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Mountain Bike Chick Races to the Top

By France Griggs Sloat

Anything tastes good when you’re pedaling for nearly 20 hours over 230 miles of mountainous terrain—even a flour tortilla filled with mashed potatoes, tuna and oranges.

Tonya Laffey, a 2000 M.B.A. graduate, is willing to make such sacrifices for her job. Testing her endurance and skill by riding a mountain bike for hours is what she works for—and lives for. Besides, it’s healthy, she says. Just look at the quick meal she gulped down while pedaling in the 2002 solo race in Tucson, Ariz. The unorthodox sandwich of protein, carbohydrates and citrus was a perfect meal. It may have even helped her win the race.

“At the time, it tasted really good,” she says.

The sport that was a hobby has become a career for Laffey, who concentrates on training and healthy eating while traveling up to 10,000 miles a year to compete in professional mountain bike races from Vermont to Colorado. She’s also busy building up her secondary business, Dirt Rules, which offers biking clinics for women and sells biking products. The company’s web site, www.mtbchick.com, is also a support group for her team of 17 female mountain bike riders, which includes five professionals. The MTB Chick site carries links to members’ journals, a “chick-chat” room and listings of community service projects and upcoming races. It even carries a link for Cincinnati clubs.

Though Laffey moved her business from California to Boulder, Colo., two years ago, it’s been a circuitous route that included two return trips to Cincinnati, her hometown—once after a serious crash in her early cycling days in Montana and a second time to earn her Xavier degree.

“I came to Boulder because this is the biggest concentration of professional cyclists in the world,” she says.

Now rated the 14th best female mountain bike cyclist in the U.S., Laffey is aiming for the top 10. She prefers the two-hour-long cross country races and their rocky, rooted trails over the 20-minute short tracks.

“It is a lot of work, but I do it mainly because I’m a competitor and I love mountain biking,” she says.

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