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An interview with Chloe Forsman, January 17, 2008
A Luna star in the making
Many of the riders who are current favourites for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China are near the end of long and successful careers. The next generation of cross country mountain bikers is still emerging, but one rising star is Chloe Forsman. Cyclingnews' Sue George spoke with her after she won the USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Collegiate Championship overall title.
As a young member of the Luna Chix Women's Mountain Bike Team, Chloe Forsman would have to look across national borders to find better female role models from whom to learn than the likes of current and former team-mates Georgia Gould, Katerina Nash, Alison Dunlap and Shonny Vanlandingham.
"It's been pretty unbelievable," said Forsman. "Luna was the first team I ever heard of in cycling. I knew who Alison Dunlap was - she was the first pro I could recognize. I still have a poster at home that she signed a few years ago."
"I've looked up to all the women on the team for a long time. It's valuable to travel and race with them this year. They are willing to share what they know. We all stay together at the races," said Forsman. "We all live all over the country, so I don't see them much in between events. We spend a lot of time together at the races."
The 20 year-old Forsman has been spending her time quietly gaining experience by competing against the best racers in the United States in the National Mountain Bike Series events and other national-level competitions.
"I feel really good about my 2007 season. I had a solid and consistent season. I had a couple top ten finishes in the cross country and short track NMBS. I'd like to improve on that next year. It's exciting to be competitive with some of the best riders in the country now."
When she does have the chance to race against other women of similar experience and age, she quickly rises to the top. In 2007, Forsman won the US cross country Under 23 national title as well as the collegiate mountain bike national cross country race and omnium.
After her first year racing pro in 2006 for Tokyo Joes, Forsman joined Luna in 2007 and will ride for the team again in 2008. "I had pretty high expectations with the Luna team. And yet being part of it, I'm still kind of being blown away by it."
As a sophomore at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Forsman has plenty to do during the off season. Originally from Boulder, she is studying health education although she admitted uncertainty about her future profession, "I have no idea what I want to do at this point."
"The first race I ever did was the 24 hours of Moab in 2002. I've done it four times. The first one I did with three other junior girls. We were all supported by a YMCA group. I did mountain biking a bit before that."
A 24 hour race isn't exactly the most likely point of entry for many junior races, but it worked to hook Forsman. "I just happened to start racing there. I thought it was cool to race with other girls who liked to mountain bike at my age. I went to a middle school and a group of my classmates end up racing and I think they were the youngest team ever to race so I kind of already knew about it."
Even though she grew up in Boulder, Forsman said she didn't have a lot of racing peers. "I was probably pretty lucky, but at the same time there weren't that many girls interested in it then."
That left Forsman to race with the expert women, which she started doing around age 17, so she could participate in competition with larger fields. Along the way she won two cross country national junior titles and an expert short track national title.
The transition from junior to senior professional racing is never easy, but she considers that hers has gone well. "I think I've bee pretty lucky. The transition has been difficult at times, but I think I was ready to move from junior ranks up to the pro ranks."
"After racing against the expert women for awhile, I knew I was in between the two groups and it was natural for me to want to go race pro after being a junior. With Tokyo Joes, it was valuable to have no expectations for me then. I ended up having a good year, but I also went into the season not expecting to race the whole NMBS season and I did."
"There is more pressure I'd say now, but pretty much all of it comes from myself."
School and racing
While many athletes use school as an excuse for their racing performance and vice versa, Forsman said, "They are more compatible than most people tend to think. I still love being in school right now and I love racing."
"It's a little bit of a challenge to balance. Schoolwork and training are very compatible. Generally I do better in school when I'm training and training is easier for me when I'm in school. I guess I've always been in school training."
"School is important. I'm keeping myself a little more grounded. I'm a bike racer but I'm also a student."
"Racing is more challenging," said Forsman. "It can be stressful to work with teachers when you're gone racing and you trying to work out ways for not being penalized for not being in class. I made it work last year."
She has again this academic year, too, during which she travelled to North Carolina for the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships. "It was the highlight of the semester. It was a really fun trip."
She was challenged by the climate, including wet racing and slippery conditions, but that didn't stop her from escaping off the front on the first lap of the cross country. A rider caught her on the second lap, but she eventually dropped her and went on to win.
"The course required a lot of getting on and off your bike and being ok with running some instead of riding. Having a lot of racing experience was a benefit on a course like that."
Besides winning the cross country, she jumped into the downhill for 26th. Of the dual slalom she said, "I'd never done it before. I finished tenth out of 30 girls. It kind of made me wish I could jump." Her only regret was that she had no other women to help her represent her school.
Going into 2008
In addition to repeating her collegiate title, Forsman said, "I'd like to defend my U23 National Title. I'd like to do my best in the NMBS - in both XC and short track.
"I'd like to improve results from this past year - to be able to hang with the front group just a little longer. The U23 World championships are an event I want to qualify for and finish in the top 10."
This year's World Championships in Fort William Scotland, challenged her. "That was a very hard race. I think I finished 20 something out of 30 riders [she finished 25th out of 28 finishers. - ed.]. That was more challenging than I anticipated. It was still a good experience and certainly motivating for next year."
She sees no need to specialize in Olympic distance cross country or short track. "I like both. They are equally punishing. Short rack is shorter but still just as hard. I put less pressure on myself in the short track races, so I can have maybe a little more fun."
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Images by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com