Pro mountain biker Chloe Woodruff nabs pair of big wins at nationals
Persistence is finally paying off for elite professional mountain biker Chloe Woodruff of Prescott.
After suffering through nagging injuries last year, Woodruff has trained hard and gotten healthy in 2015, sweeping the Whiskey Off-Road pro criterium and its 50 Proof pro race April 26 in Prescott and subsequently faring well at World Cup races in Europe.
But this past Friday and Saturday in Mammoth Mountain, California, the diminutive Woodruff made her boldest statement yet that she's a force with which to be reckoned in the universe of Pro Elite Women's riders.
For the first time in her pro career, Woodruff won two national titles in Elite Women short-track July 17 and Elite Women pro cross-country July 18 at the 2015 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships.
"Winning nationals is definitely the biggest moment of my career," Chloe said Tuesday. "That's pretty special."
Chloe edged up-and-comer Lea Davison by four seconds to win in the final lap of the short-track race. The next day in the cross-country race, Chloe managed to get around close friend Erin Huck at the top of the downhill in the stretch run to win by 1 second.
In the longer nationals' cross-country race, a 5-kilometer loop, riders were greeted by wind and challenging climbs starting at 8,300-plus-feet of altitude.
"I was really close last year (to breaking through as an Elite rider), but there was a lot of times where I was not able to train," Woodruff said regarding how her injury problems affected her in 2014. "Mentally it was really a challenging year. But at the same time, I still came into that season closer than I had ever been before. I saw glimpses of it last year."
Woodruff, who's been racing as an Elite pro since 2006, captured national titles in the amateur categories of Junior racer, Under 23, and Collegiate in the past.
With this past weekend's victories, however, Woodruff earned the coveted American Stars and Stripes Women's Elite jersey, which she'll wear in competition over the course of the next year.
"A few days before the race I wasn't going into Mammoth thinking, 'This is my shot. This is my chance to win that jersey,'" Chloe said. "I knew I was prepared to have a really good race there. I did surprise myself a little bit that I did come away with two wins."
Perhaps more importantly, Chloe has boosted her placement in the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) world standings - possibly putting herself in contention to vie for a spot on the U.S. Team in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Chloe was ranked 36th internationally heading into nationals last weekend and will garner significant points from Saturday's cross-country win. The next international standings should be released in about two weeks, she said.
On Tuesday, Chloe celebrated her 28th birthday at home in Prescott, where she and her husband, pro men's cyclist T.J. Woodruff, live, and was gracious enough to take some time to reflect on the 2015 season thus far.
"This is actually my first birthday at home in close to 10 years," Chloe said. "It usually falls over our national championship weekend, which I'm always on the road."
Between the Whiskey Off-Road and nationals, Chloe has raced in a few World Cups. At World Cups in the Czech Republic and Germany, she finished 26th and 27th, respectively. Then in her last race before nationals, a World Cup in Switzerland, Chloe finished 17th - her first time sneaking into the Top 20 against a highly-competitive European field. Davison was the runner-up at Switzerland.
Chloe, a Boulder, Colorado, native and University of Arizona graduate who relocated from Tucson to Prescott with T.J. a couple years ago, said she has benefitted from Prescott's mile-high altitude during training rides as well as T.J.'s continued support as her coach and recent sponsorship deals with Stan's No-Tubes and Niner Bikes.
T.J. has coached Chloe for the past seven years, and she said he's kept her focused. Chloe, who trains on paved and dirt roads, said she loves her adopted hometown of Prescott, including its favorable climate and elevation. She enjoys riding locally on the Skull Valley Loop, Mingus Mountain and Tonto Road.
Chloe added that she has improved mostly on the little things that win big races, including her technical skills and endurance. Last winter, Chloe trained with local coach John Shumaker, whose twin girls race for Prescott High's mountain biking team.
"Prescott has been kind of the perfect place for me to live and train," she said. "The town's a great fit for us. It's the right size. It's a fun place to be."
With nationals in the books, Chloe leaves Thursday for a weekend UCI race in Portage, Wisconsin, just outside the college town of Madison. Since the race features international elite riders, riders can collect international racing points for the UCI rankings.
After Wisconsin, Chloe will return to Prescott to brace for the year's first North American World Cup race in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada, followed by the U.S. World Cup in Windham, New York.
"I try not to focus too much on the titles or the outcomes," she said. "From one year to the next, it's always, 'How can I improve a little bit?' For some people it takes a lot of time (to win as an Elite pro at nationals). For me it's been over 10 years of steady improvement and just putting in the work and figuring it out."
There's no question Chloe has figured out how to win at the highest level of pro mountain biking - and 2015 has gone a long ways toward proving that.
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2039 or 928-642-7865.