Lea, this is your second annual collaboration with Skida. What’s different this season? What does this season feel like as you shift from international racing to the domestic circuit?
"This is a big shift for me! I have been racing mountain bike World Cups for twenty years, and now I am trying some different cycling race formats in the Lifetime Grand Prix series, a domestic race series that comprises three gravel races and three mountain bike races. All of these races are much longer than the typical 1.5 hr Olympic Cross Country race that I have trained for. My goals have shifted from striving to be the best in the world to showing up to the start line prepared and competitive, to be in the mix at races, and, most importantly, enjoy racing and riding my bike."
Tell us about this new print, Trail Mates! The design was very intentional and unique to you. What little surprises are hidden in this design?
"This winter, I made a friend while cross country skiing. A grouse named Gretchen would come to say hello to me on my nordic skis. This was one of the coolest Trail Mates I have ever had so of course we had to put little Gretchen the Grouses all over this year’s print. If you look closely, there’s also geometric shapes of the Little Bellas logo deconstructed all over the print. Little Bellas is one of the organizations that I’m riding for and fundraising for this season so it seemed like a natural fit to include. Also, part of Little Bellas mission is to spark a love for cycling and to encourage the girls to have Trail Mates of their own."
Tell us about the recurring theme this year of darkness to light, represented by your bike, your Garneau kit, and now your Skida print!
"The darkness to light theme represents my journey coming out of the darkness to live in the light as my true authentic self. I hope my living in the light sends the message loud and clear that; you can be a professional athlete, you can be an Olympian, AND you can be gay. If I was getting this message growing up, it would have squelched a lot of fear that I had about coming out. I was afraid I had to choose between Olympic dreams and being myself. Also, in a lot of ways, I think we are all coming out of some form of darkness of the past couple of years and, hopefully, seeing a little bit more light. This darkness to light theme and color fade on my Skida print celebrates this!"
You’re riding in support of multiple organizations this year, can you tell us about some of the organizations you’re partnering with and how that’s been going so far?
"I wanted to use my platform of racing the Lifetime Grand Prix this year to try and make a positive impact. So, I chose three organizations that I’m passionate about to ride for. I worked with Garneau to create custom bike kits inspired by these organizations, and now my Skida print is also inspired by these organizations. We have launched two of the custom kits and organizations so far; Little Bellas, the all girls, mentoring on mountain bikes program, that I helped co-found years ago, and Athlete Ally, whose mission is to end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality. I am a director and Pro Ambassador at Little Bellas and I am an Athlete Ally ambassador. It’s been so motivating to ride with these organizations literally on my back in my races this season. We have raised some money and awareness in the process. It’s been so fun. I’m launching the third organization and kit at my next race in July, Crushar in the Tushar, the third stop of the Lifetime Grand Prix."
Last year you told us about the name “Life of Lea”(LOL). What fun pursuits do you have in mind for this season? What are some highlights that you’re looking forward to?
"The acronym for Life of Lea is LOL, also laugh out loud. I think this describes my joyful and optimistic approach to life. I try to have fun in my pursuits as a professional mountain bike racer and anywhere life takes me. Since I am not traveling as much to Europe for the World Cups, it’s been so fun to be in Vermont more for the summer. I plan on the usual Vermont summer staples; swimming holes and maple creemees. I’ve also been doing some longer training rides to train for the longer races which has been really fun to explore some new terrain in Vermont! It takes everything to race at the Olympic level so now that I have stepped back from that, I can feel my bandwidth and energy start to open up. So I’m just going with where that takes me. So far, the opportunities to give a TED talk and also do some more public speaking engagements have shown up! So it’s been AWESOME!"
Where will you be spending time this summer?
"Vermont as much as possible! I love it here! Vermont is home."
What are you doing for fun when you’re not riding your bike?
"What did you get into this past winter? I finally got the opportunity to ski! I’ve been so bike focused leading into the last Olympics that I didn’t really get the opportunity to ski which is one of my favorite activities. I was XC skiing a bunch with my Trail Mate, Gretchen, and my other Trail Mate (and wife) Frazier. I also was AT skiing a lot at Bromley Mountain. I love the workout of skinning to the top of the mountain and then getting to alpine ski on the way down. I grew up downhill ski racing at Cochrans (with Ryan!) and then ski raced at Middlebury College (with Corinne!) so I absolutely love skiing, and my skida ties run deep. I was so into AT skiing this winter that I would get up before sunrise so I could ski sunrise laps at Bromley. If you know me, I am not a morning person so this was really big. It shows just how much fun I was having this winter."
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
"YES! I did a TED talk this spring and the link is out! Check it out! It’s called ‘How to Win When You Don’t’. It’s the story of competitive collaboration in the individual sport of mountain biking and the Tokyo Olympic Pursuit. It was such a phenomenal and special opportunity to tell my story and the story of Team USA."