So much for gymnastics training at 4 years old, swim team at 6, or under-11 travel soccer. Baltimore's Georgia Gould, a strong contender for a medal Saturday in London, didn’t participate in organized sports in high school. Or college.
The 32-year-old didn’t start riding mountain bikes — the event she competes in Saturday in London — until she was 19. And even then, it began mostly for fun.
But by 2006, Gould had joined the LUNA Women's Mountain Bike Team, and currently, she’s the reigning national cross country mountain bike champion. She’s won gold at the Pan American Games and World Cup races, and took 8th at the Beijing Olympics.
Today, with husband Dusty LaBarr, a mountain biker and mechanic for the Suburu Trek Mountain Bike Team, Gould lives in Fort Collins, Co. with their “28 bicycles and a garden full of vegetables.” Occasionally, when returning home, she rides and trains on Baltimore County’s rural roads and trails, so keep an eye out…
We reached Gould via email in Germany last week where she was preparing for the Olympics before heading to London this week:
Baltimore: Growing up in Guilford and later Ruxton, you rode horses, but did you play any other sports?
GG: I played soccer, field hockey and basketball in middle school [at Roland Park Country School], but I didn’t do any organized sports in high school or college.
Baltimore: Did you do much road biking before you started mountain biking? When did you fall in love with mountain biking?
GG: I didn't get a road bike until I had been riding mountain bikes for a few years. I started riding mountain bikes in the summer of 1999 as a way to get in shape and explore the local trails around Sun Valley, Idaho — where I was living for the summer.
Baltimore: Do you ride here when your home visiting your folks. Patapsco State Park and Loch Raven Reservoir area?
GG: Yeah, I've ridden a few times at Loch Raven. That's pretty much the only place I've ridden my mountain bike in Maryland. My mom lives in Monkton, and I’ve done a lot of road riding in that area.
Baltimore: We understand your family owns a photography gallery in Greektown?
GG: Actually, it's my mom that owns the gallery. It's called "the Baltimore Gallery."
Baltimore: How does the Baltimore-area stack up for mountain biking? Interesting that both you and Marla Streb, a world downhill champion, are from here. Jeremiah Bishop, another top national mountain biker, lived in Baltimore for a while. Chris Eatough, the six-time, 24-hour Solo World Champion, lives in Howard County.
GG: There's great mountain biking in the area. I've only sampled a small amount of it, but the trails were challenging and fun.
Baltimore: What’s the best thing so far about your Olympic experience?
GG: Right now I'm training in Germany. Hopefully my best experience is yet to come.
Baltimore: Any secret on race day? Do you have a favorite pre-race breakfast, meditation or visualization practice?
GG: The secret is to ride faster than everyone else! Not really much of a secret I guess...My race-day routine is pretty basic: wake up, eat some cereal, hang out, then head to the race and warm up.
Baltimore: What are your hopes for the Olympic finals Aug. 11? Podium? Gold? Who is your biggest competition?
GG: My goal is to win. I know that I am capable of it on my best day. As far as competition goes, the women's field is stacked. I think anyone who has been on the podium this year is a threat for the win. I’d say there are 6-8 women with a legitimate chance of winning and another handful who I wouldn't count out. Really, you can't count anyone out — it's the Olympics!
*Update on Maryland-native and Olympian track cyclist Bobby Lea, who we blogged about here recently: Lea took 12th in the men's omnium competition — a multi-skills, decathlon-type event for track cyclists. This is what he told Bike World News afterwards: “With the exception of being one-tenth of a second off a personal record in the flying lap, everything else I’ve done here has been my best to date. Wherever I end up, I can leave here knowing that I’ve ridden the best that I can.”