The Key to Rising to the Top—Resiliency with Gwendalyn Gibson

Rising U.S. mountain biking star Gwendalyn Gibson explains what it takes mentally and physically to succeed at the UCI World Cup level.

FTF EP 120 with Gwendalyn Gibson

Gwendalyn Gibson is one of the rising stars of U.S. mountain biking. She races the UCI World Cup with Trek Factory Racing Team and has represented the US at the last two UCI elite World Championships. Gwendalyn attended Colorado Mesa University and competed on the cycling team while earning her BA in Exercise Science. 

In this episode, we learn how resiliency has kept Gwendalyn on top. Not only has it helped her withstand and work through the ups and downs of adversity that comes with being an athlete, but also helped her keep her love for the sport. Hear what Gwendalyn has learned from her training process and how she has evolved as an athlete. For Gwendalyn, it has mostly been learning to be comfortable with rest to counterbalance the stress of training, travel, and racing.  

Catch up on previous episodes of Fast Talk Femmes and subscribe for episodes on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsOvercastSoundcloudSpotifyStitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

Episode Transcript

Dede Barry  00:05

Hi and welcome to Fast Talk Femme with Dede Barry and Julie Young. Our guests on this episode is Gwendalyn Gibson. Gwendalyn began mountain bike racing and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, otherwise known as NICA in Southern California.

Dede Barry  00:19

In 2016, she won the junior division at the US National mountain bike championship, and then started racing internationally in 2017, making her first world championship team with Team USA. Gwendalyn has been progressing steadily through the ranks ever since culminating in her breakout 2022 season, her first year as an elite. In 2022. Gwendalyn won the Short Track World Cup at snowshoe took second at the Mount Saint and World Cup short track and went on to claim bronze for the US at the mountain bike short track world championships in Lizg, France.

Dede Barry  00:54

She recently competed at the World Championships in Scotland, placing eighth in the cross country and fourth in the short track and was the top American finisher in both races. Gwendalyn attended Colorado Mesa University and competed on the cycling team while earning her BA and Exercise Science. Her path from junior to successful elite racer has not been without obstacles, including a few sidelining injuries. But her determination and persistence helped her to overcome those obstacles and her success and the races lead Gwendalyn to signing her first pro contract with Truck Factory Racing team in 2023. At Track, she joins teammates Olympic champion Yolanda Neff, and former world champion Evie Richards heading into the Paris Olympics, she’s striving to earn one of the two coveted spots for team USA. Our discussion with Gwendalyn will focus on her development and how she rose to the top of the sport internationally. Gwendalyn, thanks for joining us today.

Trevor Connor  01:53

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Julie Young  03:07

Hey, Gwendolyn, Welcome to Fast talk them. And thanks for taking time out of your busy race and travel schedule to join us. Where are you right now

Gwendalyn Gibson  03:15

I’ve just made it back home to Grand Junction, Colorado A couple days ago. And yeah, home for a couple of weeks before the last few World Cups. So it’s good to be back at some rest. And I’m excited to be on the podcast today.

Julie Young  03:28

We are super excited to have you and and it is good for me to finally meet you, you know, just kind of being in the same circles. And it’s it’s great to make that connection. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of your background and our intro. So can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you’ve been up to recently?

Gwendalyn Gibson  03:47

Yeah, of course. So I race professional cross country, mountain biking, and I got my start in the sport. When I was in high school, I started racing in the SoCal Nika league. And I went on to race for Colorado Mesa University and and got my degree in Exercise Science while I was there. And kind of along the way, I’ve been moving through the through the ranks traveling with USA Cycling and racing the World Cups. And now I’m in my second year elite. And I’ve just signed the beginning of this year with trek Factory Racing. And so I’ve been racing the World Cup Series, and which is mainly across to Europe and kind of on this journey, the main goal that maybe I can make an Olympic team one year, maybe next year.

Julie Young  04:32

Nice. So how’s it been going with track that just it seems like a really well organized team with inspiring teammates and motivating atmosphere to help you just be able to be your best athlete?

Gwendalyn Gibson  04:44

Yeah, it was an adjustment because it’s so different from anything I’m used to. But the support is incredible. You know, we have like a performance coach that’s there to help us reach our goals on the performance side and we have people helping us you know, get a bike fit. Make sure our equipments running properly incredible mechanics just, there’s so many people behind the scenes on the team helping with all the little 1% things that can help you reach the next level. And my teammates are great. They’re super helpful. Everyone’s really supportive. It’s It’s definitely like a learning environment too, because I’m just I’m surrounded by some of the best people in sport, which I feel really lucky to be in a position like that, for sure.

Julie Young  05:24

Yeah, seems like your teammates can really help you raise the bar, like everybody keeps, like spurring each other on and kind of realizing what’s possible.

Gwendalyn Gibson  05:33

Yeah, I think so. Sometimes I think it’s easier. When you’re with people who have accomplished these things in you realize, oh, they’re just like me, there’s, there’s no reason I can’t do this too. And we do kind of like feed off each other success and learn from each other. And it’s super great atmosphere. It’s really cool.

Julie Young  05:52

I also think it’s really neat. We’ve we’ve spoken about this in previous podcasts, how teams are becoming so much more like comprehensive and integrated in their approach, and really looking at all those aspects of performance.

Gwendalyn Gibson  06:06

Yeah, for sure. It’s an individual sport when you’re racing, but so much of it is still a team sport, like, coming from your teammates, and then also all the staff everyone involved with the team. Everyone’s playing a role into what leads up to a race day and, and what leads up to those good performances.

Julie Young  06:25

Yeah, very cool. Very fun to have that type of atmosphere. So how did you originally discover mountain biking?

Gwendalyn Gibson  06:32

So my high school coach was a good family friend of, of mine in and he kind of encouraged me to try it out. I did a lot of sports when I was younger and, and he was like, I think this could be something you’d be interested in. And so I said, Okay, I’ll give it a shot. And at the time, I had done lots of other sports. And after I did my first season of mountain biking, I basically stopped doing any other sport. I was like, this is just I can just feel this is what I’m meant to do. And I fell in love pretty quickly.

Julie Young  07:05

I had read that you originally I think you were born in Mammoth. And then how long were you in Mammoth before you moved down to Southern Cal.

Gwendalyn Gibson  07:13

So I only lived in Mammoth till I was around five or six. But I have family there. So forever. We’ve We’ve spent summers there, and we go back all the time to go skiing as well. So it’s still always been a second home to me. And yet we go visit family there all the time, as well. So but yeah, I moved just a bit more south when I was like going into first grade.

Julie Young  07:37

So prior to mountain biking, were you athletic in other ways?

Gwendalyn Gibson  07:41

Yeah, I mean, my family’s just super outdoorsy. Like we’ve always gone camping and we go on hikes, and we’re super active. And when I was younger, I you know, I did soccer and volleyball, gymnastics, like I was always in a sport. And then I think the older I got, the more I realized that endurance sports were kind of where I thrived the most. So I kind of narrowed in on cross country running and mountain biking and found that that was what I enjoyed the most.

Julie Young  08:10

That’s so cool. We’ve again, we’ve talked about this in other podcasts, but how Nika is just really become such a gift of athlete development for USA Cycling.

Gwendalyn Gibson  08:20

Yeah, for sure. Without Nika, it’s likely I never would have found the sport to begin with. So I’m so grateful. And the SoCal League was extremely influential in helping me get to the path I’m on now.

Julie Young  08:34

Yeah, I have so much respect for the coaches running those programs, because they’re dealing with quite a huge range of interest and ability. You know, like, some kids just want to be out there to hang out with their friends and some tech jump their bikes and others like yourself, like really competitive?

Gwendalyn Gibson  08:50

Yeah, exactly. But then at the same time, when I first came in my freshman year, I was brand new to the sport. And so I’ve experienced, like, both ends of it, where I was, I was really new to the sport didn’t exactly know what I was doing. And I kind of developed through the Nike league into a position where I want it to be competitive, and I could be competitive because I get to grow. And it was an environment where I could learn.

Julie Young  09:15

Yeah, which is so neat, because it’s just so like, open and nurturing, and not like, you know, imposing or intimidating.

Gwendalyn Gibson  09:24

Yeah, I think that’s part of why I really enjoyed endurance sports, and I enjoyed cross country running too, but why I eventually zoned in on just mountain biking I think was the environment like you could feel at the races and that it was just so open. Everyone is supportive, and it’s different from other sports for sure it’s special.

Julie Young  09:46

Yeah, I just I love the energy at those Nicor races. And I think it’s really cool to that it becomes such a family affair, like you see so many times like kids start writing and then they get their parents writing and it’s just it’s amazing. Using

Gwendalyn Gibson  10:00

Yeah, yeah, like my, my little brother rides and my stepdad. And it’s something that we can do together and mean when I’m home and my little brother will go ride together all the time. And it’s nice. We have something it definitely brings like family together. And yeah, I remember all the weekends we bring our camper trailer out on a whole family would be camping race weekend, and you’re just surrounded by everyone who, you know, enjoys this common thing. And it’s a cool atmosphere.

Julie Young  10:27

Yeah, great memories. You know, if we look at like the studies and statistics, we realize it’s really tricky to navigate and translate a successful Junior career into success at the elite level, what do you think you did differently to beat those odds and successfully make that transition?

Gwendalyn Gibson  10:44

I think that I was just really lucky to always have people around me that were making sure that it was always something I did, because I enjoyed it. And I was having fun. I think that’s really important when you’re going to have longevity in a sport, because obviously, you want to take it seriously. And you want to push yourself and become a better athlete. But it’s really important to know why you’re doing it. And to make sure you’re always enjoying and it doesn’t get too serious where you can be in a position where you burn out. And I was lucky, I had just like the right people around me, that didn’t let me maybe push too hard when I was too young. Because that’s sort of the personality I would have had, you know, and it’s easy, it’s easy to burn out when you’re young when you have someone who’s super motivated. So that in for sure you have to be resilient because it’s not, it’s not easy transitioning especially, I think going from junior to you. 23 is such a hard jump, because you go from you know, you’re 1718. And then all of a sudden, all the US cups, you’re racing with elite women, you’re racing with people who have gone to the Olympics, they could be 10 plus years older than you so much experience, it’s a massive jump. So you have to be resilient and be able to adjust expectations and know that there’s going to be learning curves and be okay with adjusting expectations for a while until you’ve built up the experience of the people that you’re racing with. I think

Julie Young  12:08

like you’re so spot on in terms of having that team of people around you that create that perspective. And that help you kind of maintain that sense of patience, and but I also really appreciate what you said about tapping into your why. Because I think we can always drift from that, but always kind of reminding yourself why why you maybe initially got involved, you know, and that love of it.

Gwendalyn Gibson  12:32

Exactly. Yeah, I think that’s probably one of the most important things when you’re looking to be involved in the sport long term. You know, if you want to love it for your whole life, then you have to know why you’re doing it.

Dede Barry  12:43

That’s such good advice. And yeah, it’s so so critical. I agree with that. Gwendolyn. It seems like mountain biking compared to road cycling has historically treated female athletes equitably in terms of like, equal races and prize money and salaries. Has that been your experience so far?

Gwendalyn Gibson  13:02

Yeah, I think I think so far, I’ve definitely, I’ve experienced only equality. I haven’t been in a position where I felt like I wasn’t being treated equal. I’m definitely like, new to being in a position where I’m a paid athlete. So I’m still learning and figuring all of that out. But it definitely does seem like there is equality in sport. I’m super thankful for that. And for everyone who’s worked for us to have that. How old are

Dede Barry  13:29

you now? gondola? 24. Awesome. Yeah. What do you feel like your strengths are as a racer,

Gwendalyn Gibson  13:36

I think one of my biggest strength is just that I am a super resilient person. So I could have, you know, a string of bad races. But I’m gonna keep coming back and trying until I get back to those good races. And I think that’s what makes me a strong athlete is that it doesn’t matter if it’s going good or, or not. I’m gonna give it 100% Every single time.

Dede Barry  13:56

I think that’s such an important trait as a cyclist. I even think within races, you have to be really resilient. Because sometimes, you know, you can start a race on a high and then go through

Gwendalyn Gibson  14:05

a low and it’s possible to come back. Yeah, yeah,

Dede Barry  14:10

it’s amazing. And I mean, the seasonal fluctuations and crashes having a comeback from crashes. It’s it’s a sport where you, you do a lot of work put in a lot of effort, you don’t always get a lot of wins. And if you have a positive attitude and can you know overcome all the ups and downs, yeah, I think you can really prosper and that’s that’s just such a good trait to build on.

Gwendalyn Gibson  14:36

Yeah, I think it’s super important because it is hard to be consistent week after week. It’s no one’s superhuman. Eventually you’re gonna you’re gonna have hard races and days where you don’t feel good. And I think those are the days when it matters the most to show up and put your best foot forward.

Dede Barry  14:54

Having seen a lot of athletes transition from the US or North America to you European racing, you know, I’ve seen some really prosper and enjoy that environment and others have sort of had to take their time and getting used to it. Just with everything from different food, different rhythm of the racing. How was that transition for you? Going from the US to Europe?

Gwendalyn Gibson  15:17

Yeah. So the first time I raced in Europe, I was 18. So I was still a junior. And it was a trip with USA Cycling, we went to Switzerland did some Swiss cups. And that was kind of the first time I experienced that. And for sure, it’s a huge learning curve. And it’s so competitive, and it is different environment. And I think it’s something I’m still learning how to do with like your whole career, you can, you can keep learning how to adapt in how to race at that level. And I was lucky through, you know, my junior years, and you 23 To be able to go over to Europe and get that experience, because I think the only way you get better at it is just to keep doing it. And every time you learn something new and every time you go back and you’re a stronger athlete, and you have new tools that you can use to be stronger.

Dede Barry  16:08

And do you have a like a full time base in Europe? Or do you just travel from race to race when you’re over there with your team?

Gwendalyn Gibson  16:14

So usually in the past, I’ve I’d always come like back and forth quite a bit this year. I’ve stayed over for long periods of time, the team has helped me do that. So I don’t have like one home base. But we’ve gone back to we spent a lot of time in Endora. We did a team camp and Livigno. And some of it is just going from race venue to the next race venue. But I think what’s nice is the team feels like a family at this point. We all get along super well. And I think that helps it feel like home. Even when you’re away from home for so long. I think it’s super important.

Dede Barry  16:49

Yeah, that’s awesome. How is it racing on the World Cup circuit? Like I’ve heard that the courses are getting increasingly technical, which obviously suit some riders and not others. But I’d like to just get a sense of kind of what your overall feeling is of the World Cup circuit and how you’re enjoying it.

Gwendalyn Gibson  17:08

Yeah, yeah, it definitely seems like the courses are getting more and more technical. And I think it’s great, it adds like another element, you have to be a really strong athlete and really strong physically. But then you also have to be a talented writer as well. And so that’s a whole other aspect of training that you have to put time into at home, like working with the skills coach and learning how to do drops and jumps and, and different things that you’re going to find on these courses. And it adds just another element to the race, it makes it so not always just the strongest person well, when you also have to be good technically as well.

Julie Young  17:46

So kind of just going back to your strengths as a racer. And it seems to me that you really thrive in the short tracks. But I was also curious about like the cross country courses, like do you feel you do better on on a power course or more climbing type course or highly technical, less technical,

Gwendalyn Gibson  18:04

I think more climbing courses, I usually shoot me better. I like technical courses too. But I like when it’s natural. There’s definitely more and more man made features. But I just think it’s more fun to race real trail sometimes. But it’s definitely seems like it’s moving more in a direction where it’s more than likely, we’re gonna see more manmade features on a World Cup track. And I think part of that is just, it’s hard always to have a venue where there’s just good trails already there, especially when you’re holding cross country and downhill, which both are super fun. I think my technical skills are something that I’m working on still, and it’s somewhere I can make improvements on. So for now, maybe I would say more of a power course would suit me better. And then hopefully, in the future, I’ll feel stronger and stronger on the technical courses to

Dede Barry  18:55

grind Mila and do you crossover and any other cycling disciplines or are you only mountain bike racing?

Gwendalyn Gibson  19:00

No. I mean, when I was racing collegiate i i tried a few other disciplines, like just on the collegiate level. So like I’ve done a couple of road races and a couple of cyclocross races. I raced downhill a couple times with collegiate which it was super fun that I was able to do that in collegiate but on the professional level, I just raced cross country mountain bike. Yeah.

Julie Young  19:24

Speaking of your collegiate career, how was that for you? And how do you feel like that kind of provided a stepping stone between kind of that junior Junior racing to that senior elite racing? Do you think that was a pivotal part of your development?

Gwendalyn Gibson  19:40

Yeah, I really think that it was because it was a opportunity where I was racing with people my age still. So instead of just jumping always straight from Jr. to racing with the lead or racing world cups at a super high level. I got to still be in an environment where I could do races and have a pool The opportunity to be racing for the win and keep developing as a rider. And I think collegiate racing was super important for me in my development. And I had a lot of success in collegiate cycling, which I think it’s, I think it’s nice to get to experience wins too. It helps you build confidence. And then eventually you go over to the World Cups, and you carry that confidence with you. I think it’s important. It

Julie Young  20:23

seems like just your success having come out of Colorado Mesa, you’ve kind of brought a lot of light to that program and hope that program grow. Would you agree with that?

Gwendalyn Gibson  20:33

I think it was a part of that freshman class I was a part of, there was a ton of us that were super strong. And it was cool, because we got to experience you know, we were two times national champions as as a team. And so I think I was a part of a class that really helped the team grow, and more and more people started then going to Colorado Mesa, and it’s just become more and more successful. So I, I’m happy I got to be a part of that.

Julie Young  20:59

Yeah. Because it seems to me for a while, all I heard about was Fort Lewis.

Gwendalyn Gibson  21:03

Yeah. And then I really think that, that that freshman class I was a part of just was super strong. And I feel lucky, I got to be a part of something like that winning with a team is is a special thing. Not everyone gets to experience that. So

Dede Barry  21:19

it is amazing how you can all bring each other up to with everything from training to racing.

Gwendalyn Gibson  21:24

Yeah, and we and especially because we’re all student athletes. So we all spent so much time together. And we were there to motivate each other to train and study together. And I think you’re right, we we all kind of leaned on each other and helped build each other up. And that’s part of why we were so successful because we really were like a tight knit team.

Brittney Coffey  21:45

Hi, listeners, we’re so excited that you’re here to check out fast talk them a new podcast series, it’s all about the female endurance athlete. Here at fast talk labs. We pride ourselves on being the pioneers of information and education in the endurance sports world for both athletes and coaches. If you like what you hear today, check out more at fast talk

Julie Young  22:09

Gwendolyn, you know, a coach a fair amount of young athletes. And as we learn the training process, I consistently try to emphasize the importance of quality work and quality rest and different phases throughout the year to achieve those different objectives. And that one year doesn’t look the same. I think some people have that misconception like, oh, year round training, that sounds horrible. But it’s how it’s it’s very different. And also the importance of dedicated time off after the season to more fully let the mind and body reset. Try to emphasize that you cannot mentally and physically be in high gear year round. But you really have to prioritize that precious energy for when you really want it. And when it matters to really tap potential, like what is your year look like in terms of training?

Gwendalyn Gibson  22:59

Yeah, I think you’re 100%. Right? When you say that, it’s a year round of training, but there’s different phases. And every, every phase looks different. So I will at the end of the year, I take at least two weeks off the bike. And I think that’s super important to do. Because you have to let your body rest from being on it every single day, mentally and physically. And then you know, I’ll start transitioning into bass season. So there’s the period through the winter, where I’m doing just kind of long hours on the bike. And then as racing gets closer, then you start bringing in intensity. And I think, especially with the season being so long, we’ve kind of been trying to put off adding in the intensity as long as possible. Because I think also that your body can only keep up with that for so long. So I kind of want to keep it as much for the race season as I can. And then you know, through the race season. There’s different blocks when we have a couple of weeks off of racing, and sometimes that’s reserved for like a midseason rest again, or that’s maybe when we try to get some more volume and again, it’s different every single year. And I think it’s important to work like the athlete coach relationship is really important because then you have to you have to know when is it time to rest and when is it time to keep training and pushing hard and and that’s so individual to every athlete and one program doesn’t work for everyone.

Julie Young  24:21

And you’re like quote, I always say this I hate to call it offseason because I feel like so much of the important work happens in that offseason or that base building time. Do you do strength work? And do you do like other modes of movement to for that endurance based building like backcountry skiing or cross country trail running any of that sort of stuff?

Gwendalyn Gibson  24:41

Yeah, that’s like I think it’s nice because that’s the time of year when you can go enjoy other things that you wouldn’t normally have the extra energy to do like go run or go on hikes and I do like going to the gym and doing gym work still so it’s not like you just become a couch potato entirely but it’s time off of intensive training. And I do think it is important though, to have at least a week or two where you don’t ride your bike because you’re doing it year long. And I think it’s just good mentally to take some space away from it.

Julie Young  25:14

I guess I always feel like like I said, that kind of, quote, offseason you know that period, or people call it transition season where you are doing that base and like strength work, it’s, we’re so Always so focused on the physical, but to me, there’s just this intangible, the mental like region. And that’s so important. Like we said that mental energy to me is so precious in terms of really been able to drive that physical. And I just think the bike, although it’s low impact, it’s so limiting. Like we’re so flexed, we’re so linear, we’re so limited range of motion and just moving in different ways. And I just think it’s as valuable for mental as physical.

Gwendalyn Gibson  25:52

Yeah, I agree. And I mean, stress affects you physically, if you’re mentally tired, that does affect you physically. 100%. So that’s why it is important to take the time off the bike and off from intensive training. And I do think when you do that cross training, those different things outside of cycling at Les is like a really important foundation for when you start building again, and it makes you I think it makes you more well rounded athlete, because like you said, if you’re just only moving in the same way all the time, you know, it’s sort of limiting.

Dede Barry  26:27

Gwendolen, how’s your season been going so far this year, it’s been super good.

Gwendalyn Gibson  26:30

I think I’m still learning and developing in the Elite Field. But I think I’ve been on an upward trajectory all year, which is a nice feeling, you know, I’ve steadily improved, improved, and we just have worlds and it was my two of my best results all year. So that’s always a good feeling when at the most important race, at least to me, it all like sort of comes together. And two of my my biggest goals, you know, kind of finally happened. I want it to be top 10 in a cross country elite race. And I did that and, and I was close to I wanted to be on the podium for short track. I was one step off, but but that’s okay. I think it is still, it was my best short track of the year so far. So I was happy with that. And yeah, it’s been super good. I feel like I’m learning a ton. And yeah, I’m just excited to keep on racing and see, see what else I have left.

Dede Barry  27:22

So in following your career, it seems like every year, you’ve been kind of steadily rising up, which is awesome. And I was just curious, like, what are your short and long term goals going forward? Like we’ve gotten to Olympic year and next year? Is that on your radar? And I’d be curious to know where you’re headed going forward?

Gwendalyn Gibson  27:42

Yeah, I think a short term goal, like for this season, it’s been my goal to hit an elite Axio. podium. And so I have two more chances to make that happen. So we’ll see, that’s definitely a huge goal of mine. And then long term mean, just looking at next year, it is a huge goal to make the Olympic team, I definitely think it’s in the question for me, and I’ll be working really hard to try to make that a reality. And even if it doesn’t happen next year, it’s just a goal to make an Olympic team. So whether that’s 2024 or 2028, it’s something long term, I’m always going to be looking at something I want to do,

Dede Barry  28:21

what do you have to do to make the team is it a points based qualification?

Gwendalyn Gibson  28:26

So there’s three different ways you can automatically qualify, the only one this year was World Championships, if you were top three, and Nexio, that would have been an auto qualify. So no one met that qualification. But it definitely helps that I had a good race at Worlds and was the top placing American in both events, for sure. And then the last two auto qualifications that you could meet are at the beginning of next season. So it would be top five in the two opening World Cups that would automatically qualify you. And then I think if no one more to meet that or if one person does and there’s another position left, then they’ll get UCI points. And overall maybe like performance at World Cups, I think would be a huge factor, but it’s a discretionary pick at that point. Wendell, and

Julie Young  29:17

you mentioned two more chances. And those are North American World Cups, right? Yeah. Yeah. One in snowshoe and one in St. Anne. Mount St. Yeah, do you feel like as an athlete, there’s like a home field advantage.

Gwendalyn Gibson  29:31

I feel like there is even though like snowshoe is on the complete opposite side of the country. So it’s it doesn’t really feel like home. But I think you can feel the atmosphere from the crowds there. And like for me, my whole family’s going to be there. And I really think you do feed off of that energy. So and you know, won’t be making a huge adjustment to a different time zone which helps a lot as well, just for performance, but I think most of it just comes from like when you’re racing in front of a home crowd, you can really feed off that energy. And that’s how it was for me. Last year snowshoe was such a special race for me. And I think part of that was just because it was on home soil. And you can feel that.

Julie Young  30:15

Yeah. Do you like those two courses?

Gwendalyn Gibson  30:18

I do? Yeah. They’re both super different, actually. But both are really fun. And MSA has always been one of my favorite tracks. So I always excited to go there. And yes, she’s great as well. So I look forward to racing it, both of them.

Julie Young  30:31

we’ve chatted about this how it is, I mean, it is hard. That’s one of the things like one of those factors. I think a lot of people that don’t do this don’t understand is when you are an American or an Australian, and you’re, then in Europe, like it’s very different. And I think some people can embrace that and really thrive and some people just doesn’t work for them. But I mean, it seems to me that you’ve done quite well, adjusting to Europe.

Gwendalyn Gibson  30:56

Yeah, I think I enjoy it a lot. When I’m over there. Especially I think it makes it easier being with the team, just because you you have people to train with and, you know, kind of explore new areas within it. And you can make it feel more like home. I definitely hit like a window like, I think after like a month on the road, I sort of hit my limit. And I’m like, oh, I need to go home and and sleep in my own bed. I think that’s sort of like, you know, at this last World Cup we were just at I had a pretty hard race. And I think it was that mental energy we were talking about, like, I just needed to be at home and have my routine back and, and have some rest away from the circus kind of side of it.

Julie Young  31:39

Yeah, just that reset.

Gwendalyn Gibson  31:42

Yeah, I think there just comes a point every time on the road where I need to go back home and have my reset

Julie Young  31:47

your trips to Europe. Are they typically like four to six weeks?

Gwendalyn Gibson  31:51

Yeah, this this year, that’s been kind of each trip has been around four to six weeks. Yeah. So it’s different than yet how I’ve done it in the past, but I think it works better. I think it’s easier than having to fly back and forth like every two weeks and get used to the timezone again, and I definitely think it’s been good for me to be able to stay over in Europe longer. And yeah, I do think it works well,

Julie Young  32:17

when we raced road, and we race national team and UCI over in Europe. And it’s always took some time to kind of get into the rhythm of that racing. So it’s just so much more intense on every level. But I feel like if you have that opportunity to spend some time there, just get into the rhythm of that racing. It can really help. I think initially, it just feels like total sensory overload.

Gwendalyn Gibson  32:42

Yeah, I agree. It is but like thinking back to the very beginning of the season, like first World Cup Nove Mesto, we went over and and I think, yeah, it was my first time with a new team. And it’s, you know, one of the biggest and most successful teams on the circuit. And I definitely felt pressure. And it was the first time you’re we’re racing in Europe, the competition is you know, it’s super tight. It’s really intense racing. It’s definitely different from being in the States. And that first race, I was a bit sensory overload. I had a hard time. And then we had two weeks of just training in Europe. We went to Livigno trained with the team. And then the next two races after that were significantly better. I think it’s just getting used to

Julie Young  33:28

  1. Yeah, totally makes sense. And you have men and women on your team, correct?

Gwendalyn Gibson  33:33

Yeah, we have three men, two elite men, one you 23, man, and then three elite women. And one you 23.

Julie Young  33:41

Girl. That’s cool, because I feel like you can all learn from each other.

Gwendalyn Gibson  33:45

Yeah, for sure. I think it’s nice. And we usually do like a team lap on the World Cup courses where we all go out together. And I think that’s super nice. Especially it’s nice to ride with the guys. Sometimes they see different lines. And I think it’s nice to try to chase them around. Try to keep up. We’re all learning from each other.

Julie Young  34:04

Definitely. I really adore Riley Amos. I know him from the bear team. And he’s just such a good guy.

Gwendalyn Gibson  34:11

Yeah, yeah. He’s super great to have around and yeah, like, he’ll go on course with with Maddie and I and help us look at lines too. And it’s really nice.

Julie Young  34:20

Yeah, definitely. When when reflecting a bit, what are some of the most important things you have learned through your training process? And just as you have evolved as an athlete,

Gwendalyn Gibson  34:32

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned and I’m still learning is that rest is so important. Even even in season, there’s still times where you need to take a day off the bike, or take an easier week of training and, and sometimes that can feel like, Oh, you’re not working hard enough. But it’s some of the most important work I think I’m learning the rest. Without the rest you’re not Wanna get all the benefits from all the hard training that you’re doing? Sometimes I still struggle with that. But I know how important it is. So force yourself to take the time off.

Julie Young  35:09

We actually just did an episode with Dr. Seiler. He’s just this amazing guy. He’s a, he lives in Norway. He’s actually an American, but just a world renowned physiologist, and kind of was a big leader in that kind of polarized training concept, you know, the 8020. But anyway, we just did this episode with him on rest and recovery. I think just, you know, as a coach and athlete, you realize it’s one of the hardest things for athletes to do. And helping them like understand like, that it’s part of the equation, it can’t be just training stress, it has to be training, stress plus rest. And, you know, I think so often athletes just feel guilty, or they feel anxious about that rest. And it’s like, it’s always the answer is to do more. And so I think it’s so great to hear you emphasize that.

Gwendalyn Gibson  35:56

Yeah. But in for the same, exactly what you’re saying, I struggle with it sometimes. Yeah. Because if you’re resting, sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re working hard enough, or it’s totally, it’s easy to fall into that mindset. But it is so important to remind yourself that you have to go down to come back up by can’t always be pushing it harder and harder a certain point, you won’t be able to like keep improving, your body will not be able to keep absorbing that training. It needs the time off.

Julie Young  36:27

When I think in your schooling and at university, you studied physiology, correct? Yeah, yeah, I did. Yeah. Which is cool. Because now I’m sure like, while you’re out riding, you’re kind of thinking and connecting. But I also think that’s super important part of the coach athlete relationship is helping the athletes understand why they’re doing things.

Gwendalyn Gibson  36:48

Yeah, I agree. And I do feel lucky that I have a background. So I sort of like, I understand a lot of the time why we’re doing what we’re doing. But I also I think it’s really important to have that dialogue with your coach, you’re like, why are we doing these intervals today? Why is today a rest day? And I think it helps to, because then you can know, as an athlete, you know, do I feel like I can do these efforts today. Because sometimes you training needs to be adjusted, just because it’s written in the plan doesn’t mean it’s going to be the right thing. Because maybe you you’re experiencing fatigue and intervals might need to be moved. Or you might need a different type of interval, based on like how you’re racing to improve on a weakness or, and it’s really important to be able to talk through that with a Coach to make an individualized training plan.

Julie Young  37:39

Yeah, I think it’s a relationship, you know, and it isn’t just one sided, where the coach is just imposing this really, like, rigid plan, but it’s the athletes feedback. And I think a lot of times it’s hard for athletes to voice that opinion. You know, they feel like they’re going to let the coach down. But I think, you know, it’s it’s so good to hear you say that.

Gwendalyn Gibson  37:59

Yeah. And I think it helps you and I’ve been working with, I’ve actually only had one coach for my whole cycling career, I started working with my coach when I was a senior in high school. So we’ve had a lot of time to build that relationship. And I think that’s why I’ve had such a steady improvement, because every year, both of us are learning new things. And every single year looks different. Like the training always looks different. Maybe there’s a couple of workouts that are always there. But the approach changes based on what we learned every year. And I think that’s why I have the steady improvement that I’ve had.

Dede Barry  38:36

That adaptability is so important. And also it is important to change up your training because there’s a lot of different ways to get from point A to point B. But in the end, like, you know, repetition doesn’t work. You actually need stimulus and you need to be changing and continually stimulating yourself.

Gwendalyn Gibson  38:54

Yeah, exactly.

Dede Barry  38:55

I completely agree with that. Gwendolyn. If if you were to give three pieces of advice to an up and coming female mountain biker, what would they be?

Gwendalyn Gibson  39:04

I think the first one would be have patience, everyone’s trajectory looks different. So you’re not in the same place as someone maybe you look up to was at your age, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get to the same outcome. It just means you’re on your own path. So I think patient and make sure you’re enjoying yourself. Like make sure you have your why and that you’re having fun. I think that’s one of the most important things you can do as as an athlete, if you want to be a part of the sport for a long time is that you really have to love it.

Dede Barry  39:38

That’s okay, those are those are two good ones. So

Gwendalyn Gibson  39:44

I played a little bit

Dede Barry  39:46

bad hours. Yeah, we really appreciate you joining us today. It’s been fun looking at the medals in the background to Yeah, I see your world championship won and your national championships. Yeah, you have a lot to be proud of. That’s awesome.

Julie Young  40:01

Yeah, definitely. Gwendolyn really appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re busy right now.

Gwendalyn Gibson  40:05

I appreciate you guys having me on. It’s super nice to come on and chat with you guys and talk about the sport and yeah, hopefully there’s some good takeaways people can have

Julie Young  40:15

really good takeaways. I think you offered a third piece of it in terms of the rest. I thought that was a good Yeah, another good piece of advice

Dede Barry  40:23

and the adaptability. Yeah, the adaptability is so important. detectability rest and have fun. Yeah, like it. Yeah. I hope you have good luck in upcoming races. Yeah, too. And in Mount Sinai, and

Gwendalyn Gibson  40:37

yeah, thank you. Yeah, I think it’s gonna be a good time. And it’s always fun to race in North America. So I look forward to it for sure. Thank you guys.

Julie Young  40:45

We’ll be cheering you on. I love watching you on GCN. Yeah.

Gwendalyn Gibson  40:49

Thank you so much. I appreciate you for Yeah.

Julie Young  40:53

Well, great to meet you.

Dede Barry  40:54

Yeah. Really nice to meet you.

Gwendalyn Gibson  40:56

Yeah, it’s super great to meet both of you guys. And thanks again for the support and for having me on the podcast.

Dede Barry  41:02

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 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 our episodes. You can also check them out on the web at For Gwendalyn Gibson and Julie Young, I’m Dede Barry. Thank you for listening!