Meet the Team
Hucknroll Athletes Rebecca Rusch and Mike Hopkins talk dirtby Dan Hall
Hucknroll recently added two athletes to its team roster: Rebecca Rusch representing the roll, and Mike Hopkins huckín proper. Both Rusch and Hopkins push the boundaries of two distant, yet distinct sects of mountain biking: cross-country endurance racing and gravity-comp insanity. We caught up with them to find out what spins the gears.
We found Rebecca lounging in the shade and reveling in her win after the Galena Grinder, an endurance race just outside of Ketchum, Idahoóright in her backyard. Is there a better time to interview than after charging 46 miles on a hot summer day? We thought not and fired some hard-hitting Qs at heróshockingly, there was no sign of delusion, fatigue, or lack of energy.
So how did your race go? Was it a walk in the park, or did you have to dig deep?
It was pretty hard, the descents are just as difficult as the uphillsóusually youíre psyched for the down after a long climb, but pretty big consequences on the descent kept you on your toes, ya know? Other than the challenging part, itís super fun with lots of locals, and the race is great training for the Leadville 100.
Oooh the Leadville, huh? How many of those have you done?
Yeah, this will be my second one. Last year I ended up winning it, sight unseenónever ridden the course.
Thatís a great way to race!
It was awesome. But now, coming back to defend, there are more expectations and the pressureís on.
Presstime update: Preparation, course knowledge, and training enable Rebecca to knock 30 minutes off her previous time and shatter the course record by 11 minutes. Nice work, Rebecca!
Did you set out to be an endurance athlete, or did endurance racing find you? And how long have you been competing?
I never set out to be a professional athlete. I ran cross-country in high school and a little bit in college, so Iíve always done long competitions. I climbed for awhile, paddled awhile, and did lots of active stuff. I didnít become a Ďbike racerí per se until about five years ago. My most recent metamorphosis, I guess.
How would you describe your diet? Very structured or eat what comes across your plate?
Probably a mix between those two things! I donít measure food and get into all that stuff, but I learned quickly ďgarbage in garbage out.Ē I used to eat a bunch of Cheetos and gummy bears while racing, but Iíve learned to be smarter about nutrition. Iíll still have a cake or beeróIím not saintly about it.
Any favorites/go-to pre-race meals?
Turkey bagel sandwich, although this morning I had some granola, fruit, and protein powder, which sounds really gross, but got the job done.
Can you tell us your most memorable trail-side/racing Good Samaritan experience? Whether you performed the act, or someone had the right tool/spare part/medical assistance?
You know, thatís what I love about mountain biking. That kind of stuff happens all the time. Even in a race, and across categories. I donít know of many sports that have that kind of camaraderie. I canít really think of one standout incident, as it happens all the time. When youíre in the middle of nowhere you gotta help somebody out.
You spend long days on the bike, how do you prevent discomfort?
Which area are you talking about? The brain or ass?
Um ... how about ass comfort?
The saddle-to-ass interface, ha! Well Iíve tried a lot of saddles and shorts until I found the ones that work. The Specialized Ruby does the trick for me. Comfortís a big deal, it can ruin a race.
How long should it take before you know for sure a saddle and bum union isnít working out?
I usually know within a ride but give it a little longer test to make sure. If itís not a comfortable union after three rides or so, sell it and try something new.
Any chamois cream?
I use a chamois cream and mix Noxzema with it.
No udder cream?
Yeah, I do use Beljum Budder right now. Thatís been a go-to cream. Also wash your clothes, and take íem off as soon as youíre done riding. Donít be a dirt bag, haha!
What about in the course of a 24-hour race? Do you change your shorts?
No, unless itís raining. But normally I donít change íem, I might pull on a second pair and double up if Iím in a bad way. However, if itís a team race, Iíll change in between laps.
Off-season antics? You said youíre a climber, but what about winter?
I do a lot of Nordic skiing and telemark skiing, thereís killer access here. I also have a motorcycle.
Oh really, a throttle twister. What kind? Outlaw chopper chick, dirt biker, or moto touring?
Iíve got a BMW 650 GS, dual sport. So it can go on dirt roads around here, itís good for scoping riding spots and new trail systems.
You know, probably the last two 24-hour Worlds. They were both held in Canmore, AB, by the Banff National Park. Itís pretty unbelievable, really beautiful with super-technical singletrack, the best 24-hour course Iíve ever done. But, I really like home too.
The economyís total shit, and your sponsor can only provide one bikeóno quiver. What style mountain bike would you choose?
It would be the 2011 Specialized Epic 29er.
So a two-niner, eh? Is it a full suspension or hardtail?
Full suspension 29er, with just under 4 inches of travel. I rode lift access with it the first time, and it rides like a dream. Iím completely sold on the twenty-niner.
Whatís in store for the future?
Well the Leadvilleís a big one, Iíll try to defend my title there if all goes well. I plan on riding as much as possible, both moto and pedaling. Iím looking forward to more fun media-type things. I did an ultra-fun super-D with SRAM, Specialized, and a bunch of media folks in Ashland. In fact Iíve mixed up my schedule a bit and entered some more super-D races this year. Iím enjoying them and the different riding style.
You see plenty of single-speeders out on XC race courses. Are they actually tough, or is it just an image?
Well, my boyfriendís a single-speeder, and a two-time 24-hour solo champ. He usually beats me, so I guess theyíre tough, but a bit stupid ...
We caught up with uber-busy Mike Hopkins by phone. Hereís what he had to say:
Where did you grow up, and where do you call home when youíre not on the road?
Rossland, BC. Grew up here, and I live here now.
You live in a mountain biking and skiing mecca, but outside of there, where would you say is the most epic location youíve ridden?
I would say for mountain biking definitely the Sunshine Coast, BC. Unbelievable DH trails with machine-excavated big-bike lines. Itís my go-to place.
Did you set out to be an extreme athlete, or did it find you?
I think it found me, but probably a bit of both. I skied and mountain biked most of my life. Where I live thereís not much else to do. My older brotherís a really good DH racer, so I kinda followed him around. I took a winter semester off one year to ski competitively, and it all took off there. I took a gamble, and it went my way, so a little of both. I never really set out thinking this would be a viable way to make a living, but it worked out.
What piece of equipment would you consider your mechanical dope, a.k.a. performance enhancer?
I would have to say my Monster helmet. It was custom painted with my name on it. Put on a custom painted helmet, and you feel like youíve gotta throw down, itís kinda empowering. You can be wearing your birthday suit with just the Monster helmet and still throw down.
You use a Leatt device right? How is it to ride with? Bulky, or put it on, and forget about it?
Yeh, I do use a Leatt. My girlfriend gave the ultimatum. If I break my neck and canít walk, sheíd have to leave me. So that day I went out and bought one. The first two days it took a little getting used to, but now I have to be reminded that itís there. Itís also a confidence booster knowing that itís there. I ride DH with one all the time now.
How would you describe your diet? Very structured or eat what comes across your plate?
Well, I try to eat healthy. My broís very diet conscious and that rubs off. Iíve never really been one for eating junk foodóIíll take some fruit over chips. When youíre on the road so muchóespecially when youíre in Europe, with bread and cheese on your plate and nothing elseóit can be tough sometimes to eat healthy. Sushi always hits the spot. The dynamite roll in particular.
Can you tell us your most memorable trail-side Good Samaritan experience, whether you performed the act, or someone had the right tool/spare part/medical assistance?
Well Iím constantly getting bailed out, Iím always that guy missing a tool in the backpack, but um Ö I have a worst experience, thatís for sure.
Yeah, whatís that one?
A few years ago we were shooting a big double hit on top of a spine. We built a jump wide enough for two riders to go off. We were all hittiní it, and it was working out super well. I remember Matt Hunter and Super T (Tyler Klassen) going off it and, I donít know, Super T got tossed off the lip or something and ended up in a compression with his leg fully lockedóbreaking his femur. When the dust settled his foot was by his head. It was the most graphic thing Iíve ever seen. That was, uh, pretty horrible.
Oooh, ouch. Not cool. Speaking of the inherent dangers of this sport, what do you think of the new open format for the upcoming Red Bull Rampage? Is this a chance for un-established senders to make it big, or are we going to see riders taking drastic measures and putting themselves into a potentially harmful situation for a little glory?
I kinda got mixed feelings. Iím always open to the idea of people getting chances, but at the same timeówith the whole freeride touróguys are going in just to get points. And I donít think thatís the way the rampage should be looked at. The consequences are really high. Youíre not just going to break a leg, they could be catastrophic. I like the open format. But, at the same time it should be regulated to some pointósomebody needs to sift through the names of those Ö 25 riders that will get a chanceówhich is awesomeóbut they should be handpicked.
Whatís the most progressive trick/riding style to look for at the Rampage?
With the new 180mm single crown forks coming out, people are starting to get more adventurous and trying new things. I think youíll see a lot of everything. Tailwhips and tailwhip drops, especially. And obviously the 360 drop has been done, but itís still one to look for. There will be more slopestyle riding going on, for sure. But, at the same time you gotta be twice as dialed as on a slopestyle course because the terrainís pretty rough. Itís not as forgiving as a manufactured course. Whatís great about the Rampage is itís a mesh of different riding styles. Itís definitely going to come down to who can link up the big-hit lines with the big tricks. Weíll see.
Do you find it hard to risk injury at these competitions for what little compensation they provide, compared to other sports, such as skiing?
For sure. However, resorts are finding they can stay afloat better by becoming a four-season destinationóinstead of relying on just one seasonal activity. With the development of bike parks, events, and the fact that more people are riding due to lifestyle and economic choices, theyíre taking notice of the sport aspect. Mountain biking is on the up and up, unlike skiing, which has kinda plateaued out.
Manufacturers and sponsors are seeing this, and I think as far as industry goes, mountain bikingís really stepping up and taking care of their athletes. And athletes are becoming more cautious as well. It used to be, you know, I drink beer all day and ride hard. But levels of competition are at a point where you canít swing it anymoreóitís less weekend warrior but more professional and committed now.