New Mexico Mountain Sports had an opportunity to ask the talented Claire Rutland some questions about her new found love for Mountain Biking, racing and how she got into the outdoor sport. The 24 year old Colorado native may be new to the sport but her true athletic nature, passion for competing and love for the New Mexico outdoors has her making a name for herself in the MTB scene. Here is what she had to say:
NMMS: Tell us about yourself.
CR: Well, my name is Clairejane Rutland and I’m 24. I work for a tech start-up company as both an ASL interpreter, and office assistant. I have a dog named Birkenstock, and I really enjoy beer culture. Both of my parents are deaf, and my first language was American Sign Language. Originally, I’m from a smaller suburb outside of Boulder called Broomfield, Colorado. My family and I moved to NM in 2010, when I was 15 and I, being a classic teenager, spent the first 5 years trying to get out, because I thought NM was a boring dusty state with nothing to offer me. After some much soul searching, I realized NM was beautiful and gave me a lot of opportunities that I didn’t really get or have in CO. Now, at 24, I have pushed my life in such a way, that all of my Colorado friends get jealous, and I’m proud of that. After all, it is the land of enchantment.
NMMS: What attracts you to the MTB sport. What part has racing played?
CR: Honestly, nothing first compelled me to become a mountain biker because while I am athletic and enjoy the outdoors, I always thought it was a lot of extra work and money to do something fun. When I met my current boyfriend, Kendall Weingardt my thoughts and feelings about all that really changed. He encouraged me to, “just try it” because “you never know” and before you know it I had my first Hardtail from NS bikes. I rode in the foothills a few times, and he encouraged me to start racing in Angel Fire, like the Fire 5 races, or a ABQ city Cyclocross race, BMX races, and just be casual with it. I usually would race in Cat 3 or 4 starting out.
Racing I would say has really helped me build my confidence in ways I didn’t know I was lacking confidence in the first place! It’s really nerve-wracking as a newbie to be at the start of the trail with a lot of pros surrounding you and having to start in front of them, clip your shoes in, and make sure you’re in the correct gear. My first race ever was the Boulder Dash in Angel Fire and my leg was shaking so bad I almost couldn’t clip in to start. Racing really helped me feel like a ‘strong’ woman, and a role model for the younger girls (who probably have been riding longer than I have) to encourage them that this sport doesn’t have a gender it caters to.
NMMS: What things make MTB enticing to beginners in your opinion?
CR: The thrill of it. It’s very cool to be able to go down thin trails as fast as lightning and come out unscathed. It’s definitely an adrenaline seeking sport and I think it does so much more than a person who just plays soccer or does swim team. It’s fun to do things that YOU are in control of, your speed, your stamina, etc.
NMMS: Do you see New Mexico as a welcoming place to mountain bikers? What do you think could be improved?
CR: I do. I think the foothills and a lot of our surrounding bike parks/open spaces like, white rock, Angel Fire, Pajarito, and Glorietta, really cater and encourage mountain bikers of all skill levels to try it out – and decide if it’s for them or not. And anywhere you go, the views are always gorgeous.
I’m not really sure what could be improved. I think we have so many good things going for MTB as a community that it’s hard to think about the cons.
NMMS: Any people or groups that have influenced you in the sport?
CR: Oh yes, Heart and Soul racing has really taken me under their wings and let me grow as a female MTB which has been really great. My boyfriend Kendall, who is also on the H+S racing team has really been the backbone of me enjoying this sport. Showing me all the great places, helping me with racing fees, being my personal bike mechanic, etc. I just saw how much fun Kendall, and Jake, and all the boys were having, and decided I should be having fun too.
NMMS: Any favorite bike trails in NM?
CR: My favorite bike trail is actually the Flow Trail in Purgatory, Colorado. But in NM I love Angel Fire as a whole and Hungry Hippo is so much fun to do because of the giant berms and big table-tops, it’s really exciting and I really enjoy getting my 3 seconds of air time. 🙂
NMMS: What bike(s) do you ride?
CR: I have 3 bikes. A hardtail from NS Bikes that I ride everywhere/everything for downhill, MTB in general, and a dirt jumper that I use to practice jumping (obvi) and then a commuter/bar bike I use for more casual events.
NMMS: When you’re your not on your bike, what are you doing?
CR: I love to work out. I am always in the gym and I sometimes have a hard time balancing bike time and gym time. If I’m not in the gym, you can find me drinking a beer, walking my dog, or taking our ’96 Land Cruiser out to Montessa Park, or less local trails like Black Bear Pass or a backroad in Silverton.
NMMS: What competitions/races have you done recently?
CR: The last race I did was the Duel Slalom & Downhill race in Purgatory Resort in Colorado. It was really fun and my 2nd time doing a Duel Slalom, my first being in Pajarito. I’m excited that it’s coming back!
NMMS: How do you find yourself preparing for events/races?
CR: I usually do a hot lap, put on my cute pink gear, and drink half a beer to calm my nerves. I always try to look cute for my races, whether it’s with pink accessories, cute socks, or a non-traditional jersey.
NMMS: Do you have any MTB or other goals for the next year?
CR: I think it would be fun to take it to the next level and race more in the cat 1/2 categories and try and challenge myself to get even faster. It takes time and commitment, you have to ride almost every day to get better, which sometimes I don’t always make a priority.
NMMS: Any events you have your eye on?
CR: Kendall every year does the BME (Big Mountain Enduro) in Glorietta, and I think that would be a really cool accomplishment to complete, and to earn those bragging rights.. that would make me feel really badass.
NMMS: Do you have any interesting MTB/outdoor sport stories?
CR: I (luckily) have only fallen ONE time on my mountain bike (believe it or not) and it wasn’t even on the trails. It was in the parking lot after my ride. I always get really lucky with falls and avoiding them due to my desire to not get scratched up and my quick unclipping skills, ha ha.
You can follow Claire on Instagram.