Q&A with Dani Arman & Kristen Legan - Pro Cyclists with Team Bitchn Grit
We caught up with pro cyclists Kristen Legan and Dani Arman fresh off their first race of the 2018 season - where both finished in the Top 10 at the Qiansen Trophy cyclocross race in China. The Bitchn Grit team will cross the globe in 2018: racing in China, Japan, Belgium, and throughout the United States. Below are some quick thoughts from the duo on training, nutrition, motivation and more -
What excites you most heading into this racing season? What scares you?
Kristen: I’m really excited to race new venues and experience the personalities and excitement surrounding the UCI circuit this season. Each location and race has its own flavor so getting outside of Colorado and into some east coast mud or west coast speed will be exciting and challenging.
All the nerves of doing something new and challenging yourself to be better than last season are definitely present. I don’t think these nerves ever go away though, so I’m working on just embracing it all and remembering that we’re out there for fun. You can be serious and respect the courses and competition while still enjoying the experience out there and I think that’s important to remember.
Dani: I’m very excited about the team Kristen and I put together. To have a small family of partners, including a nonprofit (Bitchstix), who help us experience racing is incredible. Kristen and I are also good friends and to have that kind of support, allowing us to play around on cross bikes together is unreal!
What is one thing that you are most proud of in your athletic career - on or off the bike ?
Kristin: In 2012, I was part of a 6-woman team that rode the entire Tour de France one day ahead of the men’s pro peloton. We were out there promoting women’s equality in cycling and what better and more exciting way than to ride all the famous roads and iconic climbs in France. I’m proud to continue pushing for more equality in cycling through cyclocross and help build a team that will hopefully turn into a women’s development team to foster young riders into the UCI race circuit.
Dani: I am proud of the work/life/race balance. Work has always helped my racing and vice versa and each is grounding in their own particular way. It’s consistently dynamic, never black and white. You meet a large range of personalities and learn from each one. Most importantly, it teaches me how to slow down when I need to and pay attention to my health and family needs. Never a dull moment, and I’m always learning.
How has your training evolved over the last few years as you progress in the sport?
Kristen: I’ve been lucky to work and learn from some amazing coaches throughout my triathlon and cycling careers. I raced triathlon professionally for about 5 years before turning to bike racing and developed a strong foundation of training and recovery that has helped me immensely through this transition. I’ve long been and will probably always be a “diesel rider” or someone that can just go for super long periods of time and a steady or strong pace. That’s why gravel riding has suited me so well. For cross, it’s all about explosive power and agility on and off the bike so my training has transitioned to focus on these areas. I do the full range of training from easy, base riding to max efforts and sprints throughout the year no matter if I’m racing gravel or cyclocross. But as we get toward cross season, the higher intensity and sprint efforts go up along with more technical training.
Dani: The evolution can be summarized in through my ability to train deliberately. I wouldn’t even stop at training, as I’m learning to do what I need to do without that “fomo” feeling. I surround myself with my people, get my work done, and have moments in my life where I change it up. Funny how the internet doesn’t really paint that picture. But I’m here to say that I’m not “epic”, but again, dynamic in my ability to adjust when I need a change. I have a solid circle of mentors to thank for this mindset, and they are there for me to hold up the mirror when I turn into a whack job ;-)
Who do you look up to in this sport?
Kristen: I’ve been inspired by lots of athletes throughout the years. Everyone brings a different perspective along with different strengths and weaknesses so it’s more about how they approach races and deal with stress. Meredith Miller is a good friend and has been a huge help this season. She’s inspiring in both her athletic ability but also her calm demeanor and tactical approach to racing.
Dani: Ah this is a tough one. I’ve never have been one to think a single athlete “has it all”. We are all figuring it out in our own way. Getting caught up in the attributes, successes, and mythologies of a single person can be dangerous. Sort of like when you were younger and thought through.. “I’d have Colin Farrell’s head with Brad Pitt’s butt” type of thing. I’d compared that to the traits (maybe less vein and aesthetic) of the many athletes I follow.
How focused are you on nutrition compared to power and watts? How has your nutrition changed since you began your racing career?
Kristen: Nutrition is a huge component of racing and training and is something often overlooked or overcomplicated. I’ve been very lucky to have a strong stomach with very few issues but that doesn’t mean I’m not always striving for improvements in this area. I keep things pretty simple and focus on timing more than exactly what to eat all the time. I also love to cook, which is helpful in creating balanced meals and keeping things fresh and interesting.
Dani: I was obsessively focused on nutrition when I first began bike racing in 2013. But I was more focused on the “should” verses the “need”. It’s easy to get caught up in the recent diet trend, but I’ve learned that it’s not sustainable and I’m just straight up crabby! I’ve learned to listen to my body and understand when it needs fat, carbs, and/or protein. Really focused on eating enough, especially before a race/workout and right after. Understand what hurts my stomach, and supplement when I need to recover properly. I work with Breeze Holicky, who is a certified dietitian (and coach-man’s wife!), and ask her questions to better understand what is going on in my body. Basically I’ve tossed out the self-help, diet-of-the-day philosophy, and leave it to the pros! There’s a reason she does this for a living, let’s trust that. Through her I learned a valuable tip: cycle your meals! Eating the same things day after day would give me terrible stomach issues and sensitivities. Back to that dynamic thing, I’ve been preaching.
This all being said, watts/power can be great tools for training, or reference points. But fast is fast and speed will prevail. The better rider is the smarter rider, not necessarily the most powerful.
If you were to put a slogan, quote or saying in big font on your race kit, what would it be?
Kristen: Smile. I know it’s cheesy but smiling makes a huge difference for me. Even if I’m not feeling good on a given day or if I’m feeling nervous, faking a smile can change my whole attitude.
Dani: “your control” You do want you can do, and I am constantly reminding myself of that. We get caught up in expectations of others, people defining you by a single result or season, or maybe a first impression. Why do we worry about that? Who cares? You do whatchya gotta do.
Do you have any self-talk or mantras or something you say to yourself during the toughest part of a race (or training session) to help push you?
Kristen: One mantra I often use is "Smooth is fast.” I try and remind myself of this during races as a way to relax and stay calm even when complications arise throughout the race. It’s easy to get flustered and start pushing yourself to try and go faster through technical sections but it always works best for me to stay as smooth as possible.
Dani:"Look ahead” This set’s me up for what’s next in the race, and points my body to where it needs to go. Keeps me in it, looking at the next obtainable goal which will contribute to the big picture.
To learn more about Bitchn Grit and their epic racing season, visit: www.bitchngrit.com