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Interview: Miranda Miller on the Switch to Enduro

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Last week, Kona officially announced that 2017 DH World Champion Miranda Miller has joined their roster and will be focusing on the Enduro World Series this coming season. We asked her about how the switch to enduro came about, what's changed in her day to day life with the change of discipline, and what she expects from the upcoming season.

What are you doing in California right now? How are you spending your days?

The past few years we've been going to Santa Cruz to increase our on bike time. The trails at home are some of the best but sometimes due to weather, it's hard to get in big rides. Also, while our trails are extremely challenging, it's good to ride a variety of conditions and trail types. We're currently at Mckay Vezina's house in Thousand Oaks, California and riding some sandy, rocky stuff that we never get to experience at home. Remi has been working on his Sprinter so we have a bit of a mobile home and are free to roam around. We are mostly riding our mountain bikes as much as possible, combined with gym work. There are a few interval sessions that are best done on our road bikes, but mostly we try to do everything on our mountain bikes - the bikes we race.

How did the partnership with Kona come about?

It was the end of a challenging season for me and I knew I wanted to do something different. Although it was personally hard, my time with Specialized was amazing. I had a few opportunities but they didn't exactly feel right, even if they sounded good or were around people I love (the Gravity Team). I've known Dupelle, the Kona Team Manager, for almost as long as I've been racing. We had talked a bit about it in the past but finally, the time was right and he said he'd bring it up at their next meeting. Almost immediately I had a great response from Kona and it was encouraging that a company was so excited at the possibility! I've also known Lacy Kemp for a while and I admire her creativity. One of my biggest feelings at the end of this season was that I'm more than just a racer and I feel that I have a lot more to offer than purely racing. Racing is my passion and drives almost everything I do, but I also want to be able to contribute and help build a positive brand image within the media and my community and I wanted a partnership where I felt that was possible.

What’s been the biggest change in your day to day life with the change of sponsorship?

My day to day is pretty much the same. I just have a new motivation and drive when it comes to training on my bike as learning new equipment and experimenting is something I enjoy.

Who is your coach? Is that the same coach as when you were racing DH?

I train with Joel Harwood of Blueprint Development. He's a friend of mine who is a high school Outdoor teacher, an avid mountain biker and runs a youth development team in Squamish. He knows the physical demands of DH and Enduro. We're constantly improving and adapting our program to my needs, weaknesses, and strengths. I've always trained at a pretty high volume on the bike so I've never worried about my endurance or physical capabilities of racing EWS. It's funny, people are always asking me, "Are you able to ride that long?" Well yeah. Yes, I can ride AND race that long. I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm capable. The only time I got truly f*cked up at an EWS was Aspen two years ago. I felt drunk the entire second day.

What are you doing for training?

Hmm, big question! For example, yesterday I did a gym workout that started with some time on the rower, then a deadlift-shrug complex and finished with a circuit that mixes strength and speed. Then I did a structured 1.5-hour bike workout with Over/Under threshold work. Today we did a 3.5-hour mountain bike ride focusing on the descents rather than the climbs.

Who do you train with most of the time?

My boyfriend, Remi Gauvin, who races for Rocky Mountain. We both train with Joel so our days are able to be structured fairly similarly. We'll be doing different things on the bike or in the gym but the timing is able to line up. Sometimes we'll have the same workouts and can do it together (sort of). Our roommate, Lee Jackson, also trains with Joel so we can all sit around and be like "Ohhh merr gaaawwd that was seeeeewwww hard" and feel good about ourselves. But joking aside, having three people in the house that are all training and riding is very motivating. One person can be a bit burnt out and the others can help get them back in. It's something special.

Who are your favourite people to ride with?

Remi Gauvin, Lee Jackson, Mckay Vezina, Zander & Nick Geddes.

Will you be doing every stop of the EWS in 2019?

I think so...

What race are you looking forward to the most?

I'm stoked to race Rotorua in hopefully better conditions than last time there was an EWS there! Also, Derby sounds rad as every person I've talked to has said that was an amazing venue.

What exactly are the injuries you’d have to your wrists? How are they feeling these days?

I had a fractured ulna requiring two surgeries, bi-lateral radius and ulna fractures with three surgeries, a broken scaphoid, and a broken triquetrum. My wrists ache, get stiff and often throb at night but for the most part, I'm ok. I had a lot of problems with my left wrist this season and it was very hard for me to ride at my full potential. I was experiencing quite a bit of pain and swelling and it was very unstable and weak. Honestly, I don't really know what caused it. I had some PRP Therapy which helped reduce the swelling and I was able to work on some strength and mobility. Maybe I could have prepared better in the off-season but in the past, my left wrist was always 'my good one.'I've since met with my go-to surgeon and have an operation planned for the end of the 2019 season to remove some hardware. Perhaps free up some space for things to move better. The plate along my ulna causes the most discomfort. Under big compressions and heavy landings, I can feel everything 'flex' around the plate and shoot 'heat' along my arm. That's the only way I can describe it!But I'm sick of this part of the story. It's my story, it's brought me to where I am but I don't want to have to talk about it anymore. It's the way I am, it's not an excuse and I have to keep working on it. But I suppose I also need to honour it and cut myself some slack.

What are you doing to help them get stronger / hurt less?

Work on strength and stability in the gym, and make sure I take time to stretch and stay flexible. Everything is connected!

Were the enduro races you did last year easier on them than the downhill races?

I only raced Spain and Finale last year after World Champs. So far I've found EWS to be easier on my wrists than DH just due to the lack of heavy compressions and your max speeds aren't quite the same (I don't care what any EWS racer says... they're not!) The EWS has its very own set of unique challenges.

How much was that a factor in your switch to enduro?

Last season, results-wise was shit for me. I felt I was simply repeating myself getting injured, limping along and feeling unsatisfied. I was sick of not riding to my potential. I needed a change.

You’ve had some great results in the enduro races you did when you were racing full-time DH. What are your expectations for the coming season?

My strengths in EWS have always been on the more gravity-orientated stages. A lot of the stages I've experienced do not suit my riding style or cater to my strengths so this year I have a lot of smaller, personal goals when it comes to stage performance. I'm strong, I just need to learn to use my strength efficiently and push through the parts I don't like.

How do you feel about switching to enduro? Do you feel like you’re giving up on downhill or have you accomplished everything you wanted to? Made peace with it?

I have mixed feelings. I love downhill racing and I still think it's the best! But I want to feel accomplished and I hadn't gotten that feeling for a while in downhill. I'll still do some DH races because I can't imagine not.

Which races are you planning on doing?

I hope to qualify for the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Championships as well as race Les Gets and maybe a couple other races that fit in the schedule.

What will you miss most about downhill?

It's the most exciting form of racing we have. Standing at the bottom watching everyone come down is simply the best. You forget about your own race and get caught up in just being a fan. Almost every race this year I've said: "This is the best race ever!" I get goosebumps when I think of Loic winning Worlds this year, or watching Finn walk onto the podium in Andorra. Those moments you, unfortunately, don't get at an EWS.

What are you looking forward to not having to do because you aren’t racing downhill anymore?

Downhill can be so stressful. It's part of the fun, but it's still stress. At an EWS you simply can't be stressed out because it's a multi-day affair.

What mountain bikers do you look up to?

Loic Bruni for his powerful and seemingly perfect style on a bike. Remi Gauvin for his ability to adapt to challenges in a split second among hundreds of other things.Finn Iles for his mental strength and confidence.Henry Fitzgerald for being able to be focused and determined but remain his happy, laid back self in every situation. Curtis Keene and Jared Graves for always helping riders close to them perform well.Gee Atherton for being the gnarliest guy out there. People forget that sometimes!Rachel Atherton for her insanely aggressive riding style and showing what's possible. Casey Brown for doing things differently but always being Casey. The list could go on and on...

Who do you learn the most from? What have they taught you?

I learn the most from Remi. We ride together so much and I watch him do things and it motivates me to try harder and be better. He's very generous with helping me when it comes to bike set up or suggestions on riding technique. There are three people I trust the most when it comes to riding. Three people that I believe when they say "just follow me" or "you can do it." And that's Remi, Mckay Vezina, and Curtis Keene. Curtis used to tow me into jumps about 10 years ago at DH races and I always trust his judgment and Mckay is someone that will always look out for his friends over himself.

What are you most excited about for the coming year?

Change. I want to experience new terrain and new challenges, new equipment, and new feelings. MENTIONS: @konaworld