I’ve been asked several times about strategies for getting more women into cycling, specifically mountain biking and mountain bike racing. After many years of pondering this question, I’ve come to the conclusion that collegiate racing may be the best tool for getting girls involved.  Although high school teams are also starting to have a great impact, until those are widespread, collegiate teams are our greatest opportunity to turn more women on to the sport of cycling.

Collegiate racing is successful for several reasons.  Everything in college is new. For many, it’s the first time being independent. People are looking to try new things and to meet new people. Collegiate bike racing also combines the individual aspect of sport with an incredibly supportive team atmosphere. Weekends are spent with your good friends, riding bikes, and learning new skills. The race weekends are, and I speak from experience, the most fun bike events out there.

The top clubs in the nation produce some of the best cyclists in the pro ranks. Heather Irmiger, Lara Kroepsch, and Willow Koerber are all products of collegiate mountain bike teams. The next generation of top cyclists are currently honing their skills in collegiate programs around the country in the four collegiate disciplines: mountain bike, cyclocross, road, and track. With mountain bike season just ending, we are going to take this opportunity to highlight some of the sports most talented rising stars from around the country.

Katie Sodergren Talks Mountain Bike Racing

School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Year in School: Senior
Major: Mathematics
Years racing: 4

How did you get involved with mountain bike racing?

Growing up in Breckenridge, I used to ride a couple times each summer with my Dad on some of the easier trails around town. Then, when I was a senior in high school, my boyfriend at the time raced competitively and talked me into trying it out. I entered one of the local races just for fun and was hooked from that point on.


Why did you start racing mountain bikes for your school?

As a three-sport athlete in high school, I entered college trying to find an activity where I could stay involved in competition. Since I had just started mountain bike racing over the summer, I thought that the cycling team would be a perfect fit.

Who was your role model when you first started riding? Who is it now?

When I first started riding, the CU cycling team took me under their wing. Eszter Horanyi (I swear I didn’t put her up to that…) was our team’s best women’s rider and quickly became the person that I looked up to. She encouraged me to upgrade to A’s and gave me tips out on team rides. Her passion for the sport and phenomenal riding skills are things that I continue to work towards today.

What are your goals in racing both inside and outside of collegiate?

This collegiate season, I am hoping to win the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference Endurance Title and would like to place in the top ten at nationals.

In the future, I am looking to get my pro upgrade for the 2012-racing season. I look forward to racing in U-23 and just seeing where it goes.

What’s your favorite aspect of racing for a college team?

I love the atmosphere at collegiate races. Getting everyone out there and having the support of a team makes the races a ton of fun. It is a great place to learn the sport.

What’s the hardest part of balancing riding and academics?

TIME. As soon as school starts I always struggle to find time to ride. The days start getting shorter, homework assignments start getting longer and unfortunately mountain biking gets put on the back burner.

What’s your biggest fear involving bikes?

I don’t handle jumps well at all and am terrified of being airborne. It’s a fear I really want to overcome.

What’s your favorite trail?

I love the Colorado Trail from Georgia Pass down to Tiger Run.

What’s your favorite post-ride snack?

Bagel with peanut butter, Nutella, honey, and bananas

What racing results are you most proud of?

4th in XC at Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals at North Star 2010
1st in CAT 1 19-24 XC Nationals at Sun Valley July 2010
Mountain States Cup Cat 1 19-29 Endurance Champion for Summer 2011

By Eszter Horanyi – Crested Butte, CO – girl bike rider and ride food maker extraordinaire. coaches the Mountain Bike Team at Western State.