Women’s Wednesday has been on a bit of a hiatus for the past few weeks (dreaded dissertation) but that’s over and we’re stoked to bring back interviews and news from women’s MTB. It’s been an exciting few weeks for women’s riding, Manon won her first World Cup, the standard of women riders both in amateur and professional racing has exploded and there seems to be new and exciting things going all the time.
To kick things off we’re talking to Claudia Clement, an amazing woman who packs so much into her days, she talks about Yoga, racing and being part of the MTB scene in Brazil during the early days of the sport.
Who are you?
A friend once told me about a trail called “Trilha do macaco” (portuguese for “Monkey’s trail”) and I was so attracted to it, I really don’t know why… I decided to go and give it a try. There I was, alone, with a rigid MTB from a brazilian brand called Caloi. No helmet, no protection, no idea about what a downhill track was. I didn’t know a thing about MTB. Something inside me wanted to taste it, to discover this new world. It was an unforgettable moment for me. I think I was as slow as a turtle, but I felt so brave, so good, so in control of my life… On the way, some guys passed me, one of them screamed to me: “Hey girl, this is not a place for you, go home!”. I pretended he was not talking to me.
On that day, I learned the mountain was my sacred place. It was me, my bike and the nature. I felt completed. My passion was born. My little adventure was just the beginning of a life full of adventures. I had no idea I would be building downhill and freeride tracks, jumping more than 12m gaps, travelling around the world to ride my MTB, racing and collecting more adventures…
I am also a computer engineer, a mother, a wife, a rock climber and a triathlon enthusiast. I make music, sing, and write stuff. I practice yoga everyday, have been practising it for more than 10 years, I need to be in movement. I was born in Brazil, lived in Sweden, Japan, and currently, here I am, living and in love with France.
How did it feel to be such a big part of the MTB community in Brazil when things were getting started?(building the tracks etc) And what was it like to be one of the first girl riders there?
It was great. The best I would say, are the friends I made along it, they are lifetime friends. It is such a special bond when you build something that you love with someone, it is almost like making a baby and seeing the baby be born.
It was crazy when we started to build some free ride tracks in Brazil. We would read and watch some videos about freeride and then we would try to mimic some obstacles and then try them. There was a lot of work and adrenaline involved. I was the only girl engaged in the beginning, I had full support from the guys, but I missed having a girl to share that with as well. It took some time to see more girls getting captivated. I also developed the first DH timing system used in a race in Brazil. I was grateful to be able to help our sport to grow.
Yoga is a great part of my life as well. It gives me peace, mental and physical strength. It gives me awareness. I have been practising Ashtanga Yoga for more than 10 years now and I think it is extremely powerful, demanding and energetic. For me, there is much more to yoga than bending, folding and twisting my body. Indeed yoga also stretches my mind by asking me to challenge my beliefs about myself, my body, my consciousness, my identity and my community.
I think it is a body awareness technique aimed at liberating your consciousness from old, habitual way of thinking, being and acting. The lithe, flexible yoga body is merely a seductive by-product of the work of awakening your consciousness. It challenges the limits of the mind and the body. Yoga is as deep as you want to be.
No doubts it can help riding, it can give us a extremely strong core, good balance, confidence, flexibility, muscular strength, better concentration, better control of breathing… I believe there are lots of benefits…
Last year I did a 24 hours XC race in Brittany with more than 1200 competitors. It was my first MTB race after some years without racing and my first XC race, I got the 2nd best time in the women’s category and it was an awesome feeling. Racing in Brazil I was able to collect many titles and trophies, I was the first girl to win the Brazilian Downhill Classic Series, won São Paulo championships, was National vice champion of 4x, 4th place in Pan-American championships…
But the most important race for me was my first race. It was in 1999 and it was also my first victory. I was new to the sport, at that time I had no friends that were racing DH, no boyfriend racing DH, I put this idea on my mind, I was in love with DH and I did it. I had a very bad crash in the last obstacle of the track, I got up and ran the last 10 meters with my bike. I was bleeding, but the taste was so sweet…
Do you think your daughter is more inclined to try action sport because you are a strong role model? And do you think this is one way we could get young girls riding in future?
Children imitate what they see. If they see their parents watching tv all the time, they will be watching tv all time. When my daughter was 2 months old, it was winter, so I got back into snowboarding. Myself and my husband would take turns to be with her. That time I was breastfeeding her, so I would do 2 or 3 runs and get back to feed and watch her… and it was so amazing to be there, back to the sport and enjoying it together.
When she was around 1 year-old I would ride with her on my bike, she used to love it. She has been watching me train and compete since she was born… She has watched me doing MTB competitions, triathlon competitions, trail run competitions… for her training and racing is a natural thing to do, she thinks everyone does it. And I see she has lots of fun doing it. Now she is starting bmx, she takes swim classes, horse riding classes, and she does ski. But what she loves the most is to try new tricks. She enjoys the challenge and the adrenaline. And she is not afraid of falling, she fells from her bike, from her horse, skis… and she is proud of it. She wants to tell people about her failures, and achievements like we do.
I think that parents are the best motivators for a child, I am sure that riding together, enjoying it together is a great way to get young girls riding in the future, and it is so much easier to learn when we are kids.
What did you do to stay strong whilst recovering from a broken wrist, and what advice would you give to people based on what you’ve learned from injury?
I had many injuries in the past, but this time I had two injuries in a row, in the same wrist. Last year I broke my scaphoid at the Mountain of hell, I had surgery in the end of august to fix it and then four months later, when I was still recovering, I broke my radius snowboarding… same wrist. I had surgery in January and was 7 weeks in a cast, now I am still recovering, my wrist is regaining movement and force, but is still very unstable to ride. I have been doing some very easy rides, training on the bike trainer, swimming, yoga and lots of rehabilitation…
I think the biggest deciding factor in how well you can come back from an injury is perspective. Have a positive attitude. Take your time, and make a little plan, small goals, small targets. Motivation and determination are key.
Coming back from an injury can be hard. It’s very common to be hesitant and afraid of re-injury when you get back into training. However, this can be a very big problem. When you’re afraid your body is generally more tense and you will have a hard time committing to going all out to execute a skill. This can be very dangerous and increases the risk of another injury dramatically. Clear your mind of doubt. Be confident, be grateful, have no fear.
What does training involve for you, and how do you balance it with work and being a mum?
It is not easy to balance, personal life, house, marriage, children and training. But it is very possible. I think we can always squeeze some training in our life if we want. If I have only 15 minutes available, I will put on my running shoes and go for a run. Or squat and work the core. But I will do something. I would rather not to spare those precious minutes. It is a matter of priority, I think we can always squeeze some training in our lives.
Some of the training I do with my triathlon club, some road biking, swimming and running. But most of the time I train alone. I always have a training plan (I love to do plans) but it is always flexible. I like to train in cycles and I love diversity. Over the years, I learned that for me, what works the best is to listen to my body. If one day I am supposed to do hard training but I am very tired, I would skip it and do something cooler and vice-versa.
As you’ve travelled a lot, where are the best spots to ride, and where do you want to go that you haven’t been yet?
My last MTB trip was to Morocco, I loved it. So pretty, with lots of places to explore… I did some solo ridings around Agadir, and it was great. Safe place, friendly people and lots of nice places to ride and explore. There are so many places where I want to ride… Nepal is one of them, maybe next year I will be able to go… This year I am looking forward to ride in Reunion Island, the plan is to race the Megavalanche there, at the end of November.