By Emma Myall, Jr. Web Ambassador
Gina Hall is a Professional Cyclocross and Mountain Bike racer. She has raced for some of the greatest teams in the sport, such as, Luna Pro Women, Cliff Bar Pro Women and California Giant Strawberry. Gina has placed 2nd,3rd and 5th in the US Elite Nationals and has taken 1st as the Masters 40-45 National Champion. Gina has also raced in Europe and has place in the Top 10 in the World Championships with Bakel Netherlands being the final World event. Currently Gina works at a Veterinarian assistant at Sage Veterinary Centers and rides to work daily. She love her sport and continues to ride for fitness and fun!
Fast and Female: How did you get started in the sport of Cycling and how long did it take you to get competitive?
I started cycling when I was living in San Francisco and I was about 25 years old, over 20 years ago. This was several years after graduating from SF State University and I working at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, trying to figure out what I was going to do for a “real” job. One of my co-workers, who was also a new roommate loved mountain biking and we both had Bridgestone MB3 mountain bikes. She inspired me to start riding and we would ride across the Golden Gate Bridge into the Marin Headlands with a group of mountain bike loving bike messengers where we would play on the trails in the park. I primarily rode my bike for exercise and for transportation around the City. I went to my first mountain bike race with this motley group of friends at Whiskytown, near Redding and couldn’t believe how much fun the trails were where we were riding and racing, plus I won the race, so I was hooked.
Fast and Female: After the first race and you were hooked, when did you know that you were going to take Cycling seriously?
When I started racing it was more about the adventure of leaving the City for the weekend, camping out in the mountains with friends and riding fun trails. I continued to win most of the races I entered, as a Sport rider. I upgraded to the next category called Expert after a year of racing and started going to the larger national series races. Racing was still about socializing and camping and riding in new locations. After a year of winning most of my expert races, I qualified to race at the Professional level. I was working full time and didn’t consider myself an athlete at that point, but when I received my pro license in the mail, I decided to dedicate some time to train for the races.
Fast and Female: Who was your mentor when you were starting your career in Cycling?
I was 28 or 29 yrs old and working for Peet’s Coffee in Mill Valley and met a cycling coach there, Alex Albertus who came in for his daily coffee and would talk to me about my racing. He started out casually mentioning some training tips, knowing I wasn’t terribly serious about my racing. Once I decided to race in the Pro ranks, I hired him to craft a program that factored in my work schedule. He remained my coach until I retired 10yrs later. He was a cyclocross fanatic, so he really encouraged me to focus on cyclocross later in my career. Another Mentor was “Pineapple” Bob, these two people who got me excited about biking and racing. Alex was able to take a Peet’s barista and turn her into a pro mountain biker and cyclocross racer. He helped funnel my energy into training and racing and away from less positive influences in my life. “Pineapple Bob” got me interested in cross racing and is still the most skilled cross rider I have met.
Fast and Female: When I asked Gina what is her biggest accomplishment in Cycling were or what are her greatest memories, it was nice to hear that there were so many.
There were several times I felt I had reached milestones in my racing career. The first was when I became a Pro mountain bike racer and signed my first pro contract with Breezer. I never imagined myself as a pro athlete so it was a huge challenge to take this step with my racing. A couple of races have stayed with me. One memorable mountain bike race was when my Mom finally came to one of my races in Mammoth CA and watched me ride into 5th place at a NORBA national cross country race. She was standing below the most technical part of the race which was a steep descent that most riders were riding around, opting for the slower B-line. I kept taking the A-line, passing other riders and in the process terrifying my poor mother. She didn’t watch another race until I went to the world championships in Italy. Other accomplishments for me was being one of the first US women to win a cross race in Europe. I took this win in Bakal Netherlands, and had to ignore the grumbling of the Dutch and Belgium racers who couldn’t believe a rider from the US could beat them. Also, racing for the USA National Team for 3 cyclocross World Championships is another big part of my cycling accomplishments. One of my local cycling heros, who really got me interested in cyclocross racing was Bob Kirasawa aka “Pineapple” Bob. He had tons of video of old cross races that I would watch for hours.. This was long before cross racing was popular in the USA, and I think it was the mystique of this unusual racing from Europe that really appealed to me. This is really where I learned my cross technique.
Fast and Female: Are there many women or girl in the sport and what have you done to get them involved?
I have tried to encourage young women to participate in cycling by trying setting the example that as a woman you can be fast, ride technical trails and love to bike as much as the guys. I have spent time coaching the Berkeley High School Mtb Team in its early years and have taught many cyclocross clinics to both co-ed groups and women only groups. But I hope by being a strong woman rider, I can be an example for other women who want to ride bikes.
Fast and Female: What would you say about Cycling and what do you love about the sport? Is it a lifestyle?
I love cycling because such a simple machine that can enhance our lives in so many ways. I love the liberty of riding my bike through clogged traffic in the City. I love the freedom the bike gives me to ride miles and miles of off road trails allowing me to get away from people and traffic. I have seen so much wildlife and beautiful terrain on my bike, something I would never have experienced in a car or hiking. I love that bikes in the 19th Century were an important form of independence for many women and that independence continues today.
I still love to ride my bike for both exercise and transportation. Cycling continues to be an important part of my life and I often bike to or home from work which helps me unwind from a stressful day. I am a veterinary technician and the bike remains an important outlet in a job that can be both emotionally and physically challenging. I now prefer to ride my mountain bike with friends on the weekends instead of race and it continues to be an important focus of my social life with friends. My goals in cycling have changed from wanting to win races to wanting to ride with my friends on the weekends and encouraging people to ride bikes and get out of their cars and reduce their carbon emissions. The more people I get on bikes the fewer people will be driving their cars!! I’m known as the eco advocate at work and I am always encouraging my co-workers to ride or commute to work.
I can thank cycling for my continued interest in my fitness. It is a great sport that you can continue to do at any age. Some of the people I most admire now are the cyclists in their 70s and 80s who continue to ride bikes and stay fit. I hope I can do the same when I am their age. And most importantly, I met my husband because we were both cyclists and shared a common interest. We still love to share our passion for cycling and recently spent a month traveling to Colorado, Idaho, Utah to ride our mountain bikes together.
Fast and Female: What kind of discipline does it take to be riding at your level and what fuels you for your ride?
Cycling at the top level of racing takes a tremendous amount of discipline. You have to focus on training, racing, eating well and resting which often means you sacrifice your social and family life. If you want to do well, you have to make your training and rest time the main focus of your life. It is a 24hr/ 7day per week job that can be extremely rewarding when you do well, but it takes hours of hard work to get there. It was a great learning experience for me and I think it has helped me become a more goal oriented, focused person.
What you eat is as important at your training and rest. I would always try to eat a balanced diet and couldn’t tolerate a high carbohydrate diet. My favorite pre-race meal would be veggies and a small amount of meat. I cut out dessert unless it was my off- season. When I was training hard, I would add an electrolyte drink mix to my bottles of water and eat an energy bar or two on the ride. I now prefer to bring a Peanut Butter and Honey sandwich on the ride and leave the energy bars to the racers.
ABOUT JR. REPORTER EMMA MYALL (CALIFORNIA)
My name is Emma Myall and I am 16 years old. I have a passion for all sports but mostly water polo. I have been playing the sport for 8 years at Diablo Water Polo and have made the selection for National Teams and have played Internationally. I support all female athletes who want to make a difference in their sport. Including me, I want to make an impact on womenʼs water polo and Fast and Female will help me spread the word of empowerment for women to be smart, strong and dedicated athletes.
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