As a youngster, Rose Grant rode horses and played a little soccer and softball. She was introduced to mountain bike racing, and the rest is history.
Grant, who lives in Montana, has become one of the best mountain bike racers in the United States, and she’s on an absolute tear.
The weekend of April 29 and May 1, she won the initial race in this year’s Epic Rides Series in Arizona, and followed that up a month later with a victory in Colorado. And, to top it off, she won the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike Nationals on June 4. Three wins in a little more than a month is impressive to say the least.
The 34-year-old Grant hopes to make it four straight this weekend at the inaugural Carson City Off-Road. Grant will race in the criterium tonight, and then takes a whopping 16-minute 12-second lead into Sunday’s 50-mile off-road race.
“I was in my late 20s when I got introduced to mountain biking,” Grant said earlier this week from her Montana home. “I realized I had some talent. I’ve only been racing since 2011.
“Things have been going well for sure. I’m very happy with the way everything has been going. It’s nice to have the opportunity to win some money.”
Grant won the initial Epic race by 5 1/2 minutes over Maghalie Rochette, and then beat her by more than 10 minutes in Colorado. With such a significant lead, it’s almost impossible for anybody to overtake her for the overall lead. Rochette finished second in the Arizona race and third in the Colorado event. She leads Amy Beisel by approximately five minutes.
“She (Rose) has been super strong this year,” Rochette said from her home on the East Coast Monday morning.
Grant said many riders, including Chloe Woodruff, have been riding internationally.
“A lot of the top riders have been doing World Cup, so I haven’t been very challenged,” Grant said. “If Katerina Nash comes, she would definitely be a challenge. I don’t know if she’s coming or not, I heard she was. It would definitely be a lot harder with her here.”
The Czech-born Nash attended the University of Nevada, so it’s quite possible she might return to the area. The 38-year-old Nash was a 2012 Olympian, placing 14th in the women’s cross-country race.
Grant, who has been through Carson City once on the way to Lake Tahoe, said she knows little about the course she’s going to ride this weekend.
“I’ve been looking at course maps,” she said. “From the little I know, I have gotten the idea that the trails and the course suits me fine.”
Grant, in a recent Q and A with Epic Rides, said she’s trying to push through a big block of her schedule.
“Staying sharp, free of illness and recovered will be my biggest obstacle going into Carson City,” Grant said. “My body typically requires extra rest once I get to the halfway point of the season.”
Grant arrived in town on Thursday, and was hoping to get onto the course before the race .
She said that positioning is key to any course with a lot of singletrack.
“The start is important,” Grant said. “A lot depends on the competition. You want to place yourself in front or on the wheel of somebody (you are going against).
“In most 50-mile races, it’s four or five hours of racing. It won’t be decided in the first section of singletrack racing. There are going to be so many opportunities to pass.”
After Carson City, Grant will compete in the World Championship in Czechoslovakia.
She will be competing more internationally in the coming years with an eye on one day earning an Olympic berth.
The 23-year-old Rochette has been racing for approximately four years. She’s a member of the Luna Pro team.
Her 2016 Epic Rides experiences have been up and down.
“The first race in Prescott (Arizona) was really good one for me,” she said. “I was pretty happy with it.
“The second race didn’t go as well, but I kept fighting the whole race. I still have a chance to finish in the top three.”
Rochette said she doesn’t know a lot about the area or the course, but she’s hoping to learn more when she gets to town today.
“The course definitely looks challenging,” she said. “It’s good from a technical point of view to get a look at the course. In a race four hours long, it’s nice to know what’s coming up ahead of you.”
Rochette considers herself a strong hill climber, and she’s going to be tested right off the bat on Sunday with 12 miles of climbing.
Like Grant, Rochette has Olympic dreams. She said the next four years will be pivotal for her.