Race season is well underway. Whether we’re talking about local races sponsored by the area bike shop or international race series sponsored by Red Bull, riders all over the world are grinding away to not only make the podium, but to see their dreams come true. We catch up with Loam Coffee Team Rider Malene Degn and get the scoop on the latest in her world as she is in the throes of her race season. We hear more about her new team, her new bike, and what is before her this season.
What is it like riding for a new team this year?
For 2019-20 I'm riding for the French MTB Team "Team KMC EKOI ORBEA," which I'm really proud to be a part of and I felt very deligthed when the opportunity came. It was with great excitement and nerves, whatsoever. Changing teams is a big deal for us riders, because you have a complete new “village” you need to fit into, but also make your own home in.
What are your goals for this race season?
This race season is special for me as I'm moving into the Elite Cat. After 4 years in the women under 23 it will be a change of role and I'm now a “newbie,” so the goals needs to follow. For the begning of the season I'm working on becoming a better athlete-Malene. Which means that I'm trying to improve my routines around training, my mindset and my training skills. For Albstadt and Nove Mesto - which is the opening rounds of the xco world cup, my goal is to ride humble and brave, with eyes wide open. Focusing on my race preparation and trust in the work I have done. I got nothing to loose, that's the cool thing about being the new girl.
Tell us about your new bike!!!
The bike talk! I like to let the legs talk, but okay, let me tell you. On the team we are riding Orbea bicycles with KMC, FSA, Mavic, Michelin, Prolog, Var, Look and Fox components. I have two race machines: an Oiz (full-suspension) and an Alma (hardtail). It's the first full-suspension xc bike I have ever had, so I'm pretty stoked on this one. It was absolutely no problem to change over, as Fox and Orbea have been working together in making one awesome bike. It's really cool for me that I can have the optimal bike for downhill –– then lock the suspension and feel like I'm riding uphill on an hardtail. No compromise. I must say that's one of the best features about the Oiz, it's really no compromise.
How was your training this off-season different from last year?
I took a long off-season after the 19' racing-season. Around 5 weeks of almost nothing related to riding. My coach was a bit concerned for me, but I really needed it. I think it's important to listen to your own mental health and don't push yourself too much, because “you should do this or this.” When I started to ride again (for real) in December I was ready to go and I loved to see how much I could progress over the next couple of months. During the winter I had been in my apartment in Spain and prepared for the season. Which means I only had one rainy day!! Big difference from what I'm used to, loving it.
The mental part of racing is getting more focus these years, how do you prepare mentally?
The mental aspect of racing is almost the easy part I think, it's all the other hours as an athlete that's the hardest. For me the best way to stay on track in my mind and keep my mental health high is to be aware of my own feelings and listen to myself. As a tool I'm using a meditation app to really get those minutes of pure Malene-time. And making sure my “village” is people who bring the best out of me, on and off my bike.
What do you love most about racing?
For me racing is such a love/hate relationship. I love the progress and the effort it takes to stand on that startline full of confidence. But I hate myself the 30 minutes leading up to the startline. Like, “why am I putting myself into this situation?” But then as the seconds get close and the gun goes off, I'm all in –– loving it again. It's tough, it hurts but it's rewarding. It's great competition, I like to push myself and see myself doing things I dreamed of. I dreamed of racing in the field with the best women in the world and letting my family watch me on the television doing that. And soon it will all happen. It's cool as.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to others just starting off racing?
Don't let failure bring you down, but remember to celebrate the good times and let them sink in (even the smallest wins). Having a bad day can teach you a lot about yourself and how to improve. Improving is what gives athletes dreams and hope. Nevertheless don't stay too humble to celebrate your good days. Somehow the brain remembers bad days better than good days (I think it's a survival thing), so make sure your brain will remember these good feelings too.
Thanks Malene! We’re excited for all that you’re bringing into this race season!
Photos by Sergi Barnils