Get to Know U23 Member Katja Freeburn

This week, meet…


Racing Age: 19
Hometown: Durango, CO
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL
Favorite Training Song: “God’s Plan” by Drake
Best Post-Ride Snack: Bananas and almond butter

I was lucky enough to grow up in the town of Durango, Colorado and had parents who were very supportive and tried to get me into sports as a child. My roots are actually in Nordic skiing, which was the first sport I really fell in love with. After that came the distance running and cycling. I started racing mountain bikes when I was in middle school when I realized that I really liked the sport. It was a surprise to my parents because I had been extremely opposed to mountain biking for years. The development program in Durango, Durango Devo, really helped me learn to enjoy the sport and make life long friends. Durango Devo also helped me get involved with the community in high school with coaching some of the junior groups and summer camps.

I also got the amazing opportunity to race in the Colorado High School Cycling League all four years of high school. I got to race some of the fastest junior girls in the country, while having incredible amounts of fun. I met so many amazing people and discovered how cool the cycling community was. My freshman year of high school after my first season of high school racing was when I started to really get serious about biking, even though I still thought of it as my second sport behind skiing.

I always thought of Nordic skiing as my main sport up until last year, where I decided to switch over to cycling full time when I was picking colleges. I had put most of my efforts and focus into skiing my senior year of high school, where I attended Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, in hopes of skiing D1 in college. Things did not work out, so I decided to turn my focus on cycling full time. I currently am a freshman at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and I race collegiate mountain biking and cyclocross for them. I am studying Environmental Studies and focusing on getting my GIS (Geographic Information Systems Mapping) certificate when I graduate college.

Trying to be a full time student and also an athlete, where I will be racing in the professional field this year for the first time has its challenges, but it’s all a learning experience. I’ve learned to balance everything the best that I can knowing that it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Get to Know U23 Member Jerry Dufour

This week, meet…



Racing Age: 21
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel 9.9 RSL
Favorite Training Song: “Freedom” by Rage Against the Machine
Best Post-Ride Snack: Gu Energy Labs Stroopwafel

I was born a southern boy, and raised in both Mississippi and Alabama. I grew up playing football, soccer, and other traditional American ball sports, but was introduced to mountain biking at age seven by my dad who entered me in a local race. That was where I fell in love with the sport. By the end of High School, I had ditched all other sports and was 100% focused on racing bikes. Besides the accomplishments, experiences, and life long relationships I have gained, not much has changed since then – I’m still the same Jerry with the same goals: to have fun riding my bike, and help others experience what this beautiful sport has to offer.

When I am not racing, I love to travel to new places and stay there for a few days to train and work. One of my childhood dreams was to buy an RV and travel around the US, exploring new places and racing my bike. At the beginning of 2018, that dream came true and I couldn’t be more happy! I now own my first home and I’m looking forward to enjoying the moment and exploring a little more when traveling.

A few key decisions and opportunities in 2017 allowed me to continue racing and pursuing my goals while making a living. I started working with Mtbfitness as a personal coach, and I also started my own business Dufourfun! Because of this, I was able to continue racing and living my dream, while also giving back in a way that grows the sport.

I am looking forward to the 2018 season and also seeing what my new athletes accomplish!


Get To Know U23 Member Sandy Floren

Every week for the next month, we will be introducing a member of the Bear Development Pro Team!
Check in to get the inside scoop on Bear Dev’s U23 Riders!
This week, meet…


Racing age: 21
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel 9.9
Favorite Training Song: “untitled.02” by Kendrick Lamar
Best Post-Ride Snack: Grandma’s cookies

Cycling is really fun and exciting, but it’s not the best outlet for creativity. When I’m not training, I like to spend time on my other hobbies, like playing the guitar and piano, drawing and painting. I also love to cook (almost as much as I love to eat!), and it’s always more fun to do these things together with friends and family. I’m really lucky to have an incredibly supportive circle of people around me, both inside and outside the bike world.For me, cycling was an escape at first. For the first time, I had the ability to go wherever I wanted, and that sense of freedom is still one of the biggest reasons why I love to ride. When I’m outside with nothing but two wheels and the wind in my hair, it’s like a whole world of possibilities opens up, unfolding itself with every pedal stroke.

Although I’m fully committed to racing mountain bikes, I’m also very passionate about my schoolwork. Currently, I’m halfway done with my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz, studying biochemistry. The biggest challenge is trying to strike a balance. It’s impossible to get 100% out of your body and 100% out of your mind at the same time, so compromises are unavoidable. Thankfully, I have some amazing teammates who are in the same position, and I can always reach out to them for advice.One of my highest priorities as I continue down this path is to maintain a sense of perspective. This means always being grateful for the incredible opportunities I’ve had, and without which I never would have made it this far. My “Bike Family,” as well as my real family, have stuck by me through thick and thin, and their support is what gives me the drive to perform on race day.Perspective also means remembering to “enjoy the moment,” as clichéd as that sounds. Not many people are lucky enough to travel broadly, to explore the world on two wheels. As much as I’d like to, I won’t be a bike racer forever. The memories I make with my teammates, though, will stay with me long after we’ve hung up our collective skinsuits.

Get To Know U23 Member Xander Sugarman

Every week for the next month, we will be introducing a member of the Bear Development Pro Team!
Check in to get the inside scoop on Bear Dev’s U23 Riders!
This week, meet…


Racing Age: 20
Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA
Race Bike of Choice: Trek Top Fuel
Favorite Training Song: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
Best Post-Ride Snack: Chocolate shake

I grew up in Santa Rosa, California. Cycling was definitely not my first interest; before I became obsessed with racing mountain bikes, I was a competitive swimmer, tennis player, and cross country runner. In 2010, I had open heart surgery because of a hole between my left and right ventricles due to a birth defect. After a 6 month recovery, I could finally be active again. At this point in time I was mainly focused on swimming, and after about a year I noticed a significant improvement. My heart had to do less work, and did not need to compensate for blood leaking into my right ventricle. If my heart defect had not been found, I definitely would not be nearly the athlete I am today.

Growing up in Santa Rosa, a huge cycling community, made it easy to get into cycling. Ever since 5th grade I was really into bikes. I was extremely lucky to have hundreds of miles of awesome single-track to ride. I went through a phase where I thought I was invincible, and broke my right wrist twice and left wrist once, in a little less than three years. Thankfully I outgrew that before I started racing seriously in high school. I joined my high school team and started racing in the Norcal High School Cycling League. This is what really started it all, it was an incredible experience! After sophomore year I was invited to race on Bear Development as a junior, this was an amazing opportunity to race against some of the fastest juniors around the United States.

I started racing professionally as a senior in high school. This was an eye opener; I was one of the youngest people in the pro field and realized I needed to take my training much more seriously to keep up with these guys. Another challenge was also racing the high school league at the same time. I won every Norcal League high school race and finished my season by winning State Championships. I focused my training around peaking at State Championships, and unfortunately was not at my best form at Nationals and DNF’d.

I am now a freshman, studying Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. Mixing college and training to be a professional athlete is definitely a challenge. But with the racing season right around the corner, extremely generous sponsors, and an awesome team right by my side, this season is going to be better than ever.

Cleere’s Corner: The difference between Racing and Training

Dr. Michelle Cleere
Nerves exist but anxiety doesn’t have to!

Can butterflies really turn into full blown anxiety and create worry, doubt, and fear? And impact my race? Years ago, I’d get ready to give a presentation and my nerves would pop up. For me the nerves start with the physical manifestation and then move to my brain. It would start with butterflies in my stomach and an increase in heart rate. Then it would lead to me thinking all kinds of negative, irrational stuff.

What was the outcome? Inevitably I’d get on stage and feel nervous. I’d stumbled through the first five minutes stuttering.

When I realized what was going on (after much insight gained through my MA in Sport Psychology), I knew I needed to change what was happening prior to my presentations. I developed a pre-presentation routine. I tried several things – music, movies and meditation. They all helped to a degree, but I still wasn’t feeling as confident as I wanted to.

The next step was to develop a mantra. Something short and sweet that would calm the nerves and get me feeling excited about presenting. My mantra was and still is – I am so excited. I sometimes add, I can’t wait to do this! My nerves start the night before a presentation. As soon as I start to feel the nerves, I say my mantra; out loud (if I am alone) or in my head. Two seconds later when the nerves pop up again, I say my mantra. Two seconds after that when they are still there, I say my mantra again. It takes some persistence.

Recognize the reality of anxiety

So how does it show up for you? How does it show up for racers? Anxiety is something every elite performer deals with at some level. There are three important things to understand about anxiety:

  1. Nerves which we often interpret as anxiety don’t have to get that big. Learn to let the nervous thoughts flow in and flow out. If you add to those thoughts, you make them bigger and that’s when the thoughts grow and become full blown anxiety.
  2. Nerves will always exist. They are the way our brain tells our body that something big or important is about to happen.
  3. You do have a choice how you deal with them.

Anxiety is a negative emotional state often characterized by worry, doubt, fear and nervousness. Anxiety appears cognitively through worry and fear. It also appears somatically through things like butterflies and increased heart rate.

The effects of anxiety on your performance

There are many theories on anxiety. The theory explained here is called catastrophe theory. Catastrophe theory states that low worry, increased arousal, and somatic anxiety are related to performance in an inverted U-way. With a lot of worry, the increases in arousal improve performance to a person’s optimal zone. If arousal continues beyond the zone, there is a rapid and dramatic decline in performance. Once a person’s performance has rapidly declined due to increased arousal levels, they would need to greatly decrease their physiological arousal before being able to regain previous performance levels.

Key considerations of anxiety

There are five key considerations to think about when it comes to anxiety.

1)   Identify your optimal arousal related emotions. Think of arousal as an emotional temperature and arousal regulation skills as a thermostat. Your goal is to find your optimal emotional temperature (under what conditions do you perform optimally) and then learn how to regulate your thermostat. Regulating your thermostat is done by either psyching up or psyching down.

2)   Recognize how your personal and situational factors interact. It’s important to understand the interaction of personal factors (self-esteem, state, and trait anxiety) and situational factors (event importance and uncertainty) to get the best predictor of arousal, state anxiety, and performance.

3)   Recognize your signs of arousal and anxiety. You can better understand your anxiety level when you become familiar with the signs and symptoms of increased stress and anxiety. Learn how to regulate the levels of symptoms based on your optimal performance level. The quantity of symptoms depends on the individual. It’s the quality that’s important to keep in mind. Try to notice changes in these variables between low and high stress environments and learn to make changes when necessary. Here are some of them:

4)   Develop your confidence and perceptions of control. You can develop confidence by being positive and putting yourself in positive situations/environments. By being positive you surround yourself with other positive people and positive situations/environments. One other way to develop confidence is by learning to feel ok about mistakes.

Deal with anxiety

Self-reflection is a critical component of being a cyclist. After a performance, write down how you felt before, during, and after (positive and negative) it. Keep track of your thoughts, feelings, physiological symptoms, your perception about whether the performance was easy, moderate or hard; what importance did you place on it, etc. You can use this information to become aware of what helps you play well and what gets in the way of your performance. Self-reflection allows you see the patterns and adjust the negatives to make a more positive change to your race.

Other techniques for dealing with anxiety

1)   Smile when you feel the anxiety. It’s difficult to be mad when you are smiling, and it takes the edge off anxiety-producing situations.

2)   Think fun. Highly skilled cyclists have a sense of enjoyment and fun while they are performing. Most of them look forward to the challenge of pressure situations. This does not mean they don’t get nervous.

3)   Breathe. Breathe. Breath control and focus produce energy and reduce tension.

4)   Use a mantra. Saying and thinking personally generated, positive words or phrases can be energizing and activating. Some examples are: I can do it, push to the top, , etc.

5)   Build confidence with a pre-race routine. Once you perfect some of the techniques for dealing with your anxiety you can incorporate these into a pre-race routine. A pre-race routine is a systematic sequence of preparatory thoughts and activities cyclists use to concentrate effectively before performing. These routines help train your mind to focus on what’s important versus focus on the anxiety. By concentrating on each step of a well thought out routine, presenters learn to focus on what is in their control.

Don’t try these for the first time the day of a race. All the above techniques for dealing with anxiety take practice. It’s something that you want to get in the habit of developing during less pressure training sessions, so you have a fully developed, personalized plan for the big race day. Just as you would you do for the physical aspects of your race.

Transform your anxiety into your zone

Your performance can be hindered significantly by how far your anxiety pushes your level of arousal. At the lower end of the arousal scale, a cyclist is not aroused enough to perform optimally. With a little psyching up, you can find your zone or optimal performance level. This zone is very small as compared to the lower and upper ends of the arousal scale. That is why it takes a lot of awareness, understanding and refinement to stay in that zone, and not drop off the other side into the psyched-out zone where performance drastically declines.

Remember, you aren’t going to change your anxiety levels overnight, but the great news is you can immediately begin to become aware of what your anxiety levels are and almost immediately figure out how to work on regulating your anxiety for optimal performance. For your best race!

Check in with Dr. Michelle if your anxiety impacts your race.
Dr. Michelle
Elite Performance Expert
Connect for more tips on Facebook and Twitter!