Interview with Gina Grain
April 22, 2008 — Gina Grain (Webcor) made her first appearance on the track at the Canadian Championships in Victoria in 2004, where she won the points race title in her first showing – the same year fellow Olympic qualifier Zach Bell (Symmetrics) won his first national title. Four years later Grain has qualified a spot for Canada in the women’s points race and is headed to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Pedal spoke to the versatile cyclist, who is also the 2007 Canadian RR champ, about her upcoming plans, her path to qualifying, and about how she juggles the racing the track with her road commitments.
Do your plans for the summer change now that you’ve qualified for Beijing 2008 and how does this affect you road season?
Gina Grain: No, not at all really, we’d planned for it anyways, about a year and a half out. You have to plan for it, and assume you’ll make your goals. Will I be doing less road this year? I guess I will, especially in the lead up to the Olympics, but there will still be a heavy block of road competitions in May and June, but track will take over in July.
Will you continue to be based in Burnaby for July or back to T-town?
GG: We are not entirely sure yet, we’re looking at a few options, between T-town and Colorado Springs.
Was it a big bonus to have raced on the Olympic track at the Beijing World Cup in December 2007?
GG: Yes, it was a great opportunity to race that venue this winter, and to check it out at the World Cup. It’s just one less thing to be confronted with during the Games, when everything else is going to be exciting and new.
You’ve been busy racing at the Track Worlds 08 in Manchester, then at Redlands, and then back to Europe for the Road World Cup — how is the transition going from the track to a cobbled classic?
GG: It’s absolutely brutal! You have no idea until you actually ride them just how demanding they are. You have to have a 110% mindset going in, to battle for position, you can’t race the cobbles with anything less than that commitment they are just such a tough battle.
I got sick after Worlds – just like when you get sick after exams! – and I had to ride through it at Redlands and was able to recover a bit and just work for the team. Then it was an overnight flight back to Europe, where I took some downtime and skipped the first race we were in before plunging into the Road World Cups. It was hard because I was ready for a break and the fields split so badly – if you fell more than two minutes back you were pulled – it was hard racing. I had to decide before the Track Worlds about going and I don’t regret it, it was a great experience.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been taking a bit of a break, haven’t touched the bike which is important since this is the last real rest before I head back to Europe until the Olympics. It is important to recharge both mentally and physically.
Can you tell us a bit about the lead up to the Track Worlds and solidifying your qualification spot?
GG: It was a rough road leading up to the Worlds. I broke ribs at the Tour of Wellington in New Zealand in a crash, and was still not 100% by Worlds. I had to take a full week off the bike after Wellington, and then I went to my Webcor road team camp in the States where I got pink eye and had to go on anti-biotics!! After that I was able at least to get a short training camp in. Zach and I were both injured at the Track Worlds, but thankfully I was able to get some physio in Great Britain, and we had a chiropractor with us who had gone so far as to pay their own way to the Worlds.
Are you going to try and qualify for the Olympic road race in Beijing as well or just focus on the track?
GG: At the moment I’m focusing on the track side of things. I am in the Olympics road pool of seven riders, from which there additional criteria to qualify, such as the best results in European World Cups. I will be going back to Switzerland for the World Cup in Berne, but I will be coming off of my rest so I won’t have top form of fitness. Preparation wise I really want to focus on the points race, it could potentially work out alright since you need the road fitness to ride the points race well, but I want to concentrate on the track.
How did it feel when you found out that you were going to the Olympics after working so long and hard to get to this point?
GG: I feel like it is a chapter in a book closing, it’s something that I have worked a long time for. It has been a huge goal of mine for the last ten years and I feel that everything that I have done in my career has led up to this point. This is a very exciting time in my cycling career.
Going to the Olympics is a huge goal and a dream for a lot of athletes. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of things have to come together in order to get to represent Canada at an Olympic Games. I’m very excited to be starting this new chapter.
Congratulations and all the best Gina.
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Interview With Gina Grain
March 7, 2008 – With a vast array of illustrious credentials including the 2004 US Tour champion; 2006 #1 UCI-ranked Scratch race rider; silver Scratch race medalist at the 2006 Track Worlds; 6-time Canadian national champion and current 2007 National Road champ; twice Pan American championship medallist; and currently ranked 4th overall in the UCI scratch race, Gina Grain has made it no secret that she means business when it comes to racing bikes.
Her aspiration is that her top-level performances will bring her one step closer to her ultimate goal, which is to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The final decisions for Canadian Olympic representation will be made following the 2008 Track World Championships in Manchester, England from March 26-30.
Grain, along with Alex Wrubleski and Erinne Willock, is part of the Canadian powerhouse trio that recently joined the roster of #1 UCI-ranked Webcor Builders Pro Women’s Cycling team for 2008. This is the last of our interviews with the Canadian trio as we caught up with Grain following the final Track World Cup in Copenhagen Denmark.
How has your plan for Olympic qualification changed your training and choice of races thus far?
Gina Grain: I spend a lot of time planning my season”¦and then after planning the season, you are still planning! I prepared my season gameplan based around what I needed for Olympic qualification. However, for me there needs to be a balance between my track season and my road season. I have been very fortunate in that my road teams have been very supportive of my track endeavors throughout the winter; however, I am committed to my road trade team first. With track being in the winter months, I can pretty much fully commit myself to my road team for the summer. This year, because of the Olympics most riders will have a plan that includes how to best prepare themselves for the Games and work with their trade team and to prepare a game plan that works well for both parties.
Which races will be your focus this year as a member of the Webcor Builders team?
GG: The Wachovia Classic in Philidelphia will be a focus of mine this season and it’s an honour to be a part of the Webcor team there. My big focus is going to be helping the team attain its goals. Everybody on the squad has key races, and to be an integral part of helping other riders reach their goals is also very important to me.
What do you think the effects will be for the Webcor team having three strong Canadian riders who are familiar with each other both personally and as athletes?
GG: It’s always a bit easier joining a new team when you know the riders. The team can mesh quicker and you spend less time getting to know each other’s strengths and personalities. Because of this, the team can start working together a lot easier and a lot faster. When you put a bunch of pro riders together who are at ease with themselves in knowing their role on the team and knowing their strengths and weaknesses you can get to work right away. Its like a chess game you know..? If the horse knows its role and the castle knows its role you can start playing the game”¦ and then it continues in your head.
You’ve excelled at both track and road racing – do you feed off one discipline to perform better at the other? And do you prefer one over the other?
GG: Track racing and road racing are so much different from one another. You use similar energy systems and the training can definitely cross over, however, tactically the races come down to a different ball game. I bring my strengths on the road to the track. Do I prefer one over the other?? Hmm, tough question. Asking me now, at the end of a winter of track racing, I can’t wait to get on the road!!!! Ask me at the end of the road season and I may have a different answer J
Who is/are your cycling mentor(s) and why?
GG: I don’t really have one specific cycling mentor but I’d say my brother would by my mentor. Anybody who has a passion for what they are doing and puts hard work, dedication and persistence into it is my mentor. It’s not always going to be easy – actually, it’s never easy. I have tackled my career in cycling trying to reach the best that I can be while maintaining a healthy happy lifestyle.
What advice would you give to local Canadian riders with aspirations of becoming pro cyclists?
GG: What a great question!! Last year, Ann Samplonious and I came up with an acronym, jokingly at first, but has come true time and time again, and I believe it to be true. To be “PRO” first and foremost have you you to have: P — for planning and preparation, R — for recovery is as important as the training, and O — you need to be organized. You need these three elements everyday in your journey to achieve your optimal performance as you strive towards your dreams
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, for sure. I would like to extend a huge thank you to my dedicated personal sponsors over the past few years. Special thanks to: Antosz Orthodontics, Iron Maiden seafoods, Red Square flax products, North Burnaby Massage Therapy Clinic, and Usana Health and Sciences. Without the help of my personal sponsors I would not be where I am right now. For more information please visit my website at www.ginagrain.com
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