Despite being frozen for a good portion of the year, Michigan produces some fantastic events. The Lumberjack 100 and the great Iceman Cometh both run on mitten state soil. And with miles and miles of twisty, shade covered single track, it's easy to see that Michigan is becoming a destination for XC events.
Not only that, Michigan produces some exceptional athletes, one being Danielle Musto. Sound familiar? She's won the Iceman 4 times on a fatbike or single speed, while this past season, she raced in the World Solo 24hr Championships in Scotland and placed a very impressive 4th against the world's best.
We visited Danielle at a weekly fatbike race in Michigan to find out about her plans for 2015.
RoE : Danielle, give us a quick re-cap of you're 2014 season. The highlight had to be racing the solo 24hr championships in Scotland?
Danielle : Scotland was definitely the highlight. It was my first time out of the country (besides Canada) and I loved every moment of it. The course was incredibly challenging and I think I climbed more during those 24-hours then I had in my entire racing career leading up to Scotland. :-) It was beautiful though and I wish I could have stayed longer. I discovered that I actually like haggis I would love to go back sometime to bike-pack across the country. The other highlight in my race season actually happened in my home state. This past season I crossed the Lumberjack 100 finish line for my 10th year in a row (I'm one of two people to do it every year). So much has happened over the last 10 years and the fact that I was able to compete and finish the L100 for 10-years straight was an amazing feeling. The icing on the cake was that I finished 1st in the female division.
What was it like to represent USA at that Solo World Championships?
AWESOME! I've been competing in endurance races for at least 6-7 years here in the United States so I've gotten to know a lot of other racers. Pulling up to the start line at Worlds was intimidating because I didn't know any of the other racers. I did meet the other American, Kelly Megelky (HoneyStinger) the day before which was cool. He's from Colorado and I've heard his name for years. In fact, I think our paths have crossed a few times but it wasn't until we were in Fort William, Scotland that we officially met.
So, new year. Any sponsor changes?
Well I've been racing on the 45NRTH female fat bike team this winter and it's been completely awesome. 45NRTH makes the best winter products for riding and racing in the cold and I'm extremely proud to represent them. My other teammates are April Morgan, Chelsea Strate, and Jill Martindale and it's cool racing with such strong and cool ladies. I'm still finalizing some sponsors for this summer but I can say that I'm racing for Salsa Cycles, Optic Nerve, Kenda, Thomson, Ergon, Train out Pain, NiteRider, Velocity USA, and Dumonde Tech. The bike shop that sponsors me (Grand Rapids Bicycle Company) is stepping up in a big way with support. I'm starting a kids team (complete with a Strider division) and having support from GRBC is HUGE! I couldn't do it without them.
What will be your plans for the 2015 race season?
More long rides and more long races!!! I'm starting my summer season early with the Cohutta 100 and then I'm going to be focusing on the Dirty Kanza 200. To tell you the truth the Dirty Kanza intimidates me and I have no idea what to expect. I'm excited for the race and really, REALLY nervous. After that I'm racing the Lumberjack 100 (going for #11) and then I'll be gearing up for the 24 hour World Championships. It's not until next October but I know all too well how fast summer goes by and that I'll be at the start line before I know it.
Riding, training, and racing on a fatbike is a big part of your season. How does that fit into your summer race plan, and when do you switch back to a conventional mountain bike?
I ride and train on my fat bike all year round. It's so much fun. During the summer I ride it all the time on gravel roads and I do all of my intervals on it. When I'm on singletrack I usually ride my Salsa Spearfish but every once in a while I still take my fat bike out in the woods. Since I do a lot of endurance racing in the summer I like to do a lot of XC style races in the winter to work on speed and get out of my "comfort zone." The Great Lakes Fat Bike Series is a great fat bike series to compete it and the women's field is extremely competitive. It's a great way to see my friends/teammates over the winter.
With everything going on in the fat bike scene, do you see riders becoming winter fat bike specialists?
I think there's been winter fat bike specialists for a long time, we are just hearing more about it now! If you look at the roster for the big winter Ultra races (Arrowhead 135 and ITI) you will see the same names on the roster year after year. They have been doing it way before I got into it. Winter Ultra Racing is amazing but it requires a lot of gear and a lot of training. I think the growing fat bike scene is making it easier for a lot of new fat bikers to get out and compete in shorter races, or experience riding on snowy singletrack for the first time. Being able to get out and ride all winter (instead of stuck in the basement on the trainer) is priceless. I've noticed that fat bikes have also attracted athletes from all different types of disciplines. I'll pull up to a start line next to roadies and triathletes that I normally wouldn't race against in the summer which is really cool.
Thanks very much for taking the time to talk, and best of luck to you this season. We'll be following you this summer and I'm sure we'll see you at the races.
Follow Danielle's racing, traveling and training on her website.