Interview by Jill Davis | Photograph by John Segesta
Five national mountain bike championships. One hard-earned Olympic bronze (London, 2012). Multiple cyclocross series titles. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. Considering that LUNA Chix Pro Team mountain biker Georgia Gould didn’t get on a mountain bike until age 19, it would be accurate to characterize her ride to the top of the world mountain biking scene as unexpected and explosive. She’s also mountain folk.
My first ride was a pony named Patches. He was lazy and fat, and everyone thought he was a pregnant female. I did these hunter trials—cross-country, jumping over hedges. As soon as we’d go outside, Patches would start bucking and going crazy.
After my first year of college I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho and decided to quit smoking and get in shape. I didn’t want to be 60 and be like, What was I thinking?
When I decided to go pro, my husband and I were working part-time two to three days a week and then traveling weekends. Our life was drive, prerace, race, drive home, work, work, repeat.
I worked in a sandwich shop. It’s the only utilitarian skill I have now. I can chop. I can make salad dressing. I always travel with a chef’s knife. It’s annoying to be in a condo and have a dull, bendy, $10 knife to cut up carrots.
I wish I was fearless, but I’m not. I don’t like crashing. People say if you’re not crashing, you’re not getting faster. I think that is the biggest bullshit thing you can tell a new mountain biker.
In the Olympic race, I was riding stronger than the woman who finished second. In the prior year though, I’d had catastrophes in the last 10 minutes of races: a crash, a flat, a fall. I was riding conservatively on the downhills. I just wanted a medal.
The World Cup courses haven’t gotten more technical, but they’ve definitely gotten more manmade and contrived. There will be some rock feature piled on top of a bunch of other rock things. Stuff that makes the men’s world champion look like a beginner. A few years ago there was a shift to shorter laps that are better for spectators and TV. A lot of people say it’s not real mountain bike racing. They need to separate World Cup racing from mountain bike riding. Nobody wants to see one person finish, then five minutes later here comes second place. That’s not exciting. You want every race to end in a sprint. The lead changing every lap.
I love traditional mountain bike riding. There’s a place near Fort Collins on the border with Wyoming out in the middle of nowhere in the high prairie. Pronghorn everywhere. Up in Breckenridge, you have mountainous views. East Coast, woods. Arizona, desert sand. The diversity is what attracts me.
I could never be a competitive swimmer. “We’re going to go race in Germany, in a pool that’s exactly the same as the pool at home.”
We live on the edge of town in Fort Collins, Colorado. I’m four minutes from a trailhead. We’ve got half an acre with apple trees, a huge garden, and a big chicken palace.
You know the friendly chickens that hang out with you all the time? Those are the first ones a fox’ll get.
Once I looked out the window and saw a fox run by. Too late. By the time I got outside there was a chicken in a pile of feathers. Luckily my mom raises turkeys, and I’d been at her house when she slaughtered and dressed them. I thought, Well, I think I’m just going to roast her!
At a cyclocross race in Louisville, this spectator had a rubber chicken he was waving around. I just took it. During the race, people were like, Nice cock! That’s just the culture of cross. Then I came around again, and he had another rubber chicken out. So then I had two. But you can’t race with two rubber chickens.
I have a problem in the garden. I go out and I plant, and I forget to write down what I planted. Stuff comes up, and I don’t know what it is. Then I replant on top of that. It’s like Darwin’s garden. I plant, go away to race for a few weeks, and see what survives.
I don’t have a plan after racing either. Things come along and I follow that path. I can make anything work.
From the Summer 2013 issue.