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An Interview With Wilmington Whiteface 100 Female Champion Crystal Anthony

Crystal Anthony pushed the pace all day and surprised herself with the win at her second Wilmington Whiteface 100.

You’ve established yourself as a top cyclocross racer, but on Sunday you came over to the mountain bike side. Do you plan to race a lot more on the mountain bike? What do you like about it?

I got a mountain bike last year for the first time and absolutely loved riding and racing it. Mountain bike racing is something that helps me maintain fitness in the summer while also honing technical and bike handling skills. I find that mountain bike races have a friendly vibe and I have a great group of teammates, friends and family that I enjoy mountain biking with. Time seems to fly in the woods and there are always new challenges and new trails to explore.

This race was the maiden race for my new Cannondale Flash Carbon 2 with XX1. Riverside Cycles whipped it together for me in time to race and I have to thank my boyfriend Dave for the inspiration and help pulling it together. I plan to do a few of the PRO XTC races and would love to race a World Cup at some point. Dave and I are racing the TransAlp stage race in July as a mixed team so I’m super excited for that.

Give us the rundown of your race: Who were you looking to beat, and what was your strategy?

I knew Rebecca Rusch would be racing and I finished second to her last year. She’s such an amazing rider, and I was just hoping to finish a bit closer to her than I did last year (19 minutes back!). On the first climb I passed her and was surprised more than anything, but just kept riding as hard as I could while also sticking to my race. I made the second group over the first climb. I knew it was important to stay with a group as close to the front as possible up that climb – working in a group over the top and on the roads leading to the next climb would save a lot of energy. That group splintered and regrouped several times, but there were always some people to work with.

I was feeling good up the climbs and fell back on the descents, but I was able to gap many of the group in the singletrack section at the turnaround point. I never saw Rebecca or any other woman behind me, but kept pushing hard since I knew with Rebecca’s endurance she could have a really strong finishing half! Some other riders and I swapped back and forth on the climbs and descents, but once I made it to the second and third singletrack sections I was on my own.  I ended up finishing about eight minutes ahead of Rebecca.

How does your ‘cross background serve you well in a race like this?

‘Cross helps mostly with being able to exert and then recover from really hard efforts within a race. I had to extend above my comfort level a bit up the initial climbs to gain some separation at the beginning of the race. However, I knew that I could handle and absorb those efforts and continue to race a steady race after recovering down the descents.

You come from a cycling family. Who in your family cycles, and in which discipline? Are any other family members competitive?

Yes, I am the oldest of seven kids and everyone in my family has ridden a bike at some point! My dad rode his bike across the country when he was younger, though my brothers Josh and Jesse were the original competitive cyclists in the family. They came up through the ranks as cyclocross racers and were very successful as juniors and U23s. Josh then went on to study mechanical engineering but still races some CX, MTB, and road. Jesse continued on as a professional cyclist and now rides for Optum, racing primarily on the road. Josh and I train together frequently, and Jesse coaches me. My parents are huge supporters at races. I couldn’t do it without my family!

Did coming from this background put you on a strong competitive path early on?

My parents had always encouraged us to be active, and I was always eager for a challenge so I often tagged along with my brothers on training rides or to races. Riding and training with boys always pushed me to be tough, assertive, and to achieve the next level. At the same time, it was a bit intimidating to enter that venue at first, with my two brothers’ huge successes.

I began competing as a runner and trained for the marathon for a few years, coming within 16 seconds of qualifying for the Olympic trials. Some of my training partners for the marathon also did triathlons so at that point I began focusing on half Ironman races for a few years and raced as a pro for one season. The confidence I gained through competing in these disciplines inspired me to brave some cyclocross races as the “Anthony brothers’ sister,” and I got so hooked that I gradually shifted my focus purely to cycling. It is really amazing to have such a supportive family and brothers who have paved the way and who help me with my training.

Will we see you at the Leadville Trail 100 this year? What are your other goals for the season?

Since Dave and I will be racing TransAlp in July, that will be the big focus of the summer.

Do you have a “day job”? What keeps you busy when you’re not training and racing?

Yes, I do. I am a 7th grade Spanish and French teacher in a great public school here on the North Shore. I love my job. I’m also a foodie and love cooking and baking, experimenting with raw food recipes in particular.

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