Many of you will know Christina as Pinkbike video presenter, but did you know she has also finished top 10 at an EWS race? Or that she lived in a tent for almost two months when she moved to Whistler? Join Christina to find out how it all started.
Where are you from?
0:14 - I grew up in Slidell, Louisiana, which if you are not familiar with the United States, it's the most Southern part. I actually loved growing up there. There's no mountains, no elevation whatsoever, but there's a lot of cool culture. We grew up in the woods near the bayou, so it's way different from where I live now.
What was it like growing up there?
0:22 - Early life for me was just super fun. I grew up with three older brothers and I was always trying to hang out with them and keep up with them.
When did you get into sports and how did that pan out?
0:51 - Louisiana is all about sports. I think it was around 10, 11 years old, I finally got my parents to sign me up for soccer. My life took a bit of a change. Hurricane Katrina, you guys might've heard of that. I was 15, 16 at the time and yeah, it just prompted me to get out of Louisiana, moved in with my mom in Kansas at that time. I joined the men's soccer team there, which was really cool experience. I've never actually played on a men's team before that, and yeah, because of that, I got recruited and played college soccer.
What was it like playing college soccer?
1:25 - College soccer was in Kansas at Butler College in El Dorado of all places. It was an awesome experience but honestly, after a year of college competitive sport, I was pretty over it. I needed some change.
What sort of change were you seeking?
1:41 - At that point, I was going into my second year of college so I was 19 years old. I knew I wanted a change. I had been to Colorado with an ex-boyfriend, and I was like, "Man, Kansas is right next to Colorado. What am I doing over here in cowboy town? I could be living in the mountains." So I went to Colorado with pretty much no snowboarding experience, so you could imagine, every season I was there, I was dealing with big injuries, like broken bones and torn MCLs and surgeries, and it kind of became this recurring thing. I'd have fun in the winter and then I'd get a big injury, and then I would spend the rest of summer dealing with it, rehabbing, and then winter would come back and I'd be so stoked again. And yeah, in the summer, I was injured a lot, and so I just had to watch from the grassy fields in Breckenridge at the volleyball court, and I just watched what everybody else was doing, and there was a lot of mountain biking going on.
When were you introduced to mountain biking?
2:30 - And so after about three, four winters in Colorado, I was healthy enough one summer, and my roommate had a mountain bike, a little hardtail. So I was like, "Dude, can I just take your bike out and see what it's all about?" And they're like, "Yeah, sure." Literally, after day one, I was like, "I'm sold. This is my new sport. I now have something to do in the summer when I'm not injured."
When did you get your first mountain bike?
3:04 - From that moment, one of my girlfriends, we snowboarded together and she's like, "Yeah, I'm going to get a mountain bike too." She and I literally had no idea what we were looking for, but we went in, we got matching SCOTT hardtails, 26 inch, all the gears, and we just sent it. A couple of weeks later, I think we went to Moab for a week, and so that's literally where I learned to ride my bicycle, was Moab, and it was just dirt roads. We weren't hitting trails. I don't even know if there were trails back then, but yeah.
How was it for you to get into biking in the beginning?
3:40 - It was hard. I would say all the gear, no idea, but I didn't have any gear. My little helmet back then, I thought it was cool because it looked like the skater helmets. We'd wear high knee high socks to protect my ankles. My first pair of bike shoes was actually an old pair of indoor soccer shoes, because they're like nice and flat and pretty firm. So yeah, I just kind of threw myself in there, but I had no idea what I was doing. So before I knew it, I actually had three bikes. Started on the hard tail cross country bike, then I got the downhill bike for 300 bucks, and then one night at the bar, my buddy sold me his dirt jumper as well. So I just kept saying "Yes, yes, yes. I'll have that."
How did the move to Canada come about?
4:24 - The move from Breckenridge to Whistler was definitely not planned. Again, I just kind of grabbed everything and went. Colorado is known for road riding, extreme athletes and cross country, so I was pretty keen to get out of that scene. I knew that it wasn't going to be for me, and yeah, Whistler bike park, that was... Again, I just worked really, really hard all winter long, saved up enough money to buy a bike park pass and just threw my bikes on the truck, came up and just started riding every day.
What were the early days of Whistler like?
4:58 - I lived out of a tent probably for at least a month, month and a half in Whistler, and then not too long after getting to Whistler, I met my current boyfriend, Sam, and funny story, I was hanging out at Sam's house one night, went back to my tent, and it had been beared. I don't know if that's a technical term, but that's just what I call it. It was a tent in the woods with a little camo tarp over it so nobody would mess with me, and sure enough, a bear came and just tore it apart. There was nothing in there. There was no food, no toothpaste, nothing like that. I think it had just been there for a couple of days. So anyway, that was around midnight. I go back to Sam's house and I'm like, "Oh my God, there was a bear in my tent." And from that moment on, he was like, "Okay, I don't know you, crazy woman, but you can stay at my house because I'd feel really bad if a bear attacked you at nighttime."
When did you know Whistler would be your new home?
5:53 - Coming to Whistler, I had no intention of moving here and making this my long-term home. I just thought, "Hey, I have a bike park pass. Let's go camp, do some biking." But what happened was I came here and day one, I was just blown away and just had to figure out how to stay here a little bit longer. But I just started hanging out at Evolution Bike Shop because as a homeless biker, you need somewhere indoors to hang out sometimes. Once I wiggled my way into that family, again, I knew, okay, I have to come back to Whistler for winter, I love snowboarding, I want to check it out in the winter. And it was my boss there, Jenine, who was like, "Hey, don't waste your time getting a work permit. Let's just get you residency." "Okay, sure. I want to be a resident," and we just immediately went into that process and she held my hand the whole way and supported me, which was pretty awesome. But yeah, it all came together through the bike shop, which is pretty nice, magical.
What prompted the idea to head to Whistler of all places and bike parks?
6:51 - So my first year riding in Colorado, I was just getting used to biking. I rode with a lot of guys that were really good and there weren't many women there at all, which was another reason that I wanted to go to Whistler. I saw that there were people like Katrina Strand and Claire Buchar and Beth Parsons and just some rad women, and Women's Wednesdays, and I was like, "Okay, I got to go be part of this."
When was your first bike race?
7:15 - My first race would have been the second Wednesday that I was in Whistler. They do the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series, and again, I was just like new kid in town, standing there with my bike in the lineup, being not anti-social, but not talking to people because I didn't know anybody. I think I got a top 10 on a Fat Wednesday, which if it's your local hill, you're like, "Ah, whatever." But for me, it was a huge deal. It was my first mountain bike race ever, and it just kind of sucked me in. I thought I wanted to be a downhiller at that point.
What bike did you race then?
7:45 - I was on a Sette. I got it on a deal. I think they had one extra small left for $2,000 or something, and I was like, "Yep, taking it all the way to Whistler."
How did you racing progress after that first Phat Wednesday?
7:56 - My racing career from that first race progressed very slowly. So I was crashing all the time, so the first I would say year or two, it was pretty slow starting. I wasn't actually a good mountain bike rider at that point and so I was just building skills, going to all the Wednesday night races religiously. And then it was probably I want to say three years later, after a couple of downhill injuries, I got introduced to Enduro riding. My first Enduro race was the Squamish Gryphon. It was super low stress, and so I was like, "Oh, I can just go out and ride with some friends." And I actually did really well and I won the amateur category so everybody's like, "Oh, you're sandbagging." This and that, and I was like, "No, no, you don't understand. I have no idea what I'm doing. This just happened. It was a fluke."
I actually won one stage, or I was fastest through a section and I won 100 bucks, and to me, that was amazing because I paid off my race entry. I was stoked. I was going to be able to buy a beer. I was still just living paycheck to paycheck at that point, for sure, as you do with mountain biking. That was right before I broke my foot.
How did you break your foot?!
9:12 - I was going home, caught my pedal on the tires hanging from my handlebars and just hit the ground, smack. I broke the three middle metatarsals in my foot, just completely in half. I went to the doctor, they're like, "She's broke. You need surgery." And I was like, "No, I think I'm fine." And so I just went without the surgery, spent eight weeks on crutches, and that was the rest of the summer. That was all of July, August, September. Took me the whole month just to learn how to walk again.
How did this effect you following your new passion of enduro racing?
9:45 - The next year, I think I did all the BC Enduro series. I'd have to double check, but yeah, we went places like Kamloops, the North Shore, Penticton, some really cool places around BC. I did pretty well. There were some really fast girls, but I think I might've finished second overall in the series that year. Once I had that under my belt, I earned a wild card entry into some of the EWS's, and so the following year, I went to Aspen. That was my first ever EWS. The next month was the Whistler EWS, and I did pretty good. I got 15th at that one and I was like, "All right, things are happening." And so that for me was a bit of a turning point, seeing that not only was Enduro getting more and more popular and bigger, especially for women, but seeing that companies had a bit of interest in it. So people like Transition, back in the day, I think it was Maxxis gave me some tires. And NRG as well, a distribution business, hooked me up with little things here and there. And that just kept stoking the fire to keep doing it.
What has been your best result from racing?
11:01 - Probably the best result that I've had is my sixth place finish at the EWS Whistler in the pro category. That was 2018. Just that entire season, things were happening. I was healthy, I was strong, I did the right stuff in the off season for once, and some other good results that season were I went to Mountain Of Hell race in France, Les 2 Alpes. That is for sure the craziest thing I've ever done on a mountain bike ever. I got second there, and then my other result that I'm really proud of was second at Trans BC Enduro, which is six days of Enduro racing in British Columbia.
What has been your worst race result?
11:42 - My worst race result and probably worst race experience would have been Canazei, Italy. The Dolomites in Italy. That was 2019. I actually got heat stroke on race day. The temperatures there, they were gnarly. That was the year that Tour de France, riders were dropping out like flies. It was so hot, the Eiffel tower was expanding, and we were in the Dolomites, just suffering.
So it was after stage one of that race. It was pretty grueling, top to bottom, big stage one, got to the bottom. I was dry heaving and doing some pretty weird things, but nothing really out of the ordinary, I would say. And then we were going over to stage two, I got to the top where everybody was hanging out, getting ready to drop in, and I just started projectile vomiting, like out of a movie. Everybody around me was like, "Oh my God, what is happening? This girl's dying in front of us." And of course, as you do, you've gone all that way. You're going to do the darn race, and so I was like, "Well, I'm here. I got to get back down to the valley. I'm going to run this stage." Did the stage, actually had a pretty good stage, but at the end of the stage, I basically collapsed onto the ground.
And so long story short, for whatever reason, I thought I could get to stage three, even after all that. And Georgia was with me and we got on the gondola together, we're going up stage three and I was just puking in the gondola, so far gone that she's like, "Christina, you're going to stay in the gondola. You're going to go down." And I'm like, "But I want to get out and ride." And she's like, "No." So thank God Georgia did because who knows what would've happened? I could have freaking passed out while riding and have a much worse story to tell. But yeah, at the end of that stage, I just casually walked over to the ambulance there. They're all Italian, just hanging out, and I was like, "Hey, I'm sure it's nothing, but I don't feel so good and I just threw up a lot." And they checked all my signs and everything and literally five seconds later, I was down in the ambulance getting an IV. I just left my bike off in a bush, that's how dead I was to the world, and I spent the rest of the day in the IV tent, just getting back to normal.
So that was what we'd call a DNF. It's about as bad as it gets, did not finish. That was a bit of a doozy.
How did the rest of summer 2019 look for you after the heat stroke?
14:15 - I was having an awesome summer, just big days on the bike, again, building up for this Whistler EWS. It's the hometown, you want to do good. I was leading the Wednesday Night Downhill Series by that point which, if you're local, it's a pretty prestigious thing. World Cup Wednesday, most people know about it. But yeah, a couple days before Crankworx rolled into town, we always have the final Wednesday night race, and it was down Schleyer to Canadian Open. It's the famous race right before Crankworx. I had no business being there because I should have been resting, getting ready for the EWS, but I was like, "You know what? This will be good practice. If I can ride this on my trail bike at a good speed, then I know I'll be ready for the EWS." But I had a super nasty crash. We've got some good pictures of that. I broke a rib, I broke my wrist again, and I was gutted.
I was on the side of the trail. That feeling that you get when you haven't even hit the ground but you're still airborne, and you're just like, "This sucks." Not only because I'm going to be injured, but all this preparation I've been doing to be at the EWS, to get a good result, it's gone now. I can't ride.
What was your first race back after that injury?
15:40 - My first race back, I believe it was Trans-Cascadia. It's a four day race in Washington, Oregon. I had already paid for it and so that was my goal. And always, when you get injured, you can't just sit there and wallow in self-pity. You have to make a goal and carry on with it. So I broke my wrist, it was probably July 30th, two weeks before the EWS. And I told myself, "Okay, you're doing nothing. You're going to totally get better. You're going to Trans-Cascadia." And honestly, when I went down there, I was driving down to Washington and just, I didn't know. I didn't know if I could do it. I hadn't really ridden a bike until that moment.
"Let's just do it." And I took it stage by stage, day by day, had the most fun ever, but was in a ton of pain obviously. I did well, I got second at that one, so I was pretty jazzed.
How did the relationship with Pinkbike form?
16:34 - And then a couple of weeks after that, Jason at Pinkbike reached out and was like, "Hey, you want to do a Hot Lap
?" And I just said, yes. I knew that this opportunity probably wasn't going to come back around again, so I was like, "Yep, down. Let's do it." The relationship started to build a little bit more, a little bit more, and then I think it was Brian and Jason, they kind of reached out and just said, "Hey, do you want to have a chat?" Just, let's see what our options are, if you'd maybe be interested in helping Pink Bike at that point.
I don't think I had in mind that anything was really going to come of it, anything big or life changing even, but I was like, "Oh yeah, sure. Maybe we could do a full Enduro series with me next year instead of Zoe, or we could do Privateer or something." But little did I know, it's going to be the full meal deal. Lucky me.
What were your initial thoughts at the time of job offer?
17:30 - There were many emotions. I think when the offer came on the table, it was immediately, "Yes. Whatever I got to do, yes. Let's do this. Let's build on it."
What was the transition in jobs like for you?
17:44 - Honestly though, I had no idea what I was getting into. It was also, it was a bit daunting, going from what I would say is an easy job, you know? Shop life is fun. There's no stress when you walk out at the end of the day, you're not taking any of that business with you. People just get to interact with you. They're on vacation, they're there to have fun and you're there to stoke them up. So I guess it was a bit natural transition in that way. I still love stoking people up, I'm always myself, which is how I would have been in the shop as well, so I guess I haven't changed a lot myself, just my job title.
What is the hardest part of your job?
18:22 - The hardest part of my job for me is being original, coming up with ideas that people want to see, that people are interested in, that somebody that's a bit newer to the sport can actually learn something. And maybe somebody that's been in the sport for a while, maybe they just keep learning more, or I can enlighten them to something that they hadn't thought about before. But yeah, it's really hard to be creative and come up with these videos that people actually want to watch.
What is the best part of your job?
18:53 - The best part of my job? I would say... That's a tough one. I love my coworkers, especially the video team. Everybody really meshes well together. When I go work with anybody, I don't feel like I need to do anything out of my comfort zone or be someone that I'm not, and I think that's really important.
What did 2020 entail with the first year at your new job with the video team?
19:15 - For me, making the videos on Pinkbike and more of the tutorial, information-based stuff, it just opens up a whole new level. Not only are we pulling in these Pinkbike viewers that already know how to ride a bike, already know how to send some drops and they can get better at it, and just creating this level of progression. The little videos that I've been doing lately, it's awesome work for me because it literally makes me stop and practice these maneuvers myself, which is something I haven't spent enough time on in the past. But then it's also bringing together so many different people, people new to the sport. And if nothing else, I think it's a really cool way to bridge the gap of say the parents and the kids. Kids these days, they're like getting good, getting good, riding with the parents, and then all of a sudden, they're way better than the parents and it's just no fun anymore. And the parents are like, "Okay, go off and have fun without me." My little riding buddy's gone now. So if we can bridge that gap and maybe a mom and a son can watch a video like that together, and then they can go find a little feature to session. Everybody's progressing and getting better, but more than anything, I think it's about having fun, not taking it too seriously, and just letting the sky be the limit. Don't ever top yourself out.
What have you got planned for 2021?
20:38 - Moving forward, in 2021, I want to get back to the things that I love, that keep me super stoked on mountain biking. So racing's obviously a big one, traveling, for me, is a huge deal, interacting with the local communities, having your bike be a way that you can do that. It's so cool when you go somewhere, you don't speak the language, but because you're on a bicycle and homie over here is on a bicycle, it's like you guys can communicate, you can have a sick run down. I would love... My ideal situation would be to get back to the races, but to offer some awesome behind the scenes kind of videos for the viewers out there, because a lot of times, what you see are the highlight reels or, "Oh, Richie Rude won again, and Cecile Ravanel won again. And that's fun and they're awesome people to look up to, but the reason I do mountain biking and the reason I like to be competitive is totally different.
It's the camaraderie that you get with it and the adventure, and going these places that you can't drive or you can't get a gondola to. I definitely want to bring a bit more of enlightenment of those places to the viewers, and just inspire them to get out there and do something different.
What suggestions do you have for those looking to get in to mountain biking?
21:54 - I would say for the people that want to get into the sport or just want to pursue it further, be inspired by those around you. Don't let little obstacles get in your way. I went from literally not knowing how to ride a bike to being a competitive racer on the scene in a couple of years, and it wasn't just because I was born with this natural talent. It was because I literally poured all my energy and all my passion into this sport. Even if you get into it and you're in the masters category, it's never too late. Everybody bikes. It's for everyone.