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Emmett surprises herself with early season win

Kelli Emmett went into the opening round of the Triple Crown mountain bike series last weekend with modest expectations but finished with a cross country win, a second in the Super D and third in the short track.

Traditionally strong in the early season, the Team Giant rider  had delayed ramping up her pre-season training with the goal of riding stronger later in the year, yet the mental and physical respite seemed to serve her well in California.

"There's not a lot of high priority races up front in the season, so I did way more skiing this winter. I stayed in Colorado. I did less bike specific training," she said to Cyclingnews. "We had a great winter in Colorado. I didn't have any days in the trainer this winter. With the mild winter, the trails were open, so I did a lot of trail riding."

"A lot of times, I would train very hard in the early season, and I'd come into it riding really well, and then I'd fizzle out in July. This year I wanted to change it and focus more on the season."

The 32-year-old Emmett has a few major goals in mind for 2010. First, she'd like to race more super Ds, a discipline at which she had excelled. Secondly, she'd like to do well at the US National Championships in Granby, Colorado, this summer and make the US team for the World Championships, which are in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, a venue she loves to race.

"For this year, I'd like to do well at nationals. I haven't yet put together a good race at nationals," she said. "We'll have the US Pro XCT round in my hometown (in Colorado Springs, Colorado) the week before nationals, so I'm looking forward to both of those races." Competing in the US Pro XCT means Emmett won't be at Downieville.

After her Bonelli Park race debut, Emmett will compete in the road racing at San Dimas, hit some US Pro XCT races, and the second round of the Triple Crown in Nathrop, Colorado. She also has her eye on a good performance at the World Cup in Windham, New York.

In her 10th year of racing and her fourth year with the Giant team, Emmett is hoping for a fresh start in 2010.

"Last year was a tough year. The year prior (2008) was my best season ever," she said. "Last year I had some ok races, like at Sea Otter. I had some top fives and had some good momentum. But then I did the World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, went back to Lea (Davison)'s house for a week and we did this Wednesday night time trial he local ski hill. I slipped on some wet grass and fell and broke my finger."

"The crash totally shattered my finger and that finished off my mountain bike season. I packed it up and went home for six weeks, so I did a lot of road riding and then had a great time doing the 'cross season. I had my best results for cross. In a way, that break left me refreshed for 'cross."

Despite taking some time off the bike after the 'cross season, Emmett seems to have met her goal of carrying over some of her fitness from cyclo-cross racing to mountain biking. And in addition to road riding and mountain biking, Emmett has found a new way to train.

"I try to get out and ride trails once per week on a motorcycle. It helps with the technical training," she said. The riding at speed helps train her reflexes for going faster on a bike.

"A lot of it is picking lines and looking ahead. You're travelling at faster speeds. It helps with cornering, especially setting up for the corners and finding the fastest lines. You carry more momentum and don't have to brake as much."

Emmett noted how her teammates Adam Craig and Carl Decker have benefitted similarly from racing rally cars and motorcycles. "Carl is one of the best cornerers I've seen from riding motos and doing rallies."

Emmett has even raced her motorcycle, but just once so far. "I did an enduro. It was so fun, it was great. I remember being done and thinking 'is this it?'. I want to keep going... unlike a mountain bike race where I'm usually glad to be done." In that race, done two years ago just after she started riding motos, she finished third of seven women. "I'm pumped to do more," she said with a smile.

She figures she has a few more years of racing left in her. "I don't know how long I'll stick with it," she said. "I'm excited about some things to do afterward. But I'll definitely race for a couple more years. It's my life for now - everything I do."

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.