Six years ago, Rebecca Stone was over-weight and got sore knees whenever she tried to run.
Two weeks ago she stood atop the podium to receive the Gold Medal at the “Epic” cross-country mountain bike race.
How did this 33 year old endurance rider get to where she is today?
|Last Woman Standing. Gold Medalist – “The Epic”. ESI Sports Photography|
How did you get into mountain biking?
I started running, and lost a lot of weight. I did a couple of ten-mile runs. But I started having problems with my knees. So I joined a fantastic mountain biking club in Bristol (UK), and started riding three days a week.
We’d set off in the morning and go for miles & miles…
Just on the mountain bikes…
Just wherever we wanted to go.
|English Forest Trail. Gary Lake|
It was great.
I like exploring. I like long distance riding.
Half the time in the UK you can’t ride a mountain bike because it’s too wet. I don’t like the mud – I prefer it dry.
So I also took up road riding. I’d used to take a couple of friends out with me on the road & find the most dramatic hill and dragged them up it.
On one of the hills in particular, I went up it and looked behind me…
There was nobody there.
They were walking!
What keeps you riding today?
I love the freedom.
I always wanted to do endurance rides.
I feel like a little kid when I’m out on the trail.
|London Creek Environmental Reserve, Mount Mellum, Qld|
What sort of bike you ride?
A blue one!
|Becca’s Pivot Mach 4 Mountain Bike. Rebecca Stone|
It’s a Pivot Mach 4, extra small and cost me $6,000 which (my husband) Tom hasn’t forgiven me for yet.
It has really good components. It is light, comfortable and rides really well.
It’s a million times better than my first mountain bike because it’s lighter, and better set up.
The ride is a lot smoother. Even though it’s a men’s frame, the geometry fits me really well.
On my old bike I felt like I was really stretched out. It was really difficult to stand up and pedal. The shorter frame of the Pivot suits me.
Tell us about a memorable ride.
I think that would have to be a “Neil Ennis” special that I’m still paying for.
I have been told by the Local Bike Shop that I am not to take my bike through as much water again.
|Koreelah Creek in Flood|
In summer, one of our really wet rides up to “The Head” in the pouring rain really tested my endurance. To my horror, I realized afterwards that we could have easily been stuck up on the mountain.
We could have been really screwed because we were soaked through, we had plenty of water, but didn’t have much food.
My mother was staying with me at the time, so I received a lecture from her and from Tom when I got home – but I blamed you for that one!
Why do you race?
|MTB Enduro Super Series – Tailwind Productions|
I like the challenge. I started racing in the UK six years ago. When I came to Australia I tried a few shorter format races and found I was one of the higher placed amateur riders which gave me a lot of confidence.
The atmosphere is fantastic in mountain bike racing – everyone is so friendly. You meet new people all the time and catch up with people you haven’t seen for a while.
I love the camaraderie as well – everyone looks out for each other, especially on the longer rides.
I went to Alice Springs (Northern Territory) in May 2013 and did a 7 stage 5 day race. It was a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be. Half of the field were elite athletes. The other half were amateurs like me.
|Alice Springs Rapid Ascent Series. Rebecca Stone|
The week got better as it went on.
The distances weren’t enormous, but it was really hard because right from the start you were pedalling as fast as you possibly could go. There was no time to rest.
On the first day I came a very solid last. I got bogged in the desert sand I didn’t know how to ride the sand and the rocks.
The technical riding was difficult – I think I must have been the slowest person up “Anzac Hill” in the history of the event!
As the week went on it got a lot better. I actually ended up coming 150th out of 180.
It’s the finishing that counts!
Recently you won a Gold Medal in “The Epic” endurance race. How you prepare for a race like that?
|Hoya Road, Boonah, Qld|
Lots of really long rides.
Half of the challenge is physical. I’ve been trying to get fit for the last two years, and have lost a load of weight.
But I also improved my skills on some of the shorter more technical rides. I had some lessons recently as well, and learned how to ride rocks which is really important.
Even though I’ve been riding for a few years, I still think it’s worthwhile to get lessons from a professional… if only to stop me breaking my neck!
It just gives you more confidence. As you approach obstacles you remember what the coach has told you – you’re approaching it better, you’re a lot more stable, it gives you more confidence. Now I’m able to ride things that I wasn’t able to ride before.
When you’re at the limit of your physical ability in a race like the Epic, what keeps you going?
|“Finish” Alice Springs Rapid Ascent Series. Rebecca Stone|
Knowing that it will be over soon and thinking about how proud I’ll feel to finish something that I set out to do.
You just keep going.
For that 90km ride – The Epic at Hidden Vale, the last couple of trails I was crawling up. Practically on my hands and knees. I hit every single rock. I had to stop get off, walk a bit get back on.
But on the down-hills I just stopped thinking and just let the bike go!
What’s it like riding all day as the only sane woman with a bunch of insane men?
It’s great fun!
I absolutely love it!
The guys are really friendly, and it’s difficult to find girls that have the time or are willing to ride all day with me.The weather is great and I can get out and visit places that I’d never even heard of before.
What else would I be doing?
I suppose I could be like a lot of people and just watch TV, but I’d rather be out in the countryside.
I’m getting to see Australia. That’s the reason I migrated here in the first place.
|Bicentennial National Trail, Rosevale, Qld|