Recently I had time to ask former professional mountain biker now cycling coach / physical therapist Ann Trombley a few questions (this will be a two part interview).
[303Cycling] Give us a little background on Ann Trombley.
[Ann] Born in Michigan. Raised in Oakland, California by a single mom with 3 kids. After grade school, I was in a school system where I learned how to fight and dance but not much education. After being threatened several times while in 8th grade, I decided I would not be going to school any more. We moved to Marin County my freshman year and I was riding my mom's oversized 10 Speed to school. A friend of mine, Phil Desrosiers, got together with my family and friends to buy me a Mountain bike for my 21st birthday. That was 1984. For the next ten years, I had an amazing time riding mountain bikes all over the Mount Tam area with a great group of guys. There were not many women riding at that time. I will always remember the first time I rode up Fish Gulch from Phoenix Lake. We got two-thirds of the way up and I pulled over in tears crying and blubbering to my friend, "why did you think I could ride up this?!". Fish Gulch is now one of my favorite short cuts to get up Mount Tam. It is pretty darn steep. After studying and working for several years, I got into P.T. school in Denver Colorado. While in school I met Stan Vinet who dragged me to my first mountain bike race in the hills above Boulder. That was1994. I think it was up Sugarloaf on someone's private property. I was always really scared to race so he had to convince me to go. I won my first race as a beginner. I remember finishing the race with a flat tire. AND I won a shock. They had a spaghetti feed for everyone after the race. I was hooked.
[303Cycling] What was it like racing in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney?
[Ann] The Olympics were awe inspiring and life changing. Growing up on Welfare and food-stamps, going to the Olympics was not even on my radar. My goal was to get into a profession that I liked and that was lucrative. After racing for 5 years I found out I had a chance of making the Olympic Team. It was pretty hard to believe. I then began focusing all my energy on getting on to the Olympic team. I could not really fathom actually going to the Olympics. Once I made the team it still didn't really hit me until we all gathered to fly to Sydney. We met in L.A. and got all our Olympic schwag and flew to Australia. Opening Ceremonies were probably the highlight for me. It was truly awesome to be with all of the best athletes in the world. It was overwhelming. Being in the Olympic village was a blast. Ruthie, Travis, Tinker and I would go to lunch in this big hangar like warehouse. It had foods that you couldn't imagine: Sushi, McDonalds, Mexican, weird sea weed stuff, Ice cream. You could get whatever you wanted. It was really dangerous. We would sit around and try to guess what sports the people around us were competing in. There were really tall people –“Basketball”? “Water polo”?, really small gals with glitter on their cheeks – “gymnasts”? , really big guys – “weight lifting?" Everyone had their country names on their sweat suits. “Uzbekistan? Where is that?" "Look! They look like Monks? What are they doing in the Olympics?"
The competition portion was really nerve racking. We pre-rode the course several days before the race. I had a hard time with quite a bit of the technical sections. There was a log you had to get over, a rock jump, several steep drop offs and basically a rock water fall. I was pretty unhappy in my inability to ride some of the sections. Come to find out my new bike set up was completely different than the bike I had been racing all year. Luckily the team mechanic was able to make some changes. It made a huge difference.
The nerves were so bad the night before the race, I don't think I slept. The day of the race I actually felt pretty calm and realized "I know how to do this, I love riding my bike". I made a tactical error at the beginning of the race. During the parade loop I found myself close to the front of the pack and made a decision to drop back to save energy. I will always regret not just going for it! Because of that and so many other learning experiences that year, I feel I have a lot to give to the juniors and athletes I coach.