Search for Transcendence
Sue Haywood is one of America's most experienced mountain bikers; with a pro career that started a little later in life she's still learning and striving for that perfect rhythm and the perfect race. Cyclingnews' Steve Medcroft caught up with Sue to discuss her development as a rider, the Olympics and that search for transcendence.
With two races in the books in the 2005 U.S. NORBA mountain bike series, West Virginian Susan Haywood (Trek/VW) has a clean grip on first place. She stood on the podium at both the Texas opener and the Arizona follow-up and with an almost three-month gap until the next NORBA, Haywood has plenty of time to rest, recover, train and peak for the remainder of the series, making her a favourite the rest of the way.
The fact that she is the leader of the series is a testament to Haywood's persistence and determination to make a career out of mountain biking. Since her first race on a Trek Antelope in the early nineties, to her two short-track national championships and her third place in the 2004 XC national championship race, Haywood has developed slowly into her role as one America's leading mountain bikers. In fact, if you had looked at her career throughout the last fifteen years, you probably wouldn't have predicted this kind of success. For seven years after that first race she was no more than a serious amateur. When she did make the transition to the pro ranks, she struggled, saying she underestimated how tough pro racing was - thinking that because she could ride nasty, technical terrain, she'd be able to succeed.
But Haywood wasn't discouraged, and her dedication to the sport culminated in 2004 when, after a year-long battle for UCI world-ranking points, she was named the lone US women's Olympic mountain bike representative. Anyone who followed mountain biking knows what happened next: Haywood was relegated in arbitration by Mary McConneloug, who contested the nomination due to what she felt (and was able to prove to the arbiters) was inconsistency in the way USA Cycling counted the UCI points used to make the nomination. To Haywood, it was a blow. She had just raced in ten countries, earned a third place in the world rankings and won the Olympic nomination by one point but ended up being named the alternate rider instead.
But again, Haywood has not given up and is being rewarded with even greater success. To catch up on the history that brought her to and through that tough year, we talked to Haywood by phone at her home in Davis, West Virginia. Haywood had just come in from spending the afternoon working in her garden.
Cyclingnews: The opening races of the U.S. domestic mountain bike season are over and you have a gap before it picks up again; do you get to spend some time at home between races?
Sue Haywood: A little bit. I'm here in West Virginia now. Today was the day to get into the beehives and check them out.
CN: Bee hives? How many do you have?
SH: I had three but one died off over the winter so now I have two. But I may get a couple more this spring.
CN: What exactly do you get out of having beehives?
SH: (laughs) Not too much. Just get honey from them. It's a little hobby, you know. I have the suit and everything: although today when I was messing with them I didn't put the suit on - I didn't think they'd be interested in me because they were out getting pollen - and I got stung like thirty times.