Georgia Gould (Luna Chix) has had, by almost any measure, a stellar 2012 season.
The four-time national cross-country champion (in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2012, with a short track title in 2009) built off her two podium finishes in UCI World Cup races this year to win the bronze medal in this year’s London Olympics. In doing so, she shook off the specters of flat tires and muscle cramps that have dogged her previous international campaigns.
Her success in the Olympic cross-country race on August 11 begs the question: what changes did she have to make to go from being an elite World Cup athlete to being an Olympic medalist?
Simply put, nothing changed.
“I guess I’ve kind of known that that was possible for a few years now,” Gould told Singletrack.com. “Just sort of a question of putting everything together, you know?”
Gould spoke with Singletrack.com about just what elements came together for her outstanding race in London.
Staying with what works
Gould emphasized that, even for the Olympics, there is no need to deviate from the tried-and-true.
“I think … sticking to the plan that’s been successful in the past for me, that was sort of the key to being successful in the Olympics,” Gould said. “It was tempting to be like, ‘Okay, the Olympics are coming, how are we going to make training exactly for that course, or exactly for that race,'” she added, acknowledging the misconception that a big race requires big changes.
“You know, all the things that worked to make you successful in the past have been obviously working, so you don’t really want to throw it all out.”
Gould said that the key to dealing with inevitable setbacks is, “just… persevering, and not giving up just because things aren’t really going your way.”
No stranger to setbacks, both self-induced and external, Gould recounted that, “I’ve over-trained, I’ve gotten sick… I’ve had mechanicals, I had a flat tire that kept me from winning my first World Cup (on June 30 in Windham, New York) fifty feet from the finish line.”
She takes solace in the positives, however, adding that, “I think, instead of just sort of throwing up your hands… which can be tempting to do sometimes when you’re so frustrated… when you have these great results that give you that hope of, ‘you know, maybe I can win a World Cup, or I can do something really great,’ that’s sort of what keeps me going.”
A solid support system
Gould is quick to acknowledge that, “I’ve definitely had times where I was like, ‘I don’t know, maybe I’m just slow now, maybe I’ve just run out of fastness and I’m on the down-slope.'”
It is the support of those around her, she points out, that puts her back on the up-slope.
“I’ve definitely benefited from having just [a] really solid support network around me,” she says, emphasizing “my husband, my coach, my team managers, just all people that really believe in me at times when I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on.'”
A solid support network is so critical that, according to Gould, “I can’t attribute it all to myself… definitely having really great people around me has really helped me out.”
Interestingly, for an athlete with such a long and successful career, Gould does not see herself primarily as a cyclist.
“If someone asked me to describe myself as a person, ‘bike racer’ would not be in my description, it’s not how I identify myself,” she said.
It is this, she says, that allows her to keep her head down and take the bad with the good.
“I think that that’s a big reason why I’ve been able to get through some of my more difficult results and times,” she said, “because my identity is not all wrapped up in being a bike racer. There’s other things… about myself that I think are more important than bike racing.”
In short, her self-esteem is not dependent on her results.
A sense of humor
Gould is clearly in her element discussing the importance of humor in sport, her words coming quickly and without pause.
“It is just bike racing, and in the end, it’s not that big of a deal, so being able to sort of laugh about some crappy results… I think that definitely has helped me.”
Looking forward to the world championships
With her success in London, Gould says she is every bit as motivated, if not more so, for the world championships in Saalfelden-Leogang, Austria on Saturday, September 8.
“If anything,” she said, third place “makes me hungrier for worlds, because… I don’t feel like a bronze medal at the Olympics was the best I could have had, I’m definitely satisfied with that, but I know that I could have… gotten first or second place in that race.”
“It’s definitely motivating me heading forward into the worlds and into the World Cup next year,” she added.
In her bid for the top step of the podium, will she change anything in the build-up to the world championships?
“Nope, same thing,” she said. “This year, my coach and I just really… figured out what training works for me and what my pre-race week looks like, just sort of really dialed all that stuff in, so I think it’s been working well all year and hopefully it’ll continue to work well.”
As for her successful 2012 season, she says, “It’s just hard work finally paying off.”
Paying off it is, and come Saturday, Gould will be looking to make her hard work finally pay out in gold. A gold medal, that is.