Q & A with Alison Dunlap
Spend a moment contemplating the term “world champion” and the significance it carries. With few bestowed this accolade, many of us normal-achievers never encounter a true “champ.” As life would have it, one particularly sunny spring morning found me sharing Jives coffee with World Champion Mountain Biker “Alison Dunlap.”
Alison’s accomplishments place her in a category reserved for the crème de la crème of athletes. Her career began at Colorado College with winning the woman’s national road racing collegiate championships. Following the 1996 Olympic Games, Alison made the switch to knobbies and astonished the community by winning in only her fourth World Cup race. In 1999, she won her second World Cup in California, a Pan-Am Games gold medal, and became the US National Champion. Since then, she has won 11 more national titles, a World Cup Overall, a World Championship, made her second Olympic appearance, and was inducted into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame. Now a certified professional mountain bike instructor, and member of the USA Cycling Olympic Selection Committee, Alison runs Alison Dunlap Adventure Camps (www.AlisonDunlap.com) in Colorado Springs, where she coaches and runs skills clinics for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CLINICS:
Our weekend skill clinics are open to men and women of all abilities. It’s always a two-day clinic and we have beginner and intermediate levels. It’s very intensive skill work on mountain biking. It starts with basic stuff and is progressive—by the end of the day you’re working on more advanced skills. The Saturday session is skills and drills on the grass all day. Very safe, very controlled, lots of repetition, all the fundamentals of how to ride a bike on trails and single track, and how to avoid crashing while being safe. On Sunday, it’s all on the trails. We take everything we learned on the grass and apply it. We’ll take a technical section and analyze, practice, demonstrate, and video it, working until we learn and know it, then moving on to the next one. We may only do two miles the entire day, but we’ll spend hours working on different problems on the trails.
AFTER COMPLETING YOUR CLINICS, WHAT ENHANCED TECHNICAL SKILLS AND IMPROVED MENTAL STATE ARE RIDERS LEAVING WITH?
We want them to know how to ride and have skills on the trail, but we want them to know how to be and feel confident on the bike and have a positive outlook on riding.
AS SOMEONE WHO HAD EXPERIENCED THE WORLD, WHAT KEEPS YOU IN COLORADO?
Colorado has everything that I absolutely love. I grew up here so there is the emotional tie; my family is here. I love big mountains and being above treeline. We have all that in Colorado. The trails, skiing, back country experiences, and rock climbing—everything I do is here and at altitude which is great for training and racing. I like the way our city has grown with all the ethnic restaurants. It’s just a great place to live and I will always stay in Colorado. It’s my favorite place to ride. My favorite trail in the world is the Monarch Crest Trail, and it’s kind of in our backyard.
YOUR FATHER’S ADVICE, “DON’T STOP PEDALING!” HELPED PUSH YOU ALONG YOUR JOURNEY. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE STILL SEEKING THEIR JOURNEY?
It’s all about exploration: trying something and sticking with it. Not so much the end goal, it sounds cliché, but it is the journey and everything you do to get where you want to go. If you want to become a cyclist and you want to learn to ride, it’s all about the process of getting a bike and signing up for the clinic. Maybe getting a coach, going out with friends, doing group rides. All these pieces come together and suddenly you’re saying, “I’m a mountain biker and I just signed up for my first race!” You must know that it takes time and patience. Sticking with it, not getting frustrated, and knowing that you’re going to have days of “this the greatest thing in the world” and days where you want to throw your bike off a cliff. But you don’t, you just keep working on it. The biggest take home message:
BE WILLING TO WORK HARD!