So first things first. How did it feel when you finally got the confirmation that you had a factory ride for 2017. Did it take a while to really sink in, or has that not even happened yet?
I honestly don’t think it has sunk in yet. To be a part of Specialized Gravity is quite literally a dream come true. Unfortunately, I missed the first team camp due to a broken wrist, so I think once we all meet up in New Zealand and start working and riding together it will feel legit. As a result, what has been the most immediate change in your day to day life?
At the start of January, I was able to take a step back from working full time and transition into training every day. I’m still training the same amount of hours but the quality of work has increased as well as the opportunity for recovery. When you’re working full time as well as training full time you can fall into a feeling of constant exhaustion. You also don’t have any freedom, you can’t afford to take any time off. You have been supported by Specialized for quite a while, so were you always looking to continue this relationship or is it just coincidence that everything aligned the way it has this year.
Specialized Canada first started supporting me in 2013 and I got to know the Global Team a little bit better this last season. Of course if the opportunity to stay with Specialized was available I was keen on it—you’d be crazy not to! Everyone has been really supportive and welcoming to me, including me on trips last year to EWS rounds when really they had no commitment to do so. I made it clear that in 2017 I wanted to race a full season of downhill no matter what and they gave me the best opportunity to do so. As a privateer, what was your source of income over the past few seasons, and how hard was it to work, train, travel and fund the whole program?
I’ve worked at a Squamish bike shop, Corsa Cycles, off and on for about 13 years. The owners have been unreal by giving me a job in the winter (slow season) and letting me take all of the summer off to go racing. And for the past five years or so they’ve also been my landlords offering me affordable rent as well as many other perks. Selling bikes at the end of the season would help pay for my way to a few rounds. The key would be to make and save as much as possible, make sure I had enough to pay rent and the bills at home all summer and then spend the rest on racing. I’d be broke at the end of each season, but I’d always make sure I was never in the negative. You kind of have to disconnect yourself from money when you’re spending it on something that doesn’t necessarily offer a return, at least in the traditional sense. You’ll spend it and you’ll make more. I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on mountain biking, but it doesn’t owe me a thing.
Also, Squamish is a community of people that love mountain biking and are very open to the idea of what I’m doing; I’ve received a lot of love from Squamish.
|I've spent thousands and thousands of dollars on mountain biking, but it doesn't owe me a thing.| A lot of folks think your place on a factory team has been long overdue. Is that a sentiment you also share? There has also been a lot of discussion about women's racing and sponsorship opportunities, do you believe it was harder for you to break through than for some of your male counterparts?
I don’t believe that. I think that this is the first year I deserve a place on a factory team. Racing as a privateer isn’t easy, and I’m so stoked that I don’t have to anymore, but it also has helped me become who I am. It’s hard but it’s far more important to focus on all the great things that I do have, instead of the things that I don’t. I’ve worked hard to be here, and I plan on continuing to do so as there are many things I’d like to accomplish.
I think that I had it better than most privateers out there. I was a lucky one who got to pit with SRAM; they really made things easier for me. The last season or so I was sort of piggy backing off Luca Shaw. I liked hanging out with everyone there and it became comfortable for me, they treated me very well. Was there any standout moment where you knew you were deserving of a factory ride? One of those moments where you really believe in yourself and know it's where you belong?
When people found out that I was still funding my entire season on my own they seemed more upset than I was. I’ve wanted to race World Cups for a long time, so I think I had accepted that maybe I would be privateer forever. At the end of each season there was always hope that perhaps my support would be increased, but when it never really panned out it put me in a position where I had to choose what I wanted to do. 10 times out of 10 I wanted to go racing. So you learn to decipher the difference between wants and needs and you budget accordingly. I realize that not everyone gets to race at that level so perhaps I just needed to be grateful I was even there. Having said that though, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have SRAM support me since 2010. They’ve been an incredibly loyal and encouraging group to work with and I will forever be grateful for what they’ve done for me. At the end of this season I think it was the first time that I truly thought I deserved a factory spot. It’s exciting to have a real opportunity to progress as a rider and racer.
Was there ever a time prior that you felt like just giving up? You seem to have been on a lot of people's radar for a while now but never really broke through, and with all the injuries over the years how close were you to that tipping point.
I’ve been injured a lot. The summer of 2013 I had broken my arm and then headed to Norway for the World Cup before I was ready to ride and pulled the plate off the bone. It took some time to realize but I ended up having to have the surgery re-done that winter. After finally healing the arm I headed to Fort William to kick off a new race season. I fell in practice and broke both my radius and ulnas, in both of my arms. That was easily the lowest point injury has taken me. I remember thinking that it was all over. Perhaps just a bit dramatic at the time due to being in pain and discomfort but it did take a longer than usual amount of time for me to be happy again and realize that I was going to continue to race. Speaking of injuries, what are some that really stand out. I know there have been a lot of them.
Tibia Plateau 2003
Arthroscopy to remove knee meniscus 2006
Broken Collarbone 2007
Acute Renal Failure 2009
Broken Tib/Fib 2010
Broken Ulna 2013
Re-plated broken Ulna 2013
Bilateral Radius and Ulna fractures- 3 surgeries 2014
Broken Scaphoid Feb. 2016
Broken Triquetrum Nov. 2016 What has been your approach to coming back after getting hurt? Following you on social media you always seem to add a little humor to the whole thing to make light of the situation, does that help keep you from dwelling on the negatives and help to move forward?
When you’re hurt there seems to be a point when you’re in pain and you feel like there’s no way you can ride again. Soon enough, you adapt and either the pain goes away or you’re accustomed to living with that pain, and you just want to ride your bike. It’s usually a little intimidating for your first ride back, but if you want it you just have to get on with it. Getting hurt will always be a part of the game. I think that I have also learned to listen to my body a bit better as well. It’s important to keep things in perspective. I can be consumed by the want to ride and when you can’t it’s sometimes hard to deal with. I always try to keep things real and take a step back by looking at the place I get to call home and the people I get to call friends.
You and Steve Smith were very close, how did his passing effect you? Was it hard to get back out there and race or was it something that motivated you to really chase you dreams this past season.
At Leogang I was watching the Pro Men come down and I realized that I didn’t know who I was cheering for. In the past despite what had happened in qualifying etc I believed that Stevie was going to win. I had a good result at Leogang but at the time it was hard for me to be happy or appreciate what I had done, I wish that I could have shared it with him. Your heart breaks every time you think of him as gone, so I try and focus on what he left. He showed me what was possible and made me believe in myself, often believing in me more than I did. I know you've said you dreamed of standing atop a WC podium alongside Steve. Does he still motivate you to get on that top step?
I grew up with people saying that Steve Smith was the fastest thing out of Canada since Dustin Adams. I was too young to really know how good Dustin Adams was so it was all about Steve. He was one of us but he also happened to be one of the fastest in the world. A great thing about him was that he wanted to share it with you and in return I wanted to be able to share something with him. Even though I’ll never get to stand next to Stevie on a podium, I’m not going to stop trying.
| At Leogang I was watching the Pro Men come down and I realized that I didn't know who I was cheering for. | What events are you looking forward to the most in 2017?
All of them. It’s going to be so cool to travel with a team all season and have some consistency. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to is having a full season where I can build on something, progress each round. I’ve never raced a full season so I was always just showing up at random events, staying with different people, getting there in different ways and seeing what I could do. But if I had to choose one, I think Monte Sainte Anne is my favorite track. What's your take on the EWS series in relation to the WC? A lot of riders have been trying to do both over the past few seasons and is this something you see yourself ever focusing on as intently as DH?
I had a pretty good time racing EWS, but to be honest DH is still more fun for me. There isn’t that all out speed, roughness and excitement that there is in downhill—Enduro is more strategy based racing. For me the downhill circuit is still exciting as I’ve never competed in a full season. For example I’ve only raced MSA about 4 times whereas god knows how many times someone like Sam Hill has raced there. So for now I want to focus on downhill and only compete in a couple EWS rounds, but I think in my future I could also do well in the EWS series. It's easy to romanticize about traveling around the world constantly and riding bikes, but everyone who gets to do it knows that it is incredibly exhausting and takes a toll on you mentally and physically, not to mention personal relationships back home. How do you deal with the long hours on the road, and the weeks of time spent away from home?
I used to miss home a lot more, but I think I’ve learned to be a bit more content with wherever I am. I’ve been injured and stuck watching races at home enough to know that 10 out of 10, I’d rather be away racing. Sometimes it’s hard not seeing Remi (Gauvin) as much, but he races the EWS series so usually we’re at a few races together. As long as I get to ride Whistler Bike Park a little bit, see Remi a little bit, and maybe eat some sushi, I’m good. Beside having way less stress over planning the whole process, what do you see as the biggest benefit of traveling as part of a factory team?
Gravity Republic has a crew of super knowledgable staff and I think I’ll appreciate some direction. The opportunity to work on different bike set-ups, suspension test—it’s all things I’ve only really half-assed before. I think just to be included in a common goal with others will be cool. I rode with the team for a few days after World Championships in Val di Sole and even just for those few days of testing it was beneficial to have someone like Laurent offer me structure and instruction. I’ve never had much support at races as far as building a plan—always just made it up as I went along and learned from my mistakes.
The Specialized Gravity Republic is a pretty tight knit bunch, and one of the teams on the circuit that best resembles a family. Are you nervous about being the newcomer? Have you spent much time with the whole crew?
I think I’ve spent a total of 2 days with them, other than Finn. I grew up watching and respecting this team and the fact my first factory ride is on Gravity Republic still blows my mind to be honest. I traveled to a few rounds with Blenki last year and it was clear that he respects this program a lot from his time there. It’s a little intimidating for sure, but I’m not worried. When the new team was announced, it seemed the majority of the comments here on Pinkbike were focused on you joining the team. Were you aware that you are kind of a big deal, and that so many people have been paying attention to your career and pulling for you he past few years?
Racing can be quite a selfish endeavor, you are constantly working on bettering yourself and so when there are many people that are genuinely pumped on your success, it’s a nice feeling. Sometimes I’m too busy being a fan of other riders to think that there are possible fans of myself, haha. Describe Loic and Finn each in one word?
Finn; Brooooo What are you nervous about in 2017? Any pressure?
I think I have the same level of nervousness about this year as any other. There are always so many unknowns until you get to your first race. We’re still deep in winter in Canada and that’s always hard when you haven’t been riding your bike and you start thinking about race season—it’s like you’re not even sure you know how to ride a bike! Laurent and Kevin (mechanic for Finn and I) have already outlined and organized some things to help prepare for the season and any changes.
|I've never had much support at races as far as building a plan—always just made it up as I went along and learned from my mistakes. | What are your goals that yourself and the team have come up with?
I believe that I’m a very good rider but need to become a better racer. I think that I’m finally in a position for that to happen. I’d also like to see myself on a few podiums this year, both in downhill and enduro. Lastly, your career thus far has been the sum of lot of parts. Who are the people you would like to thank that got you here?
Shawn Cruickshanks, Tyler Morland, John Dawson and the rest of the SRAM team.
The Specialized Canada and Specialized Global Team
The Squamish businesses: Corsa Cycles, Squamish Integrated Health, Mountain Fitness Center, Nesters Market, Locavore Food Truck and Shaun Greenaway.
Also, thank-you to Gravity Republic and Dan Hugo at Specialized for taking a chance on me.
Thank You, Miranda, and on behalf of the entire Pinkbike audience I wish you all the best, and look forward to you popping bottles from the podium throughout 2017