By Dave McElwaine
Kelli Emmett (Giant MTB Team) is enjoying one of her best years ever as a professional mountain bike racer. Now in her second season with Giant, the team is a good fit for her. A few weeks ago, she notched her first-ever National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) cross country victory at the Santa Ynez Valley National, and took second in the short track event. She started off her season with an impressive solo cross country win at the Sea Otter Classic, and followed that up with a super D victory at the NMBS race in Fontana, California.
For years, American Kelli Emmett has been known as a serious threat in any super D race, but this season she's shown proof that she has matured into an all-around racer who can win domestically at any distance and on any terrain. While forgoing many of the World Cup events this year, the 31 year-old Emmett is concentrating on races in North America.
Not part of the chase for a spot on the US Olympic team, she currently is preparing for the gruelling seven-day BC Bike Race in early July in British Columbia, Canada, which will take her and team-mate Sara Bresnkick-Zocci from Victoria to Whistler Mountain.
Cyclingnews: You appear to be having more fun this year than ever before. Is there less pressure on you, or is winning just more fun?
Kelli Emmett: Of course, winning is more fun. But, I have been mixing things up this year. I did more snowboarding this winter and have been riding motorcycles a lot this spring. I just got a new KTM and it is so much fun to ride. I was hoping to race some enduros this summer but since the season is going so well, I will wait 'til this fall when I am done with the mountain bike racing. In years past, I was so strict with training and racing that I didn't do much else but ride my bike. I think I was consistently over-trained and mentally burned out.
CN: What were your goals at the beginning of this season?
KE: The biggest goal for me this year was to have fun. The past two years have been really tough for me, and I felt like I wasn't able to race at my full potential. I had a couple of injuries and my father passed away in March of last year. So, at the beginning of this year, I was really questioning my desire to even race. I just decided to not put any pressure on myself for results and create a schedule that allowed for a little more time at home. Winning a NMBS has always been a dream.
CN: During the past year you have won at super D, cross country, singlespeed, and came very close to winning a short track race. Which event do you enjoy the most, and why?
KE: That is a tough question... I enjoy them all. But, I would have to say cross country is what I enjoy the most. I like longer events. They suit my riding style better. I usually will say to people that I have a diesel engine. I need to ride for a while before I can get my speed up. Doing well at shorter events has not come easy for me. I have struggled with short track for years. This year I decided to spend less time riding and more time focusing on shorter interval training to help improve my power for short track. It also seems to help out my super D racing as well. Singlespeed racing is just plain fun. Not serious racing but just fun!
CN: Do you intend to defend your Single Speed World Championship (SSWC)? If you win, will you add another tattoo?
KE: Good question! No, I don't think I will do the SSWC this year. I still have nightmares from getting the tattoo last year. Man that hurt! I really had a great time in Scotland last year but unfortunately it will not fit in the schedule for me this year.
CN: When did you discover that you like to go down hills fast?
KE: I think my first year riding I realized I liked going down hills. I didn't fear crashing all that much and was completely focused on keeping up with my brother. He has great technical skills and still, to this day, he can drop me on a downhill.
Read the complete interview.