Ev­ery­thing be­gins with in­spi­ra­tion.

Mountain Bike for Her - - Front Page - By Veda Gerasimek

Fe­male moun­tain bik­ers are a small pop­u­la­tion and role mod­els are few and far be­tween. Sure, there are many pro­fes­sional cy­clists who have out­stand­ing achieve­ments in the sport, but how many do you con­sider to be role mod­els? Not many. I would like to share the “roots” of my cy­cling jour­ney and how fe­male role mod­els in­spired me. I re­mem­ber my 10-year-old self watch­ing Emily Batty (Canadian Olympian) at a race. I was fas­ci­nated by the sport and ex­cited to watch a young fe­male do some­thing so ad­ven­tur­ous. When the race was over, Emily came over to me, we talked, and she gave me a big hug. Ever since then, I have been one of her big­gest fans. Just from this sim­ple ac­knowl­edge­ment, I was in­spired. When I saw Emily for a sec­ond time, she gave me a pair of gloves. I can­not even tell you how much I wor­shipped those gloves! It is amaz­ing how some­thing that sim­ple can make some­one feel so spe­cial. The next year, I at­tended a women’s-only skills clinic with Ge­or­gia Gould (Amer­i­can Olympic Bronze Medal­list) and I grav­i­tated to­wards her hu­mor­ous and ap­proach­able per­son­al­ity. I love how Ge­or­gia, a world-class racer, en­cour­ages her fans to “heckle” her dur­ing races. Peo­ple adore her no mat­ter what place she gets and that is a true tes­ta­ment to what a role model should be like. Not all in­spi­ra­tion comes from fa­mous pro­fes­sion­als, though. In my third year of rac­ing, I moved out of the ju­nior cat­e­gory and started rac­ing with the Cat 3 women. Many of the lo­cal women were sup­port­ive of my bold de­ci­sion to race with the “big dogs” and not the lit­tle kids. Just a few words of en­cour­age­ment from th­ese women boosted my con­fi­dence and I be­came a more ma­ture racer. But when I be­came a real con­tender, I en­coun­tered some bul­ly­ing from other adults. As a 12-year-old, I was dis­traught and un­able to com­pre­hend why I was re­ceiv­ing dis­ap­prov­ing looks and un­kind words from what I thought was my com­mu­nity. Look­ing back, I re­al­ize that some of the women were

not fond of the healthy com­pe­ti­tion that I, as a young racer, es­tab­lished. I was dis­cour­aged and never felt like I could cel­e­brate my im­prove­ment as a racer. In all hon­esty, I con­sid­ered hang­ing my bikes up and find­ing some­thing else to do. My pas­sion for bike rac­ing was still there, but my in­spi­ra­tion was not. I de­cided to change my race sched­ule to be around dif­fer­ent peo­ple and, for­tu­nately, my new com­peti­tors were wel­com­ing and pos­i­tive. If you ever en­counter a young racer look­ing to im­prove them­selves, please take one minute to en­cour­age them and make them feel sup­ported and ac­cepted. I per­son­ally know how much of an im­pact that can have. I have been rac­ing ever since and things are be­gin­ning to come full cir­cle. I saw two lit­tle girls at one of my races and they were un­easy about rid­ing over the rocks. Since the kids’ race was be­fore mine, I de­cided to “ghost” them so they would feel safe. They kept ex­claim­ing, “Veda! Look how far I rode through the rocks!” and “This is so fun!” Fol­low­ing the race, their mom pulled me aside and told me that the girls re­ally looked up to me. It felt amaz­ing to be the source of in­spi­ra­tion for those lit­tle girls just like Emily and Ge­or­gia were for me. I want to con­tinue their le­gacy and be an am­bas­sador for moun­tain bik­ing. I aspire to be­come a pro­fes­sional, but above all things, I want peo­ple to think of me as a thought­ful and good-na­tured per­son. In life, that will al­ways grant you more op­por­tu­ni­ties than re­sults alone. I will never for­get why I started moun­tain bik­ing and I am pas­sion­ate about es­tab­lish­ing the same “roots” for other lit­tle girls.

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