Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September's Featured Rider: Sondra Williamson

We've featured a lot of highly-talented riders who excel at many sports and have successful careers off the bike as well. But Sondra Williamson raises the bar several notches. In addition to riding mountain bikes, Sondra dirt bikes, snowboards, and used to have a car she raced on dirt tracks. After graduating from UCSB, she worked there as research assistant in molecular biology. Once she found bikes, she was able to carve out a career for herself in the industry, working at Specialized, Shift Racing, and Kali Protectives. She recently attained her personal trainer certificate. And now, she's returned to school again to take courses in anatomy and nutrition, and is pondering her future as a nurse or physician's assistant.--FF

Name: Sondra Williamson
Home: Morgan Hill, CA, but Carpinteria, CA is where I've spent most of my life
Age: 30! (But someone thought I was 21 the other day!)
Favorite type of riding: Techy, rooty, rocky singletrack--which I've grown to like even after it’s rained! And fast, flowy singletrack with jumps and tight corners. Oh, and pump tracks!
Why you ride: The feeling of freedom. I like to scare myself with new challenges on a trail.
Sponsors: Specialized

I always liked bikes when I was growing up, but it didn’t stick until I was 22. I love soccer and played for UC Santa Barbara until my fifth year. Then I switched my major to biology and joined the mountain bike team. At that point, the closest thing to a mountain bike ride I had ever been on was when my cousin Maria took me and my cruise-around-college-campus bike on a ride that included pavement with a little off-roading on the rocks next to the train tracks! I will never forget what I was wearing: Maria’s hand-me-down royal blue Lycra, a UCSB soccer t-shirt, running shoes and a kid's helmet with a gecko on it. Hey, it’s all about style!

At 25, I finally went on my first downhill run, on a Specialized Demo 9, with my friend Kim. We went down the super-rocky Tunnel Trail in Santa Barbara and I was hooked! Eventually I also got a moto and love to ride it as much as my bike. It helps a lot with the things I need to work on while riding my bike: getting stronger, looking ahead at a faster pace, cornering and learning the feeling of going bigger off of jumps.

I also do CrossFit at Train For Life in Morgan Hill, where I also work as a personal trainer. CrossFit has made me a lot stronger both physically and mentally. Traveling to Whistler has done wonders for my riding skills and confidence overall. And finally, I am lucky and thankful to have my boyfriend Brandon at my side. Its great to always have someone to play with, to make me a better rider, and to look up to.

Some days I still can’t believe I am at this level. It is inspiring and humbling to be surrounded by the most talented riders in the world. I met Anneke Beerten when I was working at Specialized and found out she is from Holland, as is my mom, and would practice my Dutch with her. At that time I was a sport-level racer, but after meeting her I put it in my head that I could be a Pro too! I am proud of winning the 2007 US Open as an amateur, placing 6th in the pro women’s 2009 Sea Otter dual slalom, and also placing 6th at the pro women’s 2009 Fluidride Cup downhill #2 in Port Angeles, WA. Now, I look forward to many more years in the pro class, eventually racing World Cups, traveling, and just having fun on my bike!

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