Savilia Blunk is a professional mountain bike (MTB) racer, eight-time U.S. National Champion, and made the podium twice in her firs elite World Cup season in 2023. She joins us this week on Fast Talk Femmes to share her journey from a junior NICA athlete to making the professional ranks.
Tune in as Savilia Blunk shares her personal developmental experience, recounting her natural entry into sports while growing up on a farm. Despite facing adversity, Savilia’s love for the sport and determination led her on a unique path to reach the pinnacle of mountain biking.
Gain insights into Savilia’s training practices, both on and off the bike, from strength training to her approach to nutrition and mental health. In addition, she offers powerful advice to young riders hoping to pursue cycling at the elite level and shares her secret to developing a winning mindset.
Follow Savilia’s continuing journey on Instagram @saviliablunk.
Dede Barry 00:05
Hi and welcome to Fast Talk Femmes with Dede Barry and Julie Young. Our guest on this episode is Savilia Blunk, a professional mountain bike racer for rock rider Ford Racing Team. Over a 10 year period, Savilia has steadily worked her way through the ranks. First competing with her high school Nika team, getting her butt kicked and the first international competitions, fundraising as a junior on the bear national team, and then creating her own team and 2021 with her partner, until assigning her first professional World Cup team in 2023.
Dede Barry 00:38
Savilia is the current elite US national champion and FEO and FCC and has eight national titles: two you 23 World Cup podiums and two elite World Cup podiums. Beyond trying to reach your highest potential on the bike Savilia’s passion is to inspire others to discover the bike as a lifelong sport, and feel empowered by the bike.
Dede Barry 00:58
Our discussion with Savilia will focus on her background, her training, racing strategy, nutrition support team and on what it’s like to be a North American competitor and a European based sport. Savilia, Welcome to Fast Talk Femme.
Julie Young 01:12
Hey Savilia, nice to see you again, and welcome to the Fast Talk Podcast.
Savilia Blunk 01:19
Thanks for having me.
Julie Young 01:21
Yeah, I know you’ve been traveling quite a bit lately. Where are you right now?
Savilia Blunk 01:25
Yeah, right now I am in Girona, Spain. I’m basing here for the next few months. So I’m here with my boyfriend Cole. And we are just Yeah, fully set up in training camp mode, doing like a pretty intense training block before the season picks up.
Julie Young 01:42
Awesome. And then what were you doing prior to that? Like, how’s your offseason been?
Savilia Blunk 01:46
Yeah, the offseason was really good. After a super long season last year, directly after the season, I actually got pretty sick, which I think is inevitable after an intense season. But um, yeah, I spent a lot of the offseason sick with my boyfriend. But then yeah, got back on the bike after a good rest. I think the body really, really needed it. And whenever you get sick, it really just shows that your body’s really needing a rest a good reset. So yeah, I got back on the bike, I spent most of the December in California where I grew up. So we were there kind of getting back into things and then now came over to Spain. So I was trying to limit my travel a little bit more than in years past, just because the season is so crazy. And a lot of travel just stacks up really quickly. So it was important for me to find a good basis in my offseason and then try to limit the travel. Yeah,
Julie Young 02:45
I think we talked so much about like the physicality of training and the offseason. And to me, like the offseason is so much about that mental reset. I mean, as much as the physical and just because you do have to dig so deep mentally and physically during the season. Just make sure you really take care and get what you need. Yeah, for sure. We touched on your background, and barely scraped the surface in our introduction for you. But can you tell us in a little bit more detail about your background and how you found your way into cycling?
Savilia Blunk 03:17
Yeah, so I grew up in a really small town in northern California called Inverness. And I was actually homeschooled with my two older brothers and we were all homeschooled. We grew up on kind of a small farm and then raised animals and grew from a big garden and, and really like learn a lot of things by hand growing up. And the bike was always in there, like always a kind of vehicle of adventure with my parents. And we just take a picnic and ride somewhere and stop and climb some trees and have a picnic. And so it was never really like competitive from the beginning. But it was always just a vehicle to move and get out. And then as I got older, it was something my brothers were really into. They were always riding and building jumps and catchy little tracks in our backyard. And I was kind of just always following them and doing what they did. And then I started racing through Nika in high school. So that was kind of when I first got introduced to the competitive side of the sport. And I was really fortunate to have a really strong Nika program in Northern California. And so that’s when I kind of started racing. And first it was Nika, then it was a little bit of like some of the products etc. Some of the US cups, I went to my first nationals in Mammoth, and I think it was 2015 So I was 15. And then yeah, slowly kind of racing more around the US and then in Canada with support from USA Cycling. And then I made my first leap to come over to Europe and race here for the first time got my butt kicked pretty hard. Arne and yeah, kind of slowly followed an upward trajectory, but took a lot of different steps to get to where I am now.
Julie Young 05:07
I love hearing about your childhood. Are you familiar with Killian journey? No, he’s an ultra runner DD maybe, you know, but I think he’s in the Basque Country of the Pyrenees.
Dede Barry 05:16
He’s actually from Peru Cerda area. So not not too far from Jerome. It’s about a two hour drive up there up near the French border, very similar,
Julie Young 05:25
their family, they just go on these long escapades through the mountains as he was growing up. So just like a real natural start to it, and it was just such a lifestyle for his family. It sounds very similar to your upbringing. Did you do
Dede Barry 05:39
any competitive sport before you mountain bike raced in high school?
Savilia Blunk 05:43
Not really anything serious? I mean, I played soccer in middle school. Yeah, but I was failing a lot. I grew up near the coast. And my dad is a huge sailor, and it was definitely like a big activity growing up mostly small boats. Just a really good activity for the family. So did a bunch of that, but nothing super competitive, like cycling was.
Dede Barry 06:07
Yeah. And were you homeschooled all the way through? Or did you go to like a standard middle school and high school? Yeah, I
Savilia Blunk 06:14
was homeschooled until high school and then went to high school. And that’s when I started racing in Nika with the high school team.
Dede Barry 06:21
Yeah, Nika is just such a great entry point for so many cyclists. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 06:25
it was really incredible just to realize that there’s other girls that were racing, and we were just battling it out and really sparking that competitiveness, and then just having people to ride with and you see them at the races. And it was like the first time my eyes really open to the whole community of cycling.
Dede Barry 06:43
Yeah, civilian, I think it’s really important that young cyclists understand that there’s a lot of different pathways to race at an elite level. And you don’t necessarily have to be a World Cup phenom at 18 years, like puck Peters, but can you share your story and path that led you to the elite level?
Julie Young 06:59
Yeah, you know, it’s
Savilia Blunk 07:00
funny, because it was such a different path than I would have expected at a young age. I mean, from a young age, I was really inspired and super motivated in the sport. And I looked up to people like Lea Davison and Rose Grant, who were at the time at the top of the circuit. So I was super motivated. But yeah, I think for me, it took many different forms, I started out just kind of mom and pop team, we drove my parents minivan down to the first US cup and Montana. And I remember, camping in the back of the van before the race with my dad. And we were like camping, and cooking under the just, I mean, if anyone’s been to Montana, it’s not the most glamorous race venue. And I think it’s like, you know, right by the side of the freeway and stuff, but we were just camping there before the race. And that’s how a lot of my early races went. And then I was really fortunate to have the support of bear development team, which is now bear national team, I guess. And they were a local development team close to me, and they really gave me a big stepping stone of resource and support, to race internationally and more national level events, and really kind of give me that support, they really need to have those opportunities to race because one thing that’s so different from Europe is the US is big, and to raise it all these different events, like it’s a lot of travel just from one state to the next. Whereas in Europe, like, you know, the countries are so much smaller, and the races are two hours apart versus like, you know, a 17 hour drive or whatever it is. So it’s really challenging to do it alone. And then yeah, throughout my junior years, I was with bear development team, and then kind of worked my way up. COVID was kind of a I mean, for everyone, but it came for me at a time when I just kind of made the move from junior into the U 23. category. And at the end of 2020, I lost my contract with my team. So my boyfriend and I, we all we were actually both in the same position, and we didn’t really know what we’re gonna do. A lot of companies were cutting back and the future was really unknown. And we came to a point where we were actually kind of questioning if we were going to continue racing because we didn’t have a team for the next year. And it was a really tough time because we were both really motivated. And we yeah, we didn’t really know the direction that we would go next. But together we kind of, I’d say motivated each other and actually, were able to put together our own team for the next year. So we had a lot of support from Orange seal. They came on board and we started our own kind of privateer team, the two of us so we were able to make it happen with that program for the next year. But it was super stressful and we were really banking so much on on results in that next year, so to kind of prove ourselves to hopefully expand or move ourselves to the next step after that. So it was a really challenging time. And we both had no idea how to run a team or start a program or reach out to sponsors, we had pretty few contacts. So it was really like a super trial and error period. And we just kind of put ourselves out there, we learned a lot. And we were kind of banking on results the next year, which is never a position you want to be in. But luckily, we had a couple of good ones. And, and I think it was also like with the guidance and supportive orange deal really showing us that it’s more than just results. And it’s the story that you can tell and kind of sharing your unique story, which we both had one. And so that was kind of a big turning point in my career, I guess I would say, and this is becoming pretty long winded, but it didn’t just sign with a team when I was a junior, and here I am today, there were so many stepping points to get to where I am now. And we were two years with orange seal and our program. And then I signed with my current team, which is rock Ryder Ford Racing. And it was another big leap for me. It’s a French team, fully European team. So it was a big kind of leap into I didn’t know what but it was a full World Cup team and and really gave me a an incredible opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. And so here I am today. Wow,
Dede Barry 11:36
it sounds like your period of racing as a privateer was challenging. But maybe that pressure sort of also helped to push you to another level in the sport. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 11:47
I think it really challenged me as a racer, but also as a professional and team manager. And it gave me so many skills off the bike that I would never have gotten if I had just had a easy contract to sign, you know. So I’m really thankful for that period, even though it was super challenging, because I learned so much about how to manage a team and manage myself as a business. And also, it was such a mental challenge to balance those two things. And I think it really made me stronger.
Julie Young 12:23
It seems like that period, you know, and that decision was really pivotal in your career, your determination to continue in that platform that the orange SEAL Team provided to you like, to me, it seems like that’s when you really started getting traction at that international level.
Savilia Blunk 12:39
I think it was a really big pivotal point. Yeah, I was able to get myself over to some of the World Cups was kind of just going one by one. I was never, I never, you know, signed up for the whole world cup calendar. I could never have made that work, but was kind of just betting on myself. Really?
Julie Young 12:56
Yeah. And just again, a unique path. It wasn’t the typical, like, I’m just gonna take on the entire world cup calendar, it was just like, You really thought for yourself, what was best for you? Yeah, for sure.
Dede Barry 13:08
At what point did you start racing internationally? What was your entry point to international racing? Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 13:13
it was, as a junior, I did some trips with the national team with USA Cycling. And at the time, they were doing a lot of race camps to Canada, which is kind of, for us in America, it’s kind of like the step up, not quite European level. But the courses are much more challenging, the competition is more aggressive and kind of more in in line with the caliber of European racing. So it was a really great opportunity for us to just get that race experience, but not have to travel all the way across the ocean. And then as I think I was 16, or 17, did my first European race camp with USA Cycling again. So we came over here for a couple of weeks and did a like a French cup and a couple Swiss cups, and got the taste of European racing for the first time. So
Dede Barry 14:04
you spoke already about some of the sponsorship challenges that you’ve had. What are some of the other major obstacles that you’ve faced in your career so far? Yeah, I
Savilia Blunk 14:14
think that that turning point after 2020 was really a big challenge. And I guess I kind of explained that before. But I think also just all of the different changes throughout my last five years or so like with different support structures or teams, you know, you’re always having to adapt to different equipment and structure and management. And as an athlete, that’s it’s a big challenge to find that balance and kind of find your homeostasis within this new environment. So that’s been a big challenge and something that yeah, I’m always kind of working to find that balance because at the same time we are racing at the highest level. We’re traveling across The world and immediately needing to kind of come into that balance and relax and get comfortable and make yourself at home in this random hotel room, you know. So it’s always a challenge to kind of adapt to those changing environments.
Dede Barry 15:15
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think it’s stimulating. And there’s a lot to be learned when you’re in new environments all the time, but it can certainly be challenging mentally. Do you work with a psychologist at all?
Savilia Blunk 15:27
Yeah, I do. I’ve been working with a psychologist for the last five years on and off, but really consistently for the last couple of years. And it’s been incredible. It’s such a big part of racing, I would say it’s 50%, mental 50%. Physical, for sure, if not more. So. Yeah. It’s been an incredible tool. Yeah.
Dede Barry 15:47
I want to kind of just segue a little bit into your training. And I was wondering, like, do you compete in any other cycling disciplines just for conditioning for mountain bike racing?
Savilia Blunk 15:59
No, I’m going to be totally boring. And I just do mountain bike, just cross country. I’ve never really raced anything else. I’ve done a couple cyclocross races where I went to school in Durango, Colorado, they have a great little local series. And I did a couple of those actually, during COVID, when I was kind of looking for some opportunity to scratch that competitive edge. But for the rest, it’s just my mountain bike. And
Dede Barry 16:27
outside of cycling, do you use any other sports for cross training or competing any other sports?
Savilia Blunk 16:33
Not really, I can run a little bit here and there. And during the offseason, definitely I tried to fill it up with as much other activities as possible. I love being outdoors. So it’s not really hard to define something to do. But there’s nothing really specific that I really tried to target civilian. Were
Julie Young 16:51
you in Durango for college, then? Yeah, I
Savilia Blunk 16:54
went to college and at Fort Lewis in Durango and still kind of use it as a part time base
Julie Young 17:01
when you’re there. Do you ever cross country ski or do anything like that during the wintertime?
Savilia Blunk 17:06
I try not now that I’m not in school, I’m not there during the winter. But there were definitely some winters when I I attempted to cross country ski. I never I can’t say that I really got super efficient at it. But I was trying to Yeah, dabble in all the snow sports, because I came from California. And I was, you know, training. And I was like, super regimented. And following my training plan, and then this, this snow starts falling from this guy. And so I was really forced to, like get off the bike and try something new, which was a good, really good challenge for me, because I think especially when I was younger, I’m like, focused on the training plan, you know, and completing the training perfectly. And being in Durango really, like challenged me to kind of let go of that regimented Ness, which was really healthy for me and try something new.
Julie Young 18:01
Yeah, I think cross country skiing is one of the most humbling sports. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean, I love it. I live in Truckee, so like, we just, I’m just looking out now we just got a bunch of snow. So I do love it. Because I think it’s such a good way to just mentally and physically mix it up during the wintertime. But it is so humbling. It’s so
Savilia Blunk 18:19
hard. Yeah, we were just in Washington state actually, for Christmas. And, again, trying to find something else to cross train with. And it’s super hard when you just do it once every two years. You know, it takes a few times to really get comfortable with it. Totally. I
Julie Young 18:36
think it’s hard when you do it every day, the civilian we have a lot of young, aspiring cyclists who listen to the podcast. And I love I think it’s really powerful for them to hear from the best in sport like training practices. So I’d love to hear more just kind of more detail about how you approach the training process. So if you don’t mind, like kind of, we’ll get to the nuts and bolts of training. How do you structure your training around like your key events? Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 19:02
well, I work with a coach. And I have since pretty much since I started racing. And for me, that’s really important because not everyone has to work with a coach, but for me, like, I need someone to tell me what to do. I’m really motivated, but I have a hard time doing it myself, I guess. So that’s been always part of my training. But it’s become more and more important the last few years because my season is there’s a lot of races on the calendar. And there’s a lot of events that are key races. And so it’s really important to structure the year in a way that’s sustainable for me and especially with a lot of races internationally in Europe and a lot of travel mixed in so yeah, it’s been like a really strong foundation first is kind of built in the winter months. One of the reasons I have come here to Tirana for the last few years is to be closer to highlight Have all preseason races, which has been a really important tool for me to kind of like, just shake out the cobwebs in a really competitive field and get used to that, like, you know, knocking elbows with the best and, and racing on some of the toughest courses and really like testing out the equipment and the body before the World Cup season starts. So that’s been really important. And then yeah, picking, I think it’s really important to pick the races that are really key for you, you can’t peek for all of them, you can’t be at your best for the whole season long. So yeah, there’s definitely a time where I sit down with my coach, and we go through the whole calendar, and we, you know, see where we really want to target and where maybe we can back off a little bit. And then finding also a time during the season to take a break, to take a little rest, sometimes away from the bike completely. It’s really important because for me, now the season is really long, it is almost going to begin pretty soon here. And then it ends in like October now. So it’s really important to find a way that it can be sustainable, and that you can be have a healthy, sustainable, long season. Yeah,
Julie Young 21:17
I’d love to just get into more detail on some of the things you mentioned. But I think kind of back to the idea of a coach, you know, I think there’s, of course, so much information available now. But it can be just overwhelming. And I do feel it’s important, you have that person to help filter that and then just kind of take the indecision out of it, or the guesswork out of it. I’m sure you also really leverage that relationship for just the mental side of it, and brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of each other and just kind of creating that really collaborative effort.
Savilia Blunk 21:50
Yeah, for sure. It’s, it’s completely a collaborative effort. And for me, it’s really important and great to have somebody that gives you that structure. But it’s also I’ve had multiple coaches throughout my career. And I think as a junior, I started as like just this super motivated athlete, and I had big goals. And I was you know, so focused on like the training plan, and so regimented, almost to a fault that now I’m really grateful because the coach I work with now, Dennis van Winden, it’s a really a collaborative effort. And there’s so much like listening to my body and not always pushing through if just because the training plan says what it says, you know, which I think is so important, especially for athletes, just getting into the sport, or just starting to train, you can always follow the training plan what is on paper, but it’s not always what is best for you. And that kind of term listening to your body is so widely used. But it’s so important to really like ask yourself every day if if like these intervals, or finishing this ride is really going to make you better, or maybe getting an extra hour of sleep and studying for your test or something like that. Like, for me from my experience. I I went to college, and I raced full time throughout school. And that balance was so challenging sometimes, but I really can’t emphasize enough, I guess how, like, it’s so important to put your health first and sometimes like doing that extra hour is not going to make you win the race when the season comes. Yeah,
Julie Young 23:36
I really appreciate what you said about just listening to your body. And I think like you said, it’s an evolution as an athlete and the young athletes and so many of these young athletes are amazing, like so driven on so many different levels and disciplined and yeah, just helping them kind of understand that perspective. Like they need to trust what they’re feeling and voice that and be willing to voice that and not be doing things just to please the coach or just tick boxes on the training plan. And yeah, helping them just I think empowering them with the understanding of why they’re doing it just to your point, you know, just ask yourself why you’re doing it and how it relates and versus again, just being so disciplined and kind of narrow minded on ticking the boxes. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I kind of have a love hate with data. Do you find yourself like really data driven more by feel or kind of a balance of both?
Savilia Blunk 24:31
Yeah, it’s funny like I would say more of a balance of both like to have the data is important to me. But I don’t think numbers when you races I think it’s more the mental strength and of course being fit, but I find myself especially over the years, like more and more now. Yeah, not thinking so much about numbers and just you know, trying to really be present and push hard. So I think it’s especially with mountain bike, it’s a little bit different because the tracks are so different. And there’s so many more factors in the race, it’s there’s technicality, there’s weather changes. And so you might have had the perfect training ride the week before. But the race this weekend is sloppy, slow mud. And you’re not going to be pushing those numbers in the race, and you just have to like suffer it out. So I think it’s really important to have a little bit of both. Yeah,
Julie Young 25:32
I agree. And I think Didi and I both feel the same way. It’s just like, I think people can fixate so much on the numbers and think that you’re gonna win races based on what you’re producing. But again, like to your point, it’s so many factors involved in a performance. You were talking about the early season races and rubbing elbows and knocking elbows and I was just thinking about one of the races I watched, it was like one of the last World Cups and you were climbing, it was towards the end of the race. And I think Yolanda was trying to pass you. And it was so impressive, like you just would not relent, and you just kind of put the elbows out and maintain your position. And I think that’s really good for young girls to see. And women because I think oftentimes, women are just so like, oh, no, you go, you take it. And I think they need to understand like, Hey, you can still be gracious, you can still be a good sports person. But you know, this is racing. And I think it’s good for them to see that assertiveness.
Savilia Blunk 26:31
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean, it’s necessary. And I think that’s a lesson I learned a lot when I came over to Europe and started racing over here. But like you can be best friends when it’s not in during the race, you know, but as soon as the gun goes off, like it’s full on. And I got introduced to that when I raced in Europe, people say like, yeah, it’s it’s another level, it’s more aggressive. But that’s what I mean is like, it’s the courses are more technical, just requiring so much more focus and skill. And the competition is just very aggressive. Like, you know, you’ll be elbowed and pushed off the trail. And that’s racing, and nobody complains about it. That’s just how it is so
Julie Young 27:13
different than the US. Yeah. How long have you worked with your coach?
Savilia Blunk 27:17
I’ve been with him for I think now is the third year. Nice. And
Julie Young 27:22
how did you connect? Yeah, so
Savilia Blunk 27:24
um, I was connected with him through orange seal, actually, he was working with orange seal. And my boyfriend and I were, he comes from the World Tour and was kind of just recently retired and, and starting this new career as a coach. And my boyfriend and I were kind of a couple of the first athletes of his just getting into the world of coaching. And we yeah, we were connected with him through orange seal, and have been working with him through the orange seal Academy now. And he coaches, all kinds of different athletes from World Cup cross country to what my boyfriend Cole is doing, which is quite the extreme opposite. Do
Julie Young 28:06
you guys integrate strength into your program? Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 28:09
over the years, I’ve had different form of strength. And now it’s really kind of adapted into a kind of built out mobility and activation routine, which is something that I started doing a couple years ago, just, I was struggling with some back pain and nothing super serious, but just kind of nagging. And I just started doing a little bit of activation before every ride just with like, I use a little elastic band around just above the knees, and just do kind of go through a couple basic planks and glute activation activities. Nothing crazy. It was like, like 15 minutes or so. And then I get on the bike. And I noticed immediately when I did that, like I felt so much better. And just those muscles are just are firing so much more. And so now my strength is really built up to kind of encompass my strength. And then like the biggest thing is just riding my mountain bike riding my mountain bike on technical trails, and a lot throughout the offseason, too, because it’s how I race. And I think the best way to train is how you race and so that’s been super key.
Julie Young 29:22
So not so much like a resistance training type workout, but more mini bands bodyweight that sort of thing. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 29:29
yeah, a combination of mobility, activation stuff, and then just riding my mountain bike. It’s a super big part of the preparation
Dede Barry 29:37
severely. I want to shift the conversation now to talk about nutrition. Generally, do you follow any particular dietary protocol or guidelines? Or do you just try to eat a healthy well balanced diet?
Savilia Blunk 29:49
Yeah, I’m not super strict with anything. I love cooking and kind of the whole aspect around nutrition. I’m really passionate about it and I think like growing up with our own garden and growing our vegetables and cooking so much from scratch, really sparked that passion in me. So, it’s always been like, a part of racing that I really, I like a lot. And I get excited about, like, you know, learning how I can optimize it better. But yeah, as far as any, like super regimented protocols, I don’t follow anything I just, you know, eat really well balanced, whole quality food. And, you know, make sure I’m getting all of the micronutrients and stuff. But I think it’s really important with nutrition to not overthink it, especially as like a younger athlete. I think I always thought that, like you had to have a nutritionist, and you had to have this like specific plan, eat the certain foods. But the biggest thing is to not overthink it. And just to make sure you’re eating well balanced and quality, good food, and also like not being too strict, because that is not sustainable. And just thinking about what is going to be sustainable for you. And sticking to that. Yeah,
Dede Barry 31:06
I agree. I felt like I always performed the best when I had a balanced diet with a lot of fresh foods, no processed foods, and I love to cook as well. I remember when I moved to Drona in 2001, the market there quickly became my favorite place to go. And I think pretty much in the 11 years I lived there, there wasn’t much I ate that wasn’t grown within, like 10 to 15k of Drona. That was really fortunate in that I got to know a woman named Remy, who had an organic farm 10 kilometers from Drona, nurse and Gregory and her brother raise chickens, and another brother was a wild boar Hunter. So I got a lot of a lot of my food from them over the years. And we used to even go and like help out on the farm a little bit, I would take the kids and I really appreciated access to all the fresh fruits and vegetables there. And fish and meat. Yeah, that’s super cool. It seemed like a paradise for anyone who enjoys good food. But in terms of your race diet, like I know, you know, you don’t follow a super tight protocol in terms of your general diet. But for your mountain bike races, do you have any specific nutritional strategy?
Savilia Blunk 32:17
Yeah, I think for me around racing and nutrition, it’s, it’s keeping it the same, like something that you are used to, and nothing out of the ordinary. So sometimes, you know, that requires a little bit extra communication with the people you’re staying with or who’s kind of supporting you. But yeah, I mean, my diet pretty much all the time racing and training is heavy carbs, because that’s what I’m burning so much of. So I’m eating a ton of carbs. And then just kind of trying to keep it balanced with the protein and fats and veggies and micronutrients and stuff like that, around racing, it’s more just cutting back a little bit more on the veggies and, and the fats and just making sure I’m like really topped up on the carbs, especially like the day and a couple of days before the race. And then pretty much between the day before is like everything that I’ve I’m used to so I’m not very I’m not trying anything new the day before. night before and especially for sure the morning of the race, I have like the same thing every time. So I think it’s important to figure out what works for you and then stick to that around like that 48 hours around your event. Because the worst thing is like you do all this preparation and all this travel and resources and then you’re messed up because you ate something that you’re not used to.
Dede Barry 33:39
And I know like it can be hard to eat on the bike during mountain bike races, because of the nature of them. They’re so technical. So what form does your carbohydrate intake take? Is it gels or liquids? Mainly? Do you read any solids on the bike?
Savilia Blunk 33:55
Yeah, for the races. I mean, the races I do are like 90 minutes, max. So a lot of the most of the fuelling actually comes before the race the day before the night before just topping off on the carbohydrates. And then during the race, I am still fueling for sure. But it’s I just can’t emphasize enough how important like the day before, is to really charge up the system. And then yeah, during the race, it’s super challenging to eat and something I’ve always I’m still trying to get better at, but I take gels and carbohydrate mix in my bottles, and we hit the feed zone, usually once per lap, and that’s a time where I’m fueling and then also in pre writing the course and kind of recounting it. I’m always looking for good spots to eat and drink. So you can kind of plan out where you’re going to eat and drink. So you’re not thinking about during the race and you can just focus on racing
Dede Barry 34:53
and do you aim for a certain number of carbs per hour.
Savilia Blunk 34:56
Yeah, usually I aim for 60 to 70 per hour. So it’s not super hard for me to, to meet that. And again, the races are so short that like, I think it a longer distance event if you miss a gel or a bottle like it can be detrimental, but we do hit the feed zone like every half a lap. So it’s pretty frequent. And I’m not sure exactly like how much i i eat but I, I tried to raise with like, three gels or so and each one is 30 grams of carbs. And then it has some carbohydrate makes sure my bottle. So between all of that and getting what I need.
Dede Barry 35:39
Yeah. And what about post race?
Savilia Blunk 35:42
Yeah, post race, the recovery is super important. And again, like something that I I’ve learned to not overthink, but just making sure you’re first of all, rehydrating immediately and recharging with carbohydrates. So one thing I do a lot, especially like training is just juice, fruit juice. Yeah, just some like high quality fruit juice, you’re getting your hydration and your carbohydrate right away, and then making sure I eat like a good balanced meal with protein, you know, somewhere between an hour to two hours after that. So yeah, the most important thing is carbohydrates and hydration immediately after, and then yeah, dry clothes, and staying warm. Because when you finish the race, you know you’re hot, but you can cool down so quickly. And that’s when like your body is the most exposed and able to get sick or like lose the recovery a bit
Julie Young 36:42
severely. I really appreciate what you said about nutrition, how you approach that? Because I mean, I do feel like we overcomplicate it. And oftentimes I think if we can just do the basics really well, you know, we’re gonna make so many gains there. And just, you know, just listening to you and just your attention to detail. Even though you don’t overthink these things, you’re really attentive to detail. And just like you said, after a race, like really taking care and to me like all those things, just again, just nailing the fundamentals is kind of keeping you on that trajectory, and supporting what you’re doing on the bike. So thanks for saying that. Really appreciate the clarity there. I want to jump into a little bit just your life in Europe in the life and racing in Europe, because it is it’s just so demanding on so many levels that you know, I just don’t think people understand but you had mentioned being in Gerona. Now, is that just a short term stint there? Yeah, so
Savilia Blunk 37:38
I’m here now for a few months. But it is a shorter term. And it’s I’m not living here full time. But over the last couple of years, and especially now being on a European team, and racing the World Cup calendar, like the majority of the races are in Europe. So I’m spending quite a bit of time over here. And again, I think it was like a learning curve to find that balance of what is too much travel, what is too many trips back and forth from Europe to the US, and what is sustainable. So I’ve spent a lot more and more time here in Europe. And it’s really nice to have a place like Drona, that feels familiar. It’s something that like as a North American athlete, I think that it’s so challenging to race, a full calendar in Europe, and just being so far from like, just that familiar base where you know, like the roads to go train on and you know, the supermarket to go buy your groceries at things like that. I think people don’t think about sometimes. And it’s really nice to have a place like that here in Europe that feels familiar. It makes the whole season and just lifestyle a lot more sustainable. So it’s been a big game changer for me, but also trying to find the balance of time to go home and spend time with family. So
Julie Young 38:59
how long will you stay in Drona for this stint,
Savilia Blunk 39:02
I’ll be here till the season starts till April. And then yeah, after that I’ll I’ll be back and forth in Europe and potentially Gerona throughout most of the season, most of the summer this year. I
Julie Young 39:14
know we touched on this a little bit talking about your training and how you try to find those blocks of racing, if I understood correctly, blocks of racing, and then those blocks of time where you can kind of reset and train but I would imagine that’s also important for your travel back and forth from Europe to the States so you can consolidate those races. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 39:34
for sure. It’s super important. Like that’s when kind of planning off the season looking at everything looking at the calendar. I see like you know, when I need to be in Europe or when I can travel back to the US. It’s been a challenge to find the balance because you know, my family and friends are are in the US and especially with Cole my partner. He’s racing pretty solidly domestics. Agile. So it’s been a really big challenge to find the balance and what is sustainable for me not just for a year, but for my whole career. And definitely working on that still. But it’s really nice that we can both be here and Drona. And we’re both working with the same coach who lives here. So that’s what makes it such a good base for us.
Julie Young 40:22
Yeah, we’ve talked about this. And you’ve touched on this in previous episodes about just as a North American Racing and trying to live in Europe. And it is just so different. And it’s, as you’ve noted, it’s, you know, it’s not just the intensity of the racing, it’s all the peripheral things that you’re dealing with and having to adapt to. And I think people don’t understand it’s not as straightforward as just going hard in the races. There’s a lot of other things you’re dealing with. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 40:49
absolutely. Yeah, there’s so much so many different factors, especially for us coming from the US or North America. I mean, we have jetlag crazy, long travel days, where it takes us, you know, at least 24 hours to get from door to door, and then dealing with a nine hour time change and being ready to perform at the highest level and four or five days from when we land. So, yes, so many factors. And it’s yeah, something I love about the sport, and it’s also just a constant challenge.
Julie Young 41:24
Yeah, definitely. It seems that, you know, it’s nice if you can have those stints of races where you’re just getting into the rhythm of that racing. Yeah, so you can kind of settle in a little bit over there. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 41:36
for sure. It’s been such a game changer to be here, in Spain for these early season races, where, you know, I’m racing a Spanish cup every other weekend. And I remember as a junior, like, a race in Europe was a huge deal. And it was so intimidating and stressful. And like, you know, just the whole aspect of it being at another level, you know, from the course to that competition. And now, I think just normalizing that has been really big for me, just because it is like it’s just racing another race. Here we go, we’re driving, you know, two hours away, we’re gonna race this race, not making it more of a big deal than it is that it’s, you know, a European race, the level is really high, the conditions are challenging. I mean, I think that’s something that’s come with experience. But it’s also been really nice to kind of normalize that because I remember as a junior, like, it was a huge deal to come over and Race, One Race in Europe. But to compete in the World Cups, like, it really has been helpful to make the racing over here just feel more familiar.
Julie Young 42:48
Yeah, it seems just dropping in for that one race is total sensory overload and just absolute shock to the system. And then, like you said, then you just get used to that you adapt to it and becomes normal. Yeah. Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about your current team? I know you said it’s a relatively new team for you based in France, I believe.
Savilia Blunk 43:08
Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a fully French team. Last year was actually just their second year as a team. So we’re moving into the third year, it was a big change. For me, management is all French we have a lot of international riders, though, Italy, New Zealand now. And Belgium. And, and then the French cheese, of course. But yeah, it’s been a huge change for me to just have the racing world and the World Cup calendar. And having the resources of a European team over here is just a, it’s been huge. As North Americans, your setup in Europe is always smaller, you have less resources, you know, you’re always kind of scraping by and just having the support and resources of European based team has been huge. And it really opened my eyes when we went to the World Cups in snowshoe and I really was, you know, in the pits for the first time, surrounded by all these European teams, and seeing how challenging it was for them to race, a race in the US when all of their support and all their resources is over in Europe. They’re just you know, traveling with massage tables and bike stands and all of these little things that I was just thinking I’m like, yep, like that’s like how it is for Americans every time we race a European world cup. So it’s kind of a funny realization. Yep.
Julie Young 44:33
Does a team provide like what type of resources do they have for you? I would imagine mechanic like but as massage nutrition psychologists, that sort of thing. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 44:42
pretty much like for the whole world cup week. We’re with the team and we’re staying together. We are pitting out of the team tent setup. They call it the paddock over here. It’s like kind of a European term. Nobody in the US really says it but it Yeah, they call it the paddock. So it’s kind of funny. Yeah, full mechanics support. So we’re riding the courses with we have a Stefan MPa, he used to race on the World Cup. And now he’s kind of transitioned to this sport director role, we pre ride with him. So it’s super nice to be able to have someone to see the lines and just kind of like talk about sections together. So we’ll do some laps with them. And then, yeah, we’ll eat together in the paddock, and then go back to the hotel, usually for massage. And then we’re kind of just like living together as a family for the whole week. So that’s been super different for me to have like a whole team and whole family that you’re really like, you’re living together. And before the team, I was just I was kind of solo. So it’s been really nice to have that that kind of support.
Julie Young 45:49
How many teammates do you have?
Savilia Blunk 45:51
There’s seven of us total, I think. So it’s actually quite a big team for the mountain bike World Cup. And we have four girls now on the team. So that’s again, like at the higher end of, of girls to be on a co Ed team. I think it’s one of the most out of all the teams.
Julie Young 46:10
That’s awesome. I was just thinking, as you were chatting about the resources available to you through this team. How when you and Cole were doing your own thing with orange seal? I know that was those were tough times. But I would imagine it just gives you such a different kind of respect and appreciation for what the team provides and does for you. Yeah, absolutely. It
Savilia Blunk 46:31
was such a change. And I’m still just like kind of gawking at some of the aspects of it, like so much is taken care of for me. And that has been such a big change from where I came from. And yeah, I’m so grateful for it. And for all the people behind the team, also what they all put in to a World Cup weekend, like it’s huge. And it feels so good when like you have a good result. And it can kind of pay back to them. Because from setting up the paddock to everything in between and the tear down, and then it’s off to the next race. It’s a ton of work behind the scenes. Yeah.
Julie Young 47:13
And I think you just have a different perspective, because you’ve done it so you realize what it takes to kind of make it all happen. And and I do think that strong sense of team helps you just really drive harder, and as you know, Aspire higher. And it’s neat when you have that strong sense of team. What are some of your favorite race venues?
Savilia Blunk 47:33
Oh, gosh, there’s so many. But I mean, it’s funny, I think I’ve had some really favorite courses before and then in the last couple years, like I haven’t had really good races there. And so then they become my not so favorite races. So one of the like Le J this year is now one of my favorite races because it was my best World Cup result. But also Yeah, I think not so much because of the course but because of just the race I had. And it was such a breakthrough race for me mentally and physically, that it has become kind of one of my favorites. And then also Montaigne. And it is such a iconic race such an iconic course, just because it’s so so classic mountain bike like supernatural technical, but this year it was it was just insane conditions like it poured down rain the night before. And we’re the elite women we raised that 1pm And the U 20. Threes raced in the morning at like 9am. So they’re the first ones out on course, and it had just dumped all night, the last race of the season. Like everyone is so tired. And you know, just the anticipation for race day is is so high. And we’re just watching the YouTube live on all morning just looking at the you know, the carnage out there. And there’s just so much anticipation to the final race of the season, but also to our race. Because like the conditions are changing. And it was wild. It was like so muddy. And the course is naturally like super Rocky, and technical and then add, you know, slippery mud and rain and water. It was terrifying and super memorable. Because I just remember looking up at the course, before the start and being like, I really don’t know what to expect. But here we go. So it was a wild one. There’s
Dede Barry 49:37
a kid that my husband Michael coaches, Jack shot loss. He was racing the youth 23 race that day. So I was getting videos from his mom. And I was thinking oh my god, I would not want to be on that course today.
Julie Young 49:52
It seemed almost more like a cyclocross course there was so much running going on and it was actually terrifying to watch. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 49:59
I know. Watching you guys descend. Yeah, there was a point where I for sure had to stop watching the 20 threes because I was like, I can’t see this I, we were making super last minute tire changes. And yeah, I was just one of those races that I really didn’t know what to expect and like it’s already really challenging to ride when it’s dry. Some of those rock gardens are just so natural and so massive. And then when it’s wet, it’s really Yeah, it’s terrifying. But you gotta go do it.
Julie Young 50:31
Oh, my gosh,
Dede Barry 50:32
how did you finish that day?
Savilia Blunk 50:33
Seven or eight?
Dede Barry 50:35
That’s awesome. Like a just to make it to the show? I’m sure felt good that day. Yeah, for sure. And one piece,
Julie Young 50:42
what kind? Of course Do you like? Do you like long sustained climbing punchy climbs? You know, do you like it when it’s muddy or drier?
Savilia Blunk 50:49
Yeah, typically, I’ve always loved the technical tracks, I think it’s kind of been a place where I excel, the more technical it is, the better for me. And also, the more gnarly the conditions are, the better. I just love. It’s not that I really have ever felt like I’m great in the mud or wet. But I just love the aspect of like, kind of just that condition that Nobody’s expecting, nobody’s prepared for. And it just kind of levels the playing field a little bit. And just, it makes it just really exciting. I
Julie Young 51:23
think too, you know, I’m sure like, some people are just absolutely dreading it. Right? Mentally dreading like conditions like that. And if you can have that mindset, like, Oh, I’m excited for what’s to come. And yeah, I think that totally changes things, too.
Savilia Blunk 51:37
Yeah, for sure.
Julie Young 51:38
What’s your thought on? Like, I know, you talked about Mount Saint Anne, which is seems so natural kind of old school trails versus like this trend towards more manmade features?
Savilia Blunk 51:48
Yeah, I think we’re starting to see a lot more man made tracks. I mean, with the Olympics, it’s always, you know, super man made like that. And then the World Championship track this year was also really similar to that. I think part of it is more exciting, maybe for the viewers because the speeds are higher, and the gaps are tighter. But I really hope that they they keep some of that natural tech and natural courses in there. Because that’s proper mountain bike. And that’s yeah, some of the stuff. I love the most civilian,
Dede Barry 52:21
what are your goals and plans for the remainder of the 2024? Season? Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 52:25
it’s a big year with the Olympics. And that’s one of the biggest goals of the year is to qualify for that we have the main qualifying races in April and Brazil will be the first World Cups. So super big focus on that. And qualifying and, and then we have world championships this year in Andorra, actually. So it’s one of my favorite venues and really excited that they’re going to have worlds there. Those will be two of the biggest goals for the year.
Dede Barry 52:59
And what about beyond 2024? Yeah, I haven’t really thought about it. I guess it’s hard with it being such a big year to Yeah, I
Savilia Blunk 53:07
think so many people have just, like, gotten to 2024 and not thought after it. So I guess I’m kind of in that boat.
Dede Barry 53:14
Yeah. Do you ever envision yourself pursuing other cycling disciplines such as gravel racing or World Tour rotor? I soon? Um,
Savilia Blunk 53:22
you know, I, I’m really excited that there is such a big growth of gravel in the US, especially I think it’s opened so many doors for so many athletes and just people getting into the sport. If you’ve never been to a gravel race, it’s a really cool experience where there’s so many riders from professional to first time trying to ride 100 miles or 50 miles. And it’s really cool to be in that environment. And yeah, there’s definitely a huge growth in the US with it. I don’t plan on straying too far from Worldcup mountain bike anytime soon. But it’s exciting that there’s other opportunities that are there for the future. Yeah.
Dede Barry 54:05
I mean, we were actually just talking on our last episode about the growth of gravel and the opportunities for women. And yeah, I think one of the aspects that is really cool, especially for kind of entry to mid level riders is just being able to show up to the start line and race against some of the best in the world. It’s a great opportunity in that regard. It’s been a great entry point, and probably like demographically more diverse discipline than any of the other cycling disciplines, which is really good to see too. I think it’s been really good for the growth of the sport. But civilian to wrap up if you were to give an aspiring mountain bike racer, three pieces of advice, what would they be? Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 54:44
such a good question. I think one of the biggest things that I kind of regret when I was like really getting into the sport, and you know, in middle school, high school kind of time is like not taking advantage of opportunities outside of the bike, like those extracurricular activities, you know, whether it’s going to that event with your friends or trying a different sport, maybe in middle school, like I was so motivated and so disciplined, which has gotten me to where I am today, but at the same time, I feel like, when I was so young, I was like, I thought that that one day would just, you know, ruin everything, and it really will not. So I think, like, yeah, remembering. It’s okay to take advantage of those opportunities, especially when you’re, you’re young, and your friends are doing other stuff. And you don’t want to miss out because those times are really precious. Yeah, I think another thing is like, as you get into the sport, like developing a process that works well for you, and knowing that it’s not going to be the same as someone else. I think it’s so easy to compare yourself to other racers or other riders, like, you know, whether it’s what they’re doing for training or what they’re eating, or how they’re preparing for races. But it’s so important to just develop something that you trust, because that is what is going to be sustainable is if you can develop your own process. And I think it comes with experience, it comes with making mistakes, and doing the opposite like comparing yourself and, and not trusting the process. But as you grow, I think it’s so important to develop something that you trust, and you can stick to especially like in times of challenge or, you know, injury or sickness, like your setback just coming back to your process and like putting one foot in front of the other.
Dede Barry 56:47
That’s such good advice. Thank you.
Julie Young 56:48
Dede Barry 56:49
been great speaking with you today. Yeah,
Savilia Blunk 56:51
yeah. Thanks, guys. That was really great.
Dede Barry 56:55
That was another episode of Fast Talk Femme. Subscribe to Fast Talk Femme wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk Femme are those of the individual. As always, we’d love your feedback, and any thoughts you have on topics or guests that may be of interest for you. Get in touch via social.! You can find Fast Talk Labs on Twitter and Instagram @fasttalklabs, where you’ll also find all of our episodes. You can also check them out on the web @fasttalklabs.com For Savilia Blunk and Julie Young, I’m Dede Barry. Thank you for listening!