience. It would be so hard – impossible even – to do a 24 hour mountain bike race on your own. I get the easy job of just riding around in circles and Moxie gets the super hard job of supporting me from the pits, feeding me, making sure my bike is good for 24 hours and generally motivating me to just keep riding around the track. 24 hours in the saddle is hard work, but all the help I get from the pits makes it easier for me to commit to each lap and not be tempted to stop. The atmosphere and the people at these races is just amazing and is one of the reasons I just keep coming back.
Racing in Scotland was far and away the wettest race I have ever been in – there was not a dry spot on me by the end of the race! The rain started as the field rode the first straight and didn’t finish until we had completed our full 24 hours. I found it very hard to find motivation to keep going at 4am, but everyone who was helping me and all the other racers out there kept me going, and again the people and the atmosphere were completely amazing.
J: You’ve been racing at Rocky Trail events for years and be at the start of all their cross-country events this year. As one of the ‘leading ladies’ in the field, what is the racing experience like?
G: I have been at Rocky Trail events for a few years now! The Rocky Trail experience is awesome. I believe that the people at these events are the reason that they are so good. Julianne and Martin put on such a well run event, and everyone racing is always so polite and happy and chatty on the trails, it’s always a great day out! As a female racer, I’ve had my share of male racers who don’t want to be ‘chicked‘ and won’t let me pass, but the Rocky Trail races have a different attitude on course and passing other riders – and being passed! – is never a problem. If a female mountain biker wanted to try an endurance race, then any of the Rocky Trail races would be perfect if they have never raced before.
J: We get a lot of women who say they want to give events a go, do you have an action plan you could recommend?
G: Get out on the bike. Sticking to a training program doesn’t matter that much, but you need to get used to the feel of the bike, what you can do on it and also get used to sitting on it for periods of time. Try not to be discouraged if you don’t get all those training sessions in – we all get passed, it’s going to happen!!! And make sure your bike fits you! I cannot recommend highly enough ensuring that your bike is comfortable, it will make any riding experience more enjoyable, not just racing.
J: Do you have a strict training regime?
G: I do when I am training for a big race. I am up a 5am 2-3 mornings per week to do indoor training sessions, and I manage to squeeze in 2-3 hours on the trails during the week. I do longer sessions on the weekend when I have more time, usually 4-6 hours over the weekend. I have a very dedicated training partner who makes me breakfast on those early mornings after training too! When I am not training for a big race I love social riding and just riding when I feel like it, usually 3-4 times per week, but whatever comes along really.
J: When you ride for fun, which trail(s) do you pick?
G: Stromlo is my first pick, but any of the trails around Canberra will guarantee an awesome ride.
J: At race start, what do we find in your jersey back pockets?
G: Pump, multi tool, and an emergency gel! I have a tube and a CO2 canister on the bike, but I travel as light as possible.
J: What’s your go-to-breakfast on race day and how do you recover? What do you snack on during the race?
G: I am so high maintenance when it comes to my food….breakfast before a race is always a banana smoothie, which doesn’t sound like much but it has eggs, berries, almonds, milk and yoghurt in it, so it’s quite a solid meal. I snack on bananas and dates during the day while racing but during the night I generally need more energy intake so I have a couple of slices of pizza per lap. I will also drink 3-6 bottles of electrolytes per race, depending on the length of the race.
Recovery is chocolate milk! And any leftover pizza I can scrounge….and then pretty much anything else edible that crosses my field of vision….
J: Have you checked out the race track for the Shimano MTB GP at Stromlo this year already? Any tips?
G: I have checked it out, and it’s a very cool course with some challenging parts! My tip is to enjoy the awesome downhill sections, and just keep tapping out the pedally bits – the fun of the downhill will erase the memory of the pain of pedalling every time!
J: We’ll see you at Rocky Trail events across NSW and at Stromlo Forest Park, what other major events are you planning to do this year? – Will you be at the Diamonds in the Dirt in July?
G: I will Definitely be at Diamonds in the Dirt! Most anticipated event of the year!
I am also aiming to complete three 24 hour races this year, starting with the JetBlack 24 Hour at the end of this month. I am then training up for the National 24 hour championships in October and the WEMBO Oceania 24 hour championships in November.
And to finish off the year I will be at the Jetblack Wild Wombat 12 hour – what an amazing race to finish off the year with!
I would really love to see more women in mountain biking as I really hate to hear ladies say things like ‘I can’t’ and ‘I could never’ and ‘wow I wish I was as fit/motivated/crazy/energetic as you’! Ladies, you can! Long races, and racing in general is not for everyone, but riding a bike, anyone can do that, and it’s fun. Being able to ride trails on your own, and be self sufficient is a source of great personal confidence for me. It took me a long time to get to that point, and it’s such a positive thing for all riders, but especially us ladies, to realise that we can do it, and we can do it on our own, but share the experience with like minded people.Gwynn McLeod
Thanks Gwynn, we love having you on board!