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At The Top of Their Game: Mountain Biking Professionals

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Inspiration. It comes in all forms: mind-blowing freeride videos, ‘epic’ singletrack and incredible performances from men and women at the top of their game. This growing list is all about the latter. Here, we connect you to the riders who provide inspiration to get out there and crank your pedals. These guys and gals are at the top of their game in the sport we love. Get inside the minds of professional mountain bike racers with these exclusive Q&As. Once you’ve become inspired (it won’t take long), do what the pros do and go for a ride.

1. Q&A: 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist Maris Strombergs

Maris Strombergs made history in 2008 when he won the first-ever Olympic Gold in BMX Racing. He spoke to us just before the 2012 Olympic Games and mentioned that he was proud to be representing his country Latvia, and leading the team for the second time. “I’m looking forward to giving my best again in London,” he said at the time. The BMX racing machine went on to repeat his gold medal-winning performance at the Olympic Games. Congrats, Maris! In this About.com interview, the two-time Olympic gold medalist reveals his nickname, why he fell in love with BMX (“I have to thank my dad for this,” he said.), his Olympic training routine (which includes eating right and staying away from alcohol) and what his winning motto is these days (which may or may not be emblazoned on a surfboard). Plus, find out how Strombergs deals with the physical and emotional stress of racing (a healthy lifestyle plays a big role) and his advice for mountain bikers who are just getting started.

2. Q&A: World Champion Rebecca Rusch

These days, Rebecca Rusch is one of the world’s top elite endurance athletes. Recently, the three-time 24-hour solo mountain bike World Champion, three-time 24-hour team mountain biking national champion, current Master’s XC mountain biking World Champion and the 2011 National XC singlespeed champion took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with About.com. Find out why Rusch feels it’s important for women to be involved in the sport of mountain biking and what she’s doing about it. “I launched the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour in 2011 with the intention of growing women’s cycling!” she said. Plus, Rusch reveals how it feels to be a professional athlete and a role model for other women athletes (“I have a dream job,” she admits.), how she deals with racing jitters (“One pedal stroke, one breath, one moment at a time.”), how she earned the nickname, the Queen of Pain ("I take it as a compliment.”), and offers some helpful advice for the rest of us (“Get a bike that fits you!”).

3. Q&A: BMX Olympian David Herman

You learn something new every day. Such as, if he wasn’t a professional bike racer, David Herman would be a student! About.com caught up with the Olympic BMX racer to talk about his greatest biking accomplishments, the 2012 London Olympics, and more. Herman—or “The Hermanator” as he’s nicknamed—shared his very first memories of BMX biking, how he became hooked on the sport, how he deals with both the physical and emotional stress of racing and offered advice for mountain bikers new to the sport. We interviewed The Hermanator just before he left for the 2012 London Olympics. He revealed how it feels to represent his country at the Olympics (“It really hasn’t sunk in,” he said at the time.) and walks us through his typical Olympic training routine, which includes perfecting his pedal strokes and holding his speed through the undulating roller section.

4. Q&A: Pro Mountain Biker Robert Marion

American Classic pro mountain biker Robert Marion says trying to lose weight got him hooked on mountain biking. When asked what it feels like to be a professional mountain biker, Marion says it feels great. "All the cheers and support from the fans is awesome! I always wanted to be a professional athlete," he revealed. In this exclusive interview with About.com, Marion talks about the path that led him to his career and why it's important to keep your options open throughout life.

5. Q&A: Pro Mountain Biker Logan Wetzel

Logan Wetzel's first memories of biking begin at the ripe age of three, learning to ride without training wheels in his parent's back yard. "I kept tipping over and crashing in the grass until finally succeeding," he said. Life is a little different these days, but "off-road" cycling is still close to his heart. Riding professionally for NW Sho-Air / Raleigh presented by S.E.T. Coaching, Wetzel gives us some insight on a typical day of training, reveals his greatest biking accomplishment and advises us keep balance in our lives.

6. Q&A: Pro Mountain Biker Ian Mullins

What is one of Ian Mullins' first biking memories? Buying a Giant AT740 with his paper route money. "I had a bunch of buddies who all rode mountain bikes so riding was the first thing we did when we got out of school," he says of the memory. These days, Mullins is living his dream of racing pro. In this interview, he talks about his accomplishments, his training routine and how he deals with race stress.

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