Husky Featured Rider: Bridget Linder

Leading up to the 2010 Edmonton Canada Cup, each month from April on, we’re going to be highlighting one feature racer, getting their thoughts on the upcoming 2010 Edmonton Canada Cup, plus any insights they have in general on riding and racing in Edmonton, Alberta and across Canada. No matter if you’re a seasoned vet, or new to the mtb scene, these Husky Feature Racer articles will worth checkin’ out!

Our Husky Feature racer of the month for June, is none other than team Hardcore Bikes, Bridget Linder. If you’re from Edmonton, you’ll likely recognize Bridget as she’s been sporting that iconic Hardcore green for number a years now in the women’s elite category. In this article she talks about her very first race, what’s so great about riding in Edmonton and balancing her racing goals with ‘real life’. Here we go:

Let’s start out with a little history on how you got into riding and racing. What’s the Bridget Linder Story?

I dabbled with mountain biking when I was in high school growing up in Kamloops. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel like my time in Kamloops was wasted. Maybe not wasted, but it was definitely spent doing other things like basketball and volleyball. I rode a bit, but my friends that rode were spread out across the city and I really didn’t get out much. Prior to Uni, I sold my bike, bought a cheap four-wheeled vehicle complete with a combustion engine and moved to Calgary. My passion for cycling remained but I didn’t own a bike or have any friends that rode. After a year or two without a bike I caved and bought a sweet used Rocky Vertex with a Mag 21R and Kooka cranks. I credit any of my technical descending skills to using this oversized (19”, I ride a 17”), under suspensioned bike as a shuttle bike during my summers home in Kamloops. Unfortunately, this didn’t help my climbing!

Fast forward to the day I met my husband… I think Dave fell in love with my Kooka cranks before he fell in love with me. Dave loved cycling and had been mountain bike racing for a few years before we met. Dave was my “in” to mountain bike racing, which was something I’d only dreamed about before meeting him. With a new riding partner/racer (and much more) I had finally found my way into the sport.

Do you remember your first race?

My first race was the 2002 CAUSE Canada Race for Human Rights. This seemed like an ironic first race. It was snowing, muddy, freezing and the most painful racing experience of my life. My V brakes lasted one lap and I broke my rear shifter while trying to shift with my fist because my fingers had literally frozen solid. I would say I’ve never been happier to finish a race, but it was my first, so all I can say is that I was ecstatic to finish, and only mildly hypothermic.

I knew that everything would be easier compared to this first race experience. I continued to recreational racing over the next couple of years until I found myself unexpectedly upgraded to Elite and completely out of my league. I retired. Saying “I retired” makes it sound like I gave up, what I did was recognize that I needed to ride more to compete at that level.

Dave and I moved to Edmonton almost three years ago. We hooked up with Hardcore our first summer here. I went out to volunteer for the Hardcore Devon Dust Up and ended up racing on Karen Martins hardtail. After my two years off I was hooked again and decided it was time to put in a solid training effort. Living in Edmonton and riding with Hardcore enabled me to bring my cycling to a new level. Before, I had no idea that it was possible to live in a city AND have wicked singletrack minutes from your doorstep. I used to be a weekend warrior and now I’m out at least four times a week, work and weather permitting. I credit Edmonton, its amazing cycling community and the passionate cyclists at Hardcore with any improvements I’ve made over the last couple years.

Sounds like you ride and train quite a bit, so how does it fit into your life? How do you manage your racing goals?

I love riding. I would love to quite my job and train and race. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, reality bites sometimes. Currently (as if that will someday change), I train around my full time job as an environmental planner. This is a really busy year for me and I don’t have the time to get as many training hours as I did last year. Then again, last year I was training for triathlon, which required a lot more time. I had a plan for this year that seems to be crumbling but I’m trying not to stress about it because that will just bring me down. You have to be flexible and adjust your goals as the season and life progresses. I was hoping for top 10 at Edmonton Canada Cup and top 15 at Nationals but it all depends on who shows up. In my dream world I wouldn’t be more than 10 minutes back of the leaders in Canmore but right now, with my slack training, it seems like a far off dream. The Edmonton Canada Cup course was so great last year that I think it will attract more competition so top 10 may be a stretch.

I have to ask here, what’s it like racing against Pepper, and that cyclo-cross bike of hers?

Haha. You’ll have to ask Pepper about her CX love affair. For me, I love my CX bike and I love CX racing. I really love it. However, when it comes time to mountain bike race I like to use the right tool for the job.

You mentioned the Canada Cup course, so what was your experience at last year’s Edmonton Canada Cup?

Last year it was HOT, I mean it must have been over 30C! I was there way too early cheering and felt drained before the race even started. It was the first time I had ever trained and peaked for a race so I wasn’t sure what to expect. In the end I was satisfied with how the race played out but it left me pumped to go at it again in Canmore. It was a surprisingly small field last year, but as I said before, I think that’s going to change this year.

My absolute favourite part of the race was passing men on the 2pm drop. Oh sure, they passed me again soon afterwards, but passing men at all, let alone a technical section, doesn’t happen very often for us women, so I basked in the ‘glory,’ albeit briefly. I have to admit, I’ve only looked at the 2pm drop this year, I’m not sure I feel as confident as I did last year (i.e., it makes me nervous).

My least favourite part of the race was when a back-of-the-packer from the men’s race thought that his race was more important than mine and ran me off the trail in a narrow section. One of the realities of women’s racing is that it is always second string to men’s.

I think it is fantastic that any city can hold a mountain bike race in its core. It is even more fantastic that it is the city in which I live. It’s unbelievable and I think that it is easy for alocal to take it for granted. I admit that I was skeptical about river valley riding before I moved here from Calgary. This skepticism is prevalent among non-Edmontonians and I think that’s why there was a lower turnout for the Edmonton CC than the Canmore CC. Canmore is associated with the outdoors and mountain biking and Edmonton is a city with river valley paths, at least that’s what people think. After last year’s race people’s perceptions will have changed. I’m optimistic, I think this is going to be a bigger turnout and hopefully will bring in more local spectators to come see what this sport is all about. Having an easily accessible race enables all types of people – including youth and families – to spectate and potentially recruit new racers for the future.

Keeping on the topic of women’s racing then, what’s your opinion on the local Women’s MTB scene?

We’re pretty thin on women’s mtb racers. The trick is hooking them young. It’s great to get into it later in life, but I think to really develop the sport and competition it helps to at least be exposed to it at a younger age, for instance, in high school. The Catch-22 is that to attract youth we need more women mountain biker role models.

The other problem is that mountain bike racing is expensive. I’m not even talking about the bike and equipment – I’m talking about licensing, race registration, and travel. I think local grassroots events like Hardcore’s Fat Tire Tuesdays are fantastic for the sport, for women and men. It’s a low-key, inexpensive ($5) way to try out racing. The only problem is that you still need ABA insurance so people, even the newbies, need to plan ahead and join a club.

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