After exploding onto the mountain bike scene in 2006 with a win at the U.S. National Mountain Bike Championship, Georgia has steam-rolled the domestic competition ever since. Georgia grew up in Baltimore, attended boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Montana. “My teammates teach me a lot and are always willing to share their insights and knowledge. I am proud to be on the LUNA Team for 2015.”
Other interesting facts about Georgia:
• Can play the banjo…well
• Spent a year in Ghana, West Africa, studying for her BA in Psychology, and is the 2001 Ghana University cross country running champion
• Holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Montana, but still looks up pre-race game mind strategies on Wikipedia
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself; where you live, where you grew up and what you do for fun?
Georgia: I grew up back east. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I currently live in Fort Collins, Colorado. I've been out west for probably about ten years. I'm a professional cyclist. I do lots of other stuff, but a lot of my time is spent doing that.
Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?
Georgia: I play online Scrabble. Dork. I don't know. Maybe they wouldn't be surprised, maybe they already know.
Q: Explain how long you've been competing in your sport, and who or whatinspired you to get started.
Georgia: I've been racing bikes since about 2000. I've been professional since 2004 and on the team since 2006, so I've been doing it a long time. I started racing as just a challenge to myself, I really like pushing myself and seeing what I can do, so yeah, the challenge of it.
Q: What was the moment that you knew racing was what you were meant to be doing?
Georgia: For me, I don't see racing as the only thing I could be doing now, it's just something that I'm good at that came in the right time in my life. Probably the first race I did, because after that ... Here I am.
Q: What does bravery mean to you?
Georgia: I think bravery is something when you put yourself out, maybe in public, maybe even not, but when there's the possibility of failure, and you do something anyway knowing that can happen but not caring enough to not do it.
Q: Can you think of an example of a time when you felt the fear and did it anyway, or pushed yourself out of your comfort zone?
Georgia: Pretty much every World Cup race that I ever do. Sometimes we see really scary features in the World Cup races, whether it's a jump, or there's a trail where there's jagged rocks on the sides, and I've definitely struggled with fear of crashing and hurting myself. The satisfaction I get when I race the race and don't end up breaking myself, that's just a great feeling to have overcome that.
Q: Obviously, choosing to pursue your passion in the way that you have, and obviously you've been really successful in it, it takes a certain amount of listening to your own intuition. Is there an example of a time where you listened to your inner-voice when the rest of the world or the people around you were saying something else?
Georgia: For me, a lot of times it's listening to one inner-voice over the other sometimes, or my inner-voice versus my interpretation of what everyone else is saying or doing. I, over the years, have gotten better at tuning out that outside stuff. You don't get to this elite level of any kind of competition without being able to push yourself, but what I think a lot of people struggle is taking it easy, and knowing when to focus on recovery. Especially when things aren't going well, it's easy to say, "I need to push harder, I need to train more, I need to dig deeper," instead of saying, "Actually, maybe what I need is to take a step back to let my body recover." I've gotten better over the years at not just always pushing through and pushing through but knowing when to say, "Today, I'm not recovered, I'm not going to get quality," and knowing when to turn around and go home instead of just pushing through. It's hard because even knowing the benefit that that can have, I still have that voice that's like, "No, you should probably just train harder, you should just go faster." For me, I struggle with that all the time, and I'm getting better, slowly, slowly.
Q: When you're on the trail, you obviously have to get into a certain mental space. Can you tell me about how you prepare yourself?
Georgia: That's a really good question, there is definitely an ideal mental space that you can have in competition. I wish I could tell you that "I always get there, and there are three steps, and it was so easy", but in reality it's something that I think a lot of us struggle with trying to find that perfect flow where everything's lining up, and more often than not you're kind of… (panicking sounds), and so I think a lot of times it's how to still be consistent, and still have a good race, even when you're mind isn't cooperating. Being able to manage, and something happens; you crash in your warm-up thirty minutes before the race. Do you let that ruin the race, and can you reset and try to tune that out? For me, it's trying to be consistent even when you can't find that ideal flow.
Q: What is the hardest, or most worthy challenge that you're facing right now athletically? Is there something that you're really working on or trying to overcome right now that's super challenging but totally worth it?
Georgia: Yeah, I think right now for me, I've had a couple off-seasons where I haven't had my best results, and I really had to evaluate why I'm racing, what keeps me motivated, and why I do what I do because when the results aren't there, it's like disappointment after disappointment. It's like, what is it? Why do I still do this, then? What makes me still care about it? People think pros have it all figured out, we don't. For me, the last couple years have been a lot about discovering why I'm doing what I'm doing even when the times are hard at the races. For me, it's really remembering that I love riding my bike, and remembering that when I'm training, and remembering that when I'm racing also.
Q: What does it mean to you when you hear people say, "Everyone benefits when a woman pursues her own unique adventure?"
Georgia: I think that, to me, that means that we all benefit when people are discovering new things about themselves or other people, or have an idea that they're pursuing, because each person is so different, and we all obviously have a lot of similarities, but also just different ideas and in order for us all to benefit, we have to know what your ideas are, and what my ideas are, and share and collaborate and if people are keeping that to themselves then we're all the worse for it. Unless they're bad ideas, in that case, keep it to yourself. I don't want to know.
Q: There a lot of opportunities for women in particular in your sport. Tell me about what opportunities exist for women to get to your level in this sport.
Georgia: When I first started racing, there weren't very many organized opportunities for especially young women and girls to get into the sport, and now there's the NICA mountain bike leagues, and that's been a hugely positive thing for the sport. Not just for getting more women and more kids on bikes, and then also being able to ... Just that is great. Whether you're competing or not, just experiencing the outdoors in that way and starting healthful habits at an early age, but also being able to identify early talent in the next generation of world champions and Olympic champions, which wasn't really around when I was in high school and college. All of the sports were sort of more teen sports and I think the individual sports appealed to me more, and I wish there was a mountain bike league when I was growing up, but then as a woman entering the sport, the LUNA team in a way was pretty much the only all women's mountain bike team out there at all. Then, to have the level of support on the same part as what the men in this sport were getting was pretty unheard of. I think it showed with the results of the women came onto the team, that that system really worked, and the team has been able to develop so many stars coming from nowhere, and giving them that support. I think you see it with no one really leaves. I mean, you have people that have been on the team for ten years, and even beyond once they retire from racing, still be involved with the team. It's been such an honor to be able to be a part of it and be developed by the team and to feel like it's not just a race team. There's more going on there. When I see what other race teams are doing ... It's just a different feeling on our team.
Q: Obviously, when you say support, sponsors are supporting athletes, and certainly that's sometimes financial support, logistics, training and access, but it sounds like there's something more that LUNA provides in terms of its environment and belief system. Can you just tell me a little more about as a sponsor, what kind of support you get?
Georgia: LUNA, besides providing for our plane tickets and our equipment and all of this stuff, which is world-class, top-notch stuff, we also have superprofessional staff. We have, all the logistics are taken care of. We have just a team dynamic. We have team meetings and we know each other really well and we do things together, so it's not just every man or every woman for himself, you know? We kind of work together when we're traveling and if we stay in a house or a condo we cook together, we eat dinner together, and I think that way we all are learning from each other. Not just out on the race course, but also get to know each other, but then, learning from each other on the race course, too. Learning for me, as a more experienced, older racer, being able to share all the mistakes I've made and all the things I've learned over my years of racing with some of these new riders so they don't have to repeat some of those, and they just have that extra jump, and maybe that will help them to be more successful. They teach me about things like dubstep and weird music that I've never heard. No, but I mean the younger riders also bring in an energy and excitement and so it's really fun for us to get to learn from each other.
Q: What is it about LUNA as a brand that makes you feel comfortable making that connection and trusting your brand with them?
Georgia: I think even before I was on the team, LUNA had such a good reputation for sportsmanship, for being mentors, and being the kind of people that not just girls and women, but men and boys can look up to. There's one of the coolest things that I've experienced is when a little boy comes up to me and thinks that I'm cool and wants my signature and thinks that I'm really fast, and to me, that is such a positive thing for the future and for more equity in sports and athletics, so I think that reputation that LUNA has, for just being good competitors regardless of gender, is so unique. I mean, I've been proud to be a sponsored athlete and to represent LUNA and it just melds so well with my own feelings of what kind of person I want to be. It's been a great journey so far.
Q: If you had a chance to go back and have a conversation with your younger self, if you could whisper three pieces of advice in your younger self's ear, what would you tell her?
Georgia: If I had to go back and visit my younger self ... I would definitely stress being patient. I think it's easy when you're young and you're motivated to spread yourself too thin to try to do everything, you know, you want to be at every race, you want to do everything, but in the end, you only have so much energy, so not spreading myself too thin. And then, listening to my body. Again, that's something I've learned that I've started to do now, but not just always pushing harder and pushing harder, but being able to say, "You know what I need is some rest. I need some recovery. I need to give my body time, or my mind time to just rebuild and get stronger."
Q: What advice would you give to young people who have a passion to help them feel confident in pursuing that passion?
Georgia: I think for young people that have a passion, my advice would obviously be to go for it. But when I was deciding whether or not to get my license, I'd first done a few races, I liked it, but I didn't grow up thinking, "I want to be a professional athlete," but when I got to this point, I thought, "What could I do if I fully committed myself to this?" I wanted to look back as an older person in my elderly years and think ... I want to make sure that when I look back, I don't say, "What if?" I want to make sure that I gave it a go, and if it did work out, that's great, but I didn't want to have that, "What if?" If you're passionate about it and you see the glimmerings of some potential there, give it a go, because even if it doesn't work out 100%, even if you don't become ... You know, you got third place in a race, like me, then at least it isn't a waste of time if you've learned something from the experience, and pretty much from every experience you can learn something, so even a failure isn't a waste of time.
Q: Did you have any role models growing up? Are there certain people that you looked up to?
Georgia: I was not involved in sports growing up. I'm a pretty latecomer to the whole sports party. If you talked to people I knew in high school, they would be like, "Who is a professional athlete? Hold on a second." I guess I don't really feel like I had specific role models in that sense more that, again, that there's qualities in different people that I picked and chose of how I want to be. As far as in the sport, I didn't start riding mountain bikes until I was nineteen.
Q: Would you consider yourself a role model?
Georgia: I hope so. I try to be. I really try to do what I can to be the kind of person that I would like to be.
Stay up-to-date on Georgia at http://georgiagould.com.