Elke Brutsaert Interview


dh_brutsaertLocal retired DH superstar Elke Brutsaert has been working with the local college cycling team as well as the DEVO program ever since she gave up the traveling lifestyle as “team Mom” for the Giant World Cup mtb team. Durango is stoked to have her here for more months out of the year. Here is what she has to say about sweet stuff.

Q: What was your first, best bike ride memory?

A: When I was ages 3-5yrs, my family lived in Socorro NM.  There is not much I remember of these early days, being such a wee one and all.  I do have a vague memory of riding bikes with my brothers in the arroyo across the road from our house.   I do also recall the day we moved to Maine, when we found a black widow spider in the bottom of a trash can that was to get packed in the U-Haul.  SUPER scary day…first I had ever heard of a spider that could kill you, never mind the “rattler’s” all over the arroyo!

Q: Who did you look up to in the cycling world when you began your career in
the DH mtb world?

A: Susan Demoate (sp?) And why?  She was a great Icon of the sport!!  True professional, very friendly and genuinely excited for me…. a new racer on the DH circuit, ready to dominate.  She also later became a gracious Olympic medal winner in Athens, Georgia.  I also have great respect for Sara Ballentine and Cindy Devine….they were the founding mtb diva’s of equal prize money.  Unprecedented in many other sports.

Q: What was your favorite bike you ever rode when you raced professionally?
A:  I was chosen by Mert Lawill to pilot the first Schwinn/Yeti/Lawill prototype at a world cup in  Big Bear, CA.  Monkey, our trusted Mechanic and great friend, stayed up all night with Mert, working out the kinks of the new rear linkage system.  Grinding parts, reworking bushings, putting on stickers and dialing in the shox’s to make it all run smoothly for my morning race run.  I took one practice run and roosted the field to win my second World cup DH on a bike I had spent only 5 minutes on that morning in practice.  Regina Stiefel, the German WC overall leader was shocked, as she was expected to handily  win on this fitness course.  From that day, forward the Lawill rear linkage had a lasting name in the industry and I am honored to have been a part of that process which eventually produced the legendary Schwinn Straight 8 DH bike.  Also, it was entirely fun to feel like I had “one up” on my competitors.  The bike was a mental edge…it had one more inch of travel (4 inches of rear plushness) that worked really, really well…even in pedaling.  All my rivals knew I had this new prototype and would ride it in the race the next day.  Just the thought alone made them shudder with bike envy, hopelessly distracted by my sweet machine of domination.

Q: You were a massage artist for the Giant World Cup team the past few
years, what do you do now and how did it come to be?
A:  Yes, I was Soigneur for the Giant race bandits for several years…spoiling them rotten with my honed sports massage skills, home cooked meals and constant caretaking shenanigans.  Now that I have given up this fun and thankless job, which involved way to much air travel…..  I am currently in school at FLC working towards my Exercise Science degree.  I also teach part time at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Healing Arts and have a private massage practice.  I have also recently started personal training at 24 hr Fitness Solutions.  This is a new aspect to my “skill set”, which has been long in coming, as I have dabbled in the fitness & wellness field for many years and have a great wealth of knowledge in coaching, training and corrective exercise training specific to postural problems as well as Elite level performance.    I am excited to branch out, as I constantly reinvent myself.

Q: What is the most important thing young cyclist must learn in their
development as well rounded cyclists?
A: The aspect of REST, is one of the most poorly understood and under-utilized aspects of training.  In a sea of variables where you try to gain any margin of improvement, the most beneficial can sometimes simply be rest.  Learning when and how to rest is an art form and comes with maturity and experience.  Even some athletes, who are advised by the best coaches in the country, just do not listen and over train.  There is nothing worse than to see a talented young athlete dig themselves into a hopeless hole of fatigue, because they did not value rest as much as the training aspect.

Q: Have you witnessed any foreign junior programs in your world travels, and
do you have any top secret info?
A: Yes, the Brits. are dialed…as was obvious in China when they dominated 60% of all cycling disciplines.  The BCF is a very organized, government funded organization, which also has private donors who love to win medals…especially in Track events.  Most foreign federations are government funded, thus they usually have more youth based development programs.  In the US, since everything is privatized, our federation is ill in comparison without the Gov. funding.  Not all bad though….I think that the young D’go Devo athletes are on the right track and are lucky to have a private Devo program, where there is more say on a local level as far as what the program will offer.  With federations, there are always plenty of hoops to jump through and generally, in my opinion, way too much structure.  So, no need to look for any top secrete info in the foreign lands of Kurdistan and the likes, as you have all the right stuff here in your own back yard.  The program here in Durango has just the right mix.  Imposing too much structure without emphasis on fun, at a young age in athletics, seems a recipe for burnout.  It takes many years to develop a cycling career, where if the early years are pushed too hard, some kids may never evolve into what their parents pushed them to be in the first place.  Most elite level athletes from my era of racing, never raced as kids or teenagers, we all came into the sport through other sports in our 20’s.  So what is the rush???  Kids should be kids and allowed to enjoy the freedom of youth and thrill of sport simply because they love it.  So I commend you DEVO…for being the Beez-knees!!!  I wish I was a kid in your program…or no, maybe I wish I was Peanut, my dog…he has the life!!!

Q: If you had two hours and were felling super snappy, what mtb ride would
you do from town?  

A: I’d rip the Rim, being sure not to roost any joggers off the edge…..then rally up into the gulch via guigline(sp?) and up Telegraph,  down Crites and carbon Junction to the River trail to BMX.  Hit the track for a few laps, may plunge in the animas if it is hot and then up the nature trail to my car on campus.  Maybe sess. the pump track too.

Elke showing the U-19 ladies team how to dh in Log Chutes

Elke showing the U-19 ladies team how to dh in Log Chutes

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