Women Involved Series: Whitney Pogue
As a mom, racing took the back seat to raising my family but I have always stayed connected with the local MTB community.
In 2012, I heard rumblings about many of my teammates (we raced for a local shop) certifying to coach in the newly formed Utah High School MTB league. I wanted a part of this action, I had a daughter entering 9th grade and I wanted her to have this opportunity. That's how this all began.
We started a small team at a local charter high school that our daughter attended in 2012 (the local HS was under construction at the time). The next year, the local HS opened and we moved our posse over to Corner Canyon HS. Since that time, we have been the largest team in the country year after year. First growing from out roots of 18 to 75, then to 125, to 150 to 142, to this years 160. It is INSANE to see the growth of high school mountain biking. So to answer who I am.....I am kind of the face of high school MTB in my area. I created this opportunity (with the help of a small army) for hundreds of kids who filter through my program. It's an opportunity for kids to be a part of something...something truly special...in high school. Do any of us need a reminder of how hard high school can be? This is a safe space for these kids to be.
So who am I? I am just a person who had a vision and wanted to give these kids a chance. I am volunteer coach who truly loves these kids and wants to mentor them into being lovers of the sport and also good people. To my own kids...I am just mom...but I am grateful that I have a ginormous extended family with this team!
Tell us about the introduction to your #bikelife and how it evolved-
I grew up the only girl of 5 children. I was always trying to prove myself as someone who could hang...especially in sports! I tried MTB in the late eighties, early nineties and was immediately hooked. I loved how it pushed me, the cool things I saw and how I could hang with the boys!
How were you introduced to mountain biking and what about it made you go "Yeah! This is for me!"
I was dating a friend who worked at a bike shop so I was sucked in...I LOVED IT! I bought my first bike from his shop and rode that thing into the ground.
CLIPS- my now husband bribed me with "new shoes"...little did I know he meant bike shoes....but I had to stay with it for a month. Now I don't think I could go back. I have heard that going to flats will help make some of my bad habits go away. I also have dear friends who are scared to death of clips.....so it's entirely personal preference! If it is keeping you off your bike.....switch!
Tell us about your favorite event that you've raced in-
One of my favorite events I have ever done was the FIRECRACKER 50 in Breckenridge, CO. I loved the terrain and the hometown vibe of the event. I have wanted to get back and race the BRECK EPIC or another event in the area again but raising my own kids has been too much fun on the side. I also loved the Leadville 100, but it isn't the quaint little gathering it once was.
Any suggestions for folks who are looking to participate in their first event?
Don't be afraid! So often people, especially women, tell me that they are scared. Scared of wrecking, scared of failing...I always respond with the only failure is failure to try! Events are challenging and not for everyone, but they are fun and you meet the coolest people everywhere you go! JUST DO IT! (at the risk of sounding cliche!)
Have you had any biffs (crashes) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
When I was 43, I was stronger and faster than I had ever been. My husband encouraged me to try and race in the PRO category in a local race. So I did! About 30 min in I crashed fighting for 3rd place...breaking my collarbone. That hurt! It gave me the quick perspective that a) I am 43 and b) What was I trying to prove? I have only raced once since because I had encouraged my team to do a race and it seemed fair to race myself. Otherwise, I ride for me now.
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Looking back, I was CLUELESS when I started riding! Now that I spend most of my time teaching others to ride I think, IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW! Hahahaha! With the advent of the internet and YouTube you can get so much information on bike handling skills. Learn the basics from the start and you will improve exponentially. The year I took my coaches training I started to really improve on the descents. Because I finally had some skills to back it up!
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
CORNERING! Those kids who lay it down in the corners don't have my fear levels and haven't ripped lots of shorts like I have! I don't profess to be expert at anything but having fun!
What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that it is therapeutic for me to ride my bike. I love that it is freeing and makes me remember that I have a strong body that can take me amazing places. It is absolutely my happy place. I get to see places people who don't bike will never see....that is awesome...and so sad for those who don't bike.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I am not a gearhead at all. I used to ride a NINER AIR 9 RDO. Then our local bike shop sponsor for our team suggested he wanted me on a bike he carries so I switched to a SCOTT SCALE 900 RC. I LOVE THIS BIKE! It's a hardtail and it is soooooo light! It fits me like a glove. We're like old friends and have so much fun when we're together. This year, the shop gave me a TREK TOP FUEL 9.8 to ride. I had NEVER ridden a FS bike before that time. Not gonna lie, I LOVE IT! I upgraded some components on this "loaner bike" to lighten it up and I do love some of the fun descents on this bike. But when I really want to haul...I pull out the SCOTT.
You are a NICA coach for the league in Utah- for folks new to NICA give us a rundown on what NICA is:
Oh boy! NICA is the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. They are the governing body of high school mountain biking leagues all over the country. They have provided the framework for what we do to bring thousands of kids to the sport. Without going on and on and on I would go to www.nationalmtb.org to find more info. Most notable...NICA is founded on 5 core principles which guide our decision making and program development: INCLUSIVITY, EQUALITY, STRONG MIND, STRONG BODY and STRONG CHARACTER.
What influence would you say NICA has on high school youth?
In my area, NICA has provided hundreds of youth the opportunity to be a part of something really special in high school. Our school is HUGE and not everyone will/can make the sports teams. We take anyone who wants to be on our team and play by our rules. We have been the largest team in the country 5 years running!
What has been one of the greatest moments for you since coaching the NICA league?
One of the greatest moments for me as a coach was probably the darkest moment for me as a coach as well. Last Nov, we lost a rider on our team in a horrific car accident. The rider was a twin and both girls were on our team. While this was the most difficult time for us, it united us as a team. The love that came from our team family, from our entire NICA community was overwhelming. I know we all preach the NICA values and we all profess to love each other and what we do. Through this tragedy, there were no questions that these are the best people around. I had coaches from all over the state who traveled to sit by my side at the funeral. Schools who united and wore our school colors afterward, attending our candlelight vigils. Like I said, overwhelming support.It was so touching. This season, the surviving twin competed for her senior season. When she crossed that finish line in the first race of the year there was not a dry eye in the place. So I would say the greatest thing for me as a coach is that I created a space for all of this love and safety to exist. That is pretty cool.
I would emphasize that this league teaches youth that they CAN DO HARD THINGS! As you know, mtb racing is hard. Get involved and help make these teams happen on a local level for you if they don't already. This is a lifetime sport and a beautiful community to be a part of. It's a win-win!
Anything else about NICA that parents or interested youth should know?
Just that it is really awesome. It IS all volunteer-led, so prepare to be involved heavily! It's sooooo worth it!
What do you love most about having your own children being involved with mountain biking?
A few years ago we took a last minute trip to Sun Valley and took our youngest 2...our boys. THEY SLAYED IT! They could finally ride with us and it was the best sharing something I LOVE with them. We wore them out every day and they just wanted more and more of it. It truly opens the door for more and more adventures for our family. That makes me so so happy! My boys are way involved with comp soccer. They may not choose to race, but at least they have this life sport that they can do forever and with us.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
FEAR! Fear of crashing. I always say, sometimes you have to wreck to learn you can get back up! Women are afraid of being too slow or holding people up. Again, the only failure is failure to try.
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
I think it truly comes down to other women being advocates for the sport. I used to feel like such a minority and hung so much with the guys as a biker. Now, I see more and more women wanting to get involved. I believe NICA has facilitated some of this. I have seen whole families getting into the sport because of one kid who rides. I LOVE the opportunity to teach these moms and get them out of the dirt. Local shops could hold workshops and support efforts to get women out on rides. One thing I have loved seeing lately is the influx of cuter gear for women! Why do we have to look like dudes? So many cute bike apparel brands have been enticing, to say the least! I have also seen more women-only events in our area. The future is mountain biking.... let's get everyone involved! Women beget more women.....
Just to share something I love so so much with my friends and my peers!
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My kids think it is super cool that I can do the splits on both sides. Probably 'cuz I am old and old people can't do that who knows! I'm not that interesting. Random fact: I have wrecked so many times and jacked up my hands that both of my pinkies will never straighten again.....yet I continue to ride!
I love this sport!
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