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Day in the life: Chloe Woodruff

Catching up with the U.S. national mountain-bike champion about the season ahead.

For the past two months, we have reached out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to get a glimpse into their lives during the shutdown in our Day in the Life series. Now, with a potential race season on the horizon, we’re asking about their fitness and forward planning.

Before the coronavirus pandemic halted professional racing early this spring, Chloe Woodruff felt fitter than she ever had before.

“Ever,” she told VeloNews. “It was really motivating and exciting. I didn’t do anything groundbreaking this winter, it was just having a level of consistency, things going well in my personal life, sleeping well, and managing stress.”

Woodruff had one opportunity to put her fitness to the test and don the stars and stripes jersey she’d picked up at nationals in Colorado, last July. On March 13th, she finished second in a sprint with Kate Courtney at the Vail Lake Pro XCT short track race. After the race, event organizers decided to cancel the rest of the weekend’s competition. When Woodruff realized that this race cancelation wouldn’t be the last, she struggled at first.

“I went from peak form to didn’t even want to look at my bike,” she said.

Location: Prescott, AZ

What are the regulations for going outside?
All along, Arizona wanted to keep open spaces accessible. There weren’t any state park closures, and it was encouraged that places keep recreational spaces open. There were some regulations at trailheads and managing people in gatherings, but luckily where I live in Prescott, trails remained open. People were actually picking up cycling for the first time, as well. There was maybe more traffic. It was easy to stay socially distanced. I’m lucky, had access to trails and roads for training, and really enjoyed that time. We had a lot less vehicle traffic on roads.

For a pro, springtime is usually packed with racing. I’m usually at the high intensity-focused workouts that time of year, so it was an opportunity to do a second round of base. I got to explore springtime where I live outside of the pressures of trying to maintain a certain level of focus, which was really nice.

What does your new racing schedule look like?
We have a World Cup schedule which is a little bit more known than even our domestic schedule. I usually have everything memorized. I’ve really had to let go of that part.

Sea Otter was postponed ’til October, the Epic Series has largely been canceled. Domestically, the mountain bike calendar has been hugely disrupted. The biggest immediate questions are will we have a national championship this year and when will it be. It would definitely be a disappointment not to have nationals.

chloe woodruff

Woodruff took second place at the Vail Lake Pro XCT short track race on March 13. The next two days of racing were canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Wild Glass Photo

What race are you most excited to do once the season starts again?
Racing and going back to the World Cup in the Czech Republic. I won the short track last year, but this one was supposed to be the auto-qualifier for the Olympic Games. It was a massive goal for the spring and first part of the season, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that race and training for it. It won’t be an auto-qualifier for the Olympics, but I haven’t let go of it being an important race. It’s a great course for me.

Getting back to Europe feels like a distant possibility, but I think about it a lot, and I think that’s good. I want to race.

What’s your opinion on the tentative plans to bring racing back?
I think sport is incredibly important for so many different reasons. I think everyone’s trying to find a way to do it in a way that keeps everybody as safe as possible. You can’t do what we do and not accept a certain degree of risk. This is certainly very different. In thinking about planning a trip to Europe, I already factor in some sort of self-quarantine on return.

I think you have to look at things differently, but racing is still important. I’m really hopeful it can be done in a way that’s safe, but if this year isn’t the year, we have to accept that. But we do have a calendar in place, and I have to think that people are working hard to make it a possibility.

Looking at the World Cup schedule, there are four races in four countries in a short period of time. What does that do to your preparation and recovery? 
I don’t really know how it’s gonna work. But you do remain somewhat isolated when you’re on the road. It just might look a little different.

I have learned the last few years that I’m kinda a homebody. I need those opportunities [between races] to come back and recharge. I tend to race best when I give myself time to recuperate from the travel and the stresses of the roads. My thought process has always been, the moment I don’t want to do a race in Europe or another country, that’s when I sit back and think, I shouldn’t be racing. It’s this incredible opportunity and privilege to do what I get to do, so I’ve had to be protective of that recovery time.

The thought of a longer stint in Europe is pretty challenging for me. It seems like there’s added risk involved in traveling back and forth. I have to look at the World Cup season this year through a different lens. Is it possible to find home-base over there and recharge? Who will I be around? There are a lot of unknowns and pieces to put together.

chloe woodruff

The American national champ: “I want to race.” Photo: Chloe Woodruff

What part of your fitness is missing right now?
I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I have a really solid base. I feel like I have this capacity to be really strong for longer training rides and events. That’s exciting ’cause it took me a long time to even want to go out on long training rides. I tend to like shorter, faster high-intensity sessions. Now, I feel stronger on long stuff, which might have to do with some changes I’ve made to my nutrition. That high end, it’s not too far off. It doesn’t take a lot to get that back. I have a great coach who I’ve worked with for a few years, continued to through this period, and I definitely trust him. I think when we have cross country races back on the calendar and they seem solid, then we’ll bring back the high intensity and race-specific work.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the mountain bike. A lot of the sport relies on skills, knowing your equipment, and dialing things in, so it’s been great to be on the mountain bike more than ever.

chloe woodruff

Woodruff on her home turf.

What are your expectations for those first few races back?
I think there’s going to be great energy. I think everyone’s going to be excited to reconnect and to have the opportunity to race again. I think everyone’s going to be thrilled to be at a start line, however that’s going to look.

How has your experience over the past few months shaped your worldview or perspective on pro cycling?
One of the challenges initially was struggling with a feeling of worthlessness for a little while. You know, I’m a racer but I can’t race. In some ways, you’ve lost your job and you’re questioning what the future of the sport looks like. Those thoughts come back. But on the flip side, people have been reaching out and mentioning how much they miss watching World Cup on Red Bull TV, how excited they are to see us back. You go out and more people than ever are discovering mountain biking right now, getting bikes out of garages, and getting them tuned up. They’re getting out and appreciating the outdoors. Maybe within that they’re opening up more to the professional sport side of things. The people who’ve reached out and made an effort to let me know how much my career has impacted them — that’s really special.

Like I said, sport is important for so many reasons. And I have maybe more appreciation for that now that I used to. It’s definitely a period of ambivalence but it’s definitely made me realize the value that professional athletes can have, and the impact to influence individuals and a community. It does feel like a responsibility. I think the sport will change, it always has to change and adapt to the times, and I do see changes ahead, but hey, if we get more people on bikes and outside and active that’s a positive thing. If I can play any role in that that’s big for me.