By Dave McElwaine
After six years racing as a professional mountain biker, this season the affable Lea Davison (Trek / VW) started to see results that seemed to her a long time in coming. With her accomplished teammate Sue Haywood retiring from World Cup and national series racing scene, the 25-year-old Davison is the most likely heir-apparent to fill the void.
Davison first raised eyebrows earlier this year when she won both the short track and super D races at the Sea Otter Classic in April. Although some top racers were away at the UCI World Cup round in Houffalize, Belgium, the wins boosted Davision's confidence. She followed with several podium appearances throughout the National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS).
At the World Championships cross country race in Val di Sole, Italy, in June, Davison surprised many with a 19th place finish in a field stacked with Olympic hopefuls. In fact, she finished one position ahead of Mary McConneloug, who represented the US in Beijing, China.
Racing in July on her home course at Mt. Snow, Vermont, amid deafening cheers from her large cadre of fans, she finished third in the short track behind Katie Compton (Spike) and Olympian Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven). She also beat the nearly invincible Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB Team). What followed her performance was a sort of "coming out party" with her supporters on hand.
In Bromont, Canada, Davison then notched her first top-ten World Cup result. Horrific, deeply muddy conditions must have reminded Davison of racing in her native Vermont. The course was so treacherous that multi-time World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa opted not to race rather than risk injury that could affect her Olympic goals.
Davison also clocked an impressive third overall at the inaugural American Mountain Classic stage race held at 11,000 ft. in Brian Head, Utah. Finally, in her proudest accomplishment of the season, she won the NMBS short track there ahead of one of the best racers of that discipline, Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB Team).
Growing up racing
The well-liked, good-humored Davison often jokes around and seems to take disappointment in stride. She has inspired her peers and up and coming young racers with her infectious smile and friendly personality.
"One thing that I really love about Lea is her level of enthusiasm. As, I was winding down my career, she really infused her youth, energy and work ethic into mine. She is humble, but she doesn't hide it when she has done well. She pumps her hands in the air, gives a big smile and then says how stoked she is," said teammate Haywood.
"She makes everyone want to share her joy when she does well," said Haywood. "You will never see Lea throw her bike in a tantrum like some racers her age. She is a great sportswomen and a real role model for younger riders."
Davison credits her sister and training partner, Sabra, with much of her success. Growing up in a small Vermont town, the pair often raced against the boys because the women's fields were small. In local races, the two were determined to beat the boys. "They used to start us with the boys, so catching and passing them fuelled the fire," said Sabra.
"Lea and I have always been competitive. Whether it was sidewalk chalk or running around the neighborhood when we were younger, it was a battle to the death," she said of her relationship with Lea.
"There are two things that our coach can say that get Lea and me going fast: 'Work together or attack each other'. I have never, in my life, pushed harder on the bike then on workouts that I've done with Lea."
Growing up, the Davisons raced as the only women on the 17-person Team Devo junior squad. Coach John Kemp motivated everyone by telling the boys that if the girls clocked faster laps, the boys would owe them a meal. "Lea ate well that season," joked Sabra.
Read the complete interview.