Rebecca Gross Pro Athlete
Rebecca was the first American to win a cyclocross world championship on home soil in the 2012 Cyclocross Masters World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. She is also a two time collegiate mountain bike short track national champion. Off the bike she is a United States Air Force veteran and holds a Masters Degree in Sport and Performance Psychology. She resides in Golden, Colorado where she coaches and trains.
10 Questions for Rebecca
- What's your most memorable bike related moment?
I have a few!
When I was in high school I was riding to the stables to ride horses and I overshot a corner and went into a ditch with water up to my waist. A kid driving a manure spreader stopped to help me and when he got out of the tractor it popped out of park and rolled into the ditch - and completely over the bike. I was very fortunate the spreader hitch twisted and didn't dump over like the tractor did. The bike was folded in half.
Riding off the front of a race with room to spare while having that intense focus to continue doing exactly what you are doing...I've had a few 'important' races like masters worlds and a few nationals that went exactly like that. When the preparation is dialed and the fitness and focus is there....it's like magic!
A few years back I went out for a longer evening ride on in Crested Butte before a weekend of teaching a clinic. I ended up taking a wrong turn....for 20 miles and 3k feet of descending down a road I could barely ride.... and ended up in town at dusk that is 80 miles by road to get back from with no cell phone service. I had to knock on a door and sleep at a stranger's house. Needless to say I missed the morning of the clinic.
- Any pets?
I 'borrow' the neighbor's cat. He sleeps in my room and follows me around everywhere. When I get back from a ride I can call him and he meets me at the door. The other day my housemate put him outside near a rabbit in the driveway, the rabbit got away no problem but the following morning he brought me a live bird into the house. The door was open and the bird flew away after the cat set him down; I'm pretty sure he thought we needed to be fed.
- Favorite breakfast foods?
I love fruit for breakfast or sometimes yogurt. When I race I typically eat white rice and avocado. If there is a watermelon in the house I will eat that and nothing else. If I have chocolate I usually eat that in the morning because at night it keeps me from sleeping.
- Tell us about van life.
I still need to figure the showering bit out but I love being self-sufficient and constantly on the go. I'm a bit over prepared, it's an ongoing joke to stump me for 'do you have X in the van?' The best part is finding paces to ride along my travels. I love exploring and just picking out spots that look perfect for finding cool history or beautiful scenery.
- What book are you currently reading?
I'm a big sci-fi junky, when I was younger someone had given us a big box of 60's sci-fi books, I loved reading about things that were supposedly already taken place by the time I was actually reading them. I have since leaned more towards epic true stories, I love the book 'Fighter Pilot: the memoirs of legendary ace Robin Olds.' Currently I'm reading Deep Survival, who lives, who dies, and why.'
- You previously served in the Air Force, tell us about that experience.
I had eight years in that took me to three duty stations across the country and one in South Korea with a half year trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Deployment life for me was my favorite time in the service. Everything was simple and straightforward and geared towards an objective. The folks you meet over there are generally all a part of the 'get it done' mindset and that was something that really appealed to me. I sure developed an appreciation for the mountains and living in Colorado after not having the choice for many years. My job title was 'Air Battle Manager' and consisted of flying in the AWACS or a Boeing 707 equipped with an airborne radar while interacting with the other aircraft to enhance their view of the air picture and direct them towards threats. I loved having that feeling of purpose when it came to what I did but being very self-motivated in regards to terms I could control; as a bit of a non-conformist I'm probably better off racing bikes.
- You also have your Masters Degree in Sport and Performance Psychology, how do you use your degree on a daily basis?
I coach a number of folks and a large portion of that coaching is encouraging self-awareness and self-betterment. I love to see athletes as change takes place and they have that moment of realization that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. It's hugely rewarding to be a part of that process. In my own racing it's wonderful to develop and continue to improve on a perspective of positivity and see how that impacts not just my race but my overall quality of life. I like to focus on how much you can open yourself up to learn when you accept challenges such as racing your bike. Aside from that I believe one of the biggest takeaways from my degree is being able to see the world from a critical unbiased standpoint. It makes everything from the person driving 30 in the 50 zone to why someone didn't show up when they were supposed less of an emotion based reaction and more of a 'well lets figure this out' perspective.
- Three things from your bucket list you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years.
I would really like to have a garden, podium at a UCI race, and see lightning physically hit something.
- Most challenging bike race you've ever competed in?
I would have to say the Breck Epic. From the sheer scale of distance covered to being subjected to mountain conditions such as high elevation thunderstorms, freezing rain and snow, and resisting the urge to stop and take it all in (and take pictures) instead of racing through, I said after completing the race that it was life changing. Being exposed to the elements with the priority going to race, not enjoyment or self preservation is something else. Also six days of hard efforts on the bike can make for a lot of interesting experiences. I ate Pho at a restaurant surrounded by tourists one night while hugging the bowl with my face practically on the table. Manners kind of get thrown to the wayside with a certain level of fatigue. One of my friends racing along side of me last year mentioned that after twenty years of being vegetarian she ate bacon that was being offered at the top of one of the climbs.
- Words of wisdom for young athletes?
The most important thing is to love to focus on having fun and being passionate about what you do. Of all the habits you can have riding a bike can stay with you for life. You are getting exercise, perusing self-betterment, taking on challenges, and developing life skills. You don't need to win races when you are a junior, you need to be learning and taking those lessons to heart. The most important thing to build is skills and determination, speed comes with time. If you are having fun and continue to get out there and challenge yourself as you get older it opens so many doors to what you can achieve.