From Olympic cyclists and world-class mountain bikers to those who defy gravity on skateboards and dirt bikes, Idaho is full of wheel pioneers.
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7. Brooke Hovey, 39-year-old endurance athlete, says becoming a champion mountain bike racer has come about in a natural way—natural for her, that is.
Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, it was natural that the nearby rugged Wasatch Mountains became her favorite playground. Mountain trail running, extreme hiking and skiing were passions in Brooke’s family. As a youngster, her active parents enabled her and her siblings to discover and find their place in the mountains, encouraging them to become physically strong, independent and self-reliant. “I am a product of growing up and living in the West,” explains Brooke.” I learned to be comfortable in the mountains, how to push the limits, to never be afraid and to find a solace there.” Strength and endurance are in her DNA and, as she puts it, “I learned early on how to ‘go into the pain cave.’ I just always knew I could do it.”
As a freshman at the University of Utah, Brooke was a natural, perfect fit for the cross-country running team; she later transferred on a scholarship to run middle distance (800 to 300 meters) and cross country (5 km) for the University of Colorado. She left college in her senior year to kayak expert white-water all over the world, but after visiting Sun Valley to alpine ski, she made it her home in 1998.
Looking for cardio-intensive endurance sports to add to her extreme trail running, she met Muffy Ritz (well-known for her excellence in cross-country racing, biking, and mountain adventures) and immersed herself in Nordic skiing, eventually racing very successfully nationally with Ritz for Rossignol as a Nordic pro. “I liked the lower impact of Nordic,” says Brooke.” It was not as hard as running on my knees and hips, and I loved the endurance factor.”
After a few years of hard racing Brooke decided to take time off to get married and is now raising two tow-headed kids (Taylor and Tommy, ages 4 and 3) with her husband, Will. A part-time working mom and athlete, she seems to have found a natural balance in her life. “You become so self-centered as an athlete,” Brooke admits, “and competition has taught me some of life’s lessons. I know I take better care of myself now as an athlete. Looking back I think I was myopic in training and wasn’t balanced with the food intake I needed for fuel.”
She seems to have found more of an understanding of what she needs to be a healthy competitor, a real understanding of ‘food as fuel.’ Now running the kitchen at GLOW (Ketchum’s popular live food café), she smiles, “I’m a cooker!” And by many accounts, Brooke is becoming an expert on creating ‘clean’ foods. “It’s so important to raise my family with good health and fitness and to do so by example. Will and I feel lucky to be part of an amazing, supportive community whose common thread is taking care of health, families, the community and wild environment,” she says.
But strength and endurance are still seriously in her DNA, and she has proven that once again by becoming an impressive mountain bike competitor. When she began mountain bike riding it was often with good friend and fellow competitor Erin Zell who says, “now Brooke mostly competes with herself; she can push so hard on her own!” She laughs, “11 years and many bike adventures later, I just try and keep her in sight … she keeps getting faster and faster!” Muffy Ritz adds, “Brooke is a hard-charger; she has so much innate talent as an athlete in so many sports and she excels at them all, but she can ‘outpower’ most everyone I know on a mountain bike.”
Last July, on Bald Mountain, Brooke was impressive in her first big mountain bike competition. She won the USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-Country Women’s Amateur National Championship. Her immediate goal is to race well again this July in her first year in the Pro category when the U.S. Nationals are again hosted in Sun Valley. Prior to the July 5th-8th competition she will compete in a handful of early Idaho regional and local races, tuning up. Sponsored by The Elephant’s Perch, Brooke also rides for the Mud Honeys, a local women’s bike club. Bob Rosso, owner of The Perch and known for his own multi-sports accomplishments, has been very supportive of Brooke. “She is a very tenacious athlete, always pushing the edge with solid, natural athletic skill. Whether she gets on a pair of skis or on her bike, her vision seems to focus tighter and she can give it absolutely everything,” he says, adding, “If you’re competing against her, good luck, you’ll need it!”
Hovey’s mountain bike time and training is dictated by her family and her work. Once or twice a week in the spring, summer and fall she usually does a solitary 2-3 hour all-out hard ride, using natural terrain intervals and climbs. “I feel much healthier having more free-form in my training now,” she says. “It’s much more enjoyable and peaceful. No heart monitors, just me out there on the bike in early morning, feelin’ free!” -Julie Gallagher