Christina Chappetta moved to Whistler six years ago soon after discovering mountain biking at the age of 22 when living in Colorado. She works 40 hours a week all year to pay for her racing habit, and until this year, her top finish in an Enduro World Series was 14th. This year she surprised everyone, including herself, with a career-best finish of 6th place. She recently became a Canadian resident, and we caught up with her on the Tuesday after her race to understand more about what she did differently this year to prepare, and what it's really like living the dream full time in Whistler.
How long have you been in Whistler?Christina:
I've been coming to Whistler for just over six years and probably three years full time. So six years on and off, then three years full time and now I'm a Canadian resident.
Where did you move here from?Christina:
I came here from Colorado, but I actually grew up in Louisiana. I lived in Colorado for four years though. My last year there, I learned about mountain biking and my friend showed me all these awesome bike videos from Whistler. Then the next spring, I moved to Whistler. Just for the summer at the time - me, my truck and three bikes. At the end of the summer, I was just like, "I have to get back here. I will do whatever it takes." I came back, spent the winter and then the rest is history. I'm still here and I don't plan to leave anytime soon.
How are you feeling the day after your first single-digit EWS finish?Christina:
Yeah, I'm feeling pretty psyched, pretty excited, but really tired, because I pretty much went home right after the race and went to sleep because I had to get up at 3:30 this morning for Deep Summer
. I didn't want to let my friends down, so I just rallied and yeah, we all headed to the alpine at like 4:00 am. So I'm pretty tired, but I had a little nap today before more filming again later tonight.
Did you help out with Deep Summer before the EWS or did you just start riding for that today? Christina:
I just jumped in today. They get three days and so they already filmed Saturday and Sunday, so today was my last chance to jump in and help out and lend a hand to Chris Pilling. Hopefully he does well. I'm pretty tired after yesterday, but definitely still buzzing so it helps.
So did you have any big crashes yesterday?Christina:
I didn't have any big crashes. I definitely had two crashes that were quite annoying, because I crashed there in practice. They weren't big crashes, but they were just awkward little mistakes that pull you off your bike. Mini moments, but probably just two real crashes, maybe three.
What was your best EWS result before yesterday?Christina:
Last year, I came 14th and the year before that, I got 15th, so I was pretty happy to be making some gains and moving up a bit. I was hoping for a better result than 14th this year, but I really surprised myself and I'm stoked it all paid off at the hometown race as well.
How much of an advantage do you think you have as a local to Whistler?Christina:
I definitely had an advantage knowing the track somewhat, but to crack into that top ten against the best riders in the world - they don't need the advantage of knowing the tracks. They are that good, they can just show up and throw down. So I think it helped a bit but it's definitely a nice reward to have a good result close to home with all the cheering and the support.
How many EWS races have you done before?Christina:
Good question. I did the Aspen race a couple years ago, Ireland and Madeira last season. One, two, three, four, five, six, maybe this was my sixth.
Are you planning on going to Spain and Finale?Christina:
Yeah, I’m doing Spain and Italy and my family will be there and my boyfriend, so it will be cool to make a little trip out of it and not get so overwhelmed with two weekends of racing back to back. That's a lot.
How did you prepare differently for the EWS race this week?Christina:
The course this year was really different to last year’s. It was kind of hard to prepare, because you want to do a lot of pre-riding, but I've been out of town a lot this week and when I am in town, I'm working, trying to pay for the next vacation. So I guess this year it was just trying to ride some scary trails and just to get used to the loose, really, really dry conditions, but just never riding too much, because Whistler is always known to be the biggest day of the season as far as EWS goes, so I wanted to save some legs for the big race. But yeah, there wasn't as much pedaling as usual, so it was kind of nice. I think everybody could give it a bit more on the actual stages and not be so gutted from the transfers and everything in between.
So did you do more for your fitness this year or was it similar to last year?Christina:
I think I was better about training in the winter, doing indoor cycling at TAG and doing a bit of Meadow Park gym stuff, so I think I came into the season stronger. But as the season goes on, you break down a little bit - you’re not going to the gym, you're not going to indoor classes, you're just riding. I also had a trip to France earlier this year and did the Trans BC in the month of July, so I just some big days on the bike to get me prepared.
Tell me about the trip to France that you did. What was that for?Christina:
That was crazy. On a whim, I applied with WORCA, the local cycling association for this trip to France to go to Les 2 Alpes and participate in the Mountain of Hell race. It was something I probably would have never actually signed myself up for, but something I've always wanted to do and so just to be given that opportunity totally out of nowhere, I couldn't say no. So I went to the race with the Whistler Delegation which was awesome, because we had the Mayor there, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, president of WORCA, and more. And some of us did the actual Mountain of Hell race which was probably the craziest thing I've ever done on a bike - a mass start with 700 plus people and yeah, on top of a glacier, so after you do that, it's a 46 minute downhill for me, Top of the World seems quite achievable for me. It's like okay, 26 minutes, I can do this, this is cool. I actually did well. I got second there against a local French lady, Ripper, so it was definitely a good feeling.
Was it an alliance between Whistler and France? Christina:
Yeah, so the Les 2 Alpes invited Whistler over to share ideas and see how we as Whistler survive as a year-round resort. So it's kind of a sister city slash sister resort kind of friendship now. Nobody's signed any contracts or anything like that, but we're going to be best friends forever. It was really cool to go over there, learn how they do things, how they succeed. They've hosted Crankworx in the past, so they're obviously really knowledgeable in skiing and mountain biking, but I think they learned a lot from us, as well, and just kind of seeing how we crush it as a year-round resort in Whistler.
How do you support your racing?Christina:
I work really hard when I do actually work. I work a lot, over 40 hours a week kind of thing. I work at Evolution Bike Shop in town and so they're amazingly supportive as far as helping me get discounts on product when I need it. Bike parts are super expensive. They let me take off work any time I want. It's never a question of, "Oh, can I go to this event," or, "Should I take a day off," it's like, "Go do it. Live your dream." Yeah, just having good bosses that have got your back. I've also been working with Tag Cycling this winter, which is awesome because I can be paid to train. I work as a coach with them and it keeps me in shape and helps me share the stoke with other people - older, younger, all ages.
So, most of the year you work 40 hours a week?Christina:
Yes. I would say so. Winter is definitely like hunker down time. I love to snowboard. I usually don't get a bike or a winter pass because I just want to put that 1,400 dollars into race registrations or plane tickets or whatever it is that I need. So usually in the winter, I work a lot and then in the summer, I can take off a couple weeks here and a couple weeks there. But yeah, it's tough, because you come back home and you don't really get a rest time. You just have to go straight back into work and it's really busy working at the shop and just constantly giving your energy out.
So paying for all of your own race registrations must add up to quite a bit during the summer?Christina:
Yeah, it's kind of scary to think about. I think Trans BC alone as a dirt bagger is like 1,200 dollars, so then you add a couple hundred dollar, 200 dollar days on top of that and you've spent thousands of dollars at races. I got a late entry into Air DH this week and was like "100 bucks, like I'm going to Spain next month. Can I actually afford to take 100 bucks and put into just a fun race that's simply for pleasure?" and the answer was yes, because YOLO and money comes and goes and so you might as well enjoy it while you got it.
Are you buying all of your own bikes and components and everything at this time?Christina:
No, thank God, because Transition helps me with frames, Maxxis helps with tires, We Are One Components out of Kamloops for wheels, so yeah, I get a lot of support but things add up. You get a frame and some wheels and still have to buy drive chains and suspension and if your bike breaks, hopefully you have a second bike there to help out. So yeah, I can't thank those companies enough. They for sure are the reason I can keep doing this. I couldn't afford it otherwise. So yeah, I hope in the future something comes of it, maybe I can get a little more money to do some more events and just travel more, because that's what I find the most exciting is experiencing other cultures and communities and being able to ride my bike and do some racing along the way.
How is different racing the EWS at Whistler which is in your backyard versus like showing up at Madeira, Portugal and going straight into a grueling race?Christina:
It's super different, like you're just completely out of your comfort zone. The trails are usually not what you would be riding at home, nothing similar, which is why we all live where we live. We love the trails that we ride. So yeah, it's awesome to go experience different terrain and see how other people build trails and what they find fun. I love it. It's definitely a good test of your abilities to be able to adapt, but yeah, it's a lot harder. Being able to sleep in my own bed and cook breakfast in my kitchen is super nice. Whenever I do go travel, I just try to be comfortable and have a nice little setting where you can still get your calm and collective zen mode on and have a good ride.
How did you get into riding?Christina:
I didn't start riding until I was 22, when I lived in Colorado. Everybody cross-country biked there but every summer I was injured from snowboarding accidents, so I never really had a chance to try it out until one year I was finally healthy and I borrowed my friend's bike. It was a Kona hardtail or something but literally that day, I was sold and I was like, "I have to have a bike." And that summer I bought three bikes - a downhill bike, a trail bike and a dirt jumper. I kind of fully committed, just jumped right into it. I finally found my niche and yeah, I'm stoked. I can't thank my friends enough for making me try it and showing me sweet bike videos of stuff I never knew existed.
Were you a competitive person growing up?Christina:
I was definitely a competitive person. I grew up with three older brothers who were very sporty and so I kind of always had that competitive nature in a way, but never really had a sport that was mine. I played soccer and ran track and some other things, but I was never 100% committed to it until biking. I loved snowboarding and I still love snowboarding, but I never found that drive with snowboarding in the way that I did with biking.
So you grew up with three older brothers, do they still ride?Christina:
No. One of my brothers visited last year with his little boys. He now lives in Arkansas and so we did go mountain biking which was awesome, because I've never been better than him at something and I could actually show him a few things and he was super proud and just inspired by me, because we haven't hung out together for years. I've been away from home for so long and so having him come out to visit was pretty awesome and then the fact that we got to go biking and now he's into biking and his little boys are going to grow up and be bikers now too is pretty cool.
Who do you usually ride with when you're in Whistler?Christina:
I've got a lot of friends I've met through the shop, co-workers, old co-workers, my boyfriend Sam, he's one of the first people I met in Whistler and he's an amazing rider, not much of a racer, but he definitely shows me the lines and gives me someone to chase which is awesome. And the girl crew here is very, very strong - that's for sure why I moved here.
Being one of the only ladies where I lived that mountain biked, I needed someone else to ride with that wasn't just chasing the guys down the mountain and so when I kind of like saw how much of a following there was here in Whistler, I was like, "I gotta go be part of that. That's where the best riders in the world live," and it's true. You get on the chairlift here and anybody, like anybody on any bike wearing anything is probably a better rider than you. So you just take it all in, you follow everyone, you learn something new from all the people and everyone's really nice. My first couple days here, nobody could really believe my story. They're like, "You did what? You drove here by yourself from Colorado," and I'm just like, "Yeah," and they're like, "Alright, follow me. We're going to Freight Train or Original Sin," and I was in way over my head, but it did help. They just kind of threw me in the deep end and was like, "Sweet. This is Whistler. This is what you do, I guess."
So you saw videos of Whistler and then you decided to move here?Christina:
Yeah. Pretty much. I think Follow Me and Seasons, were probably the first mountain bike videos I saw, which are actually a bit later in the mountain bike history of things, so when people reference like old Cranked movies it's a bit over my head. I'm like, "I don't really know those ones. I kind of jumped into biking when dual suspension was good, so I'm a little bit late to the game, but I think mountain biking was at a pretty awesome time at that point and so it made it possible for anyone to do it. So I was like, "I can be that anyone. I can ride a bike."
So what are your big lofty goals in mountain biking and for the future?Christina:
Well, yesterday I definitely achieved many goals. I don't think I've ever even had a top 10 stage finish, so just to get a couple of those in a day was pretty amazing. Yeah, definitely having that result yesterday was awesome.
The big goal's just to enjoy the ride. I do like the big races. I feel like I wouldn't personally push myself or my friends wouldn't push me to ride that hard, that long, that committed and so I like the big, scary races, the big, long, downhills like in Mountain of Hell. Trans BC's also an amazing experience. It's six days of bike camp, so you just get to have a ton of fun on the bike, but you're also progressing as a rider. Yeah, it would be awesome to work with some really cool companies that support women and support local communities, as well, because living in Whistler, like there's a lot going on here. There are so many opportunities and cycling clubs and yeah, anybody in the future that I could potentially work with and grow as a rider, I kind of hope that they have similar views in that way.