Racer Profile: Marie-Helene Burle, The Muddbunnies-Part 2

Here is Part 2 of The Muddbunnies Racer Profile the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association has done on two of our much loved race team gals!

Spring has finally sprung here at the Valley. The race organizers at FVMBA headed by Matt Scott have been observing a phenomenon on the Fraser Valley Mountains. The Bunnies are everywhere! No, it’s not our furry- friend we’re are talking about here!

Marie-Helene is literally new to mountain biking but she’s already making a big splash in women racing. True testament to the fact that if you provide the right racing environment, support from clubs and friends, riders and racers can flourish to their full potential…. and that’s what we believe in here at FVMBA! Grassroots racing at its best!

The Muddbunnies Riding club www.muddbunnies.com is all about giving women who mountain bike (or want to mountain bike) a fun and supportive environment to do just that. Each year, the club put on a number of rides every week for all level of riders to come out and meet new people and ride their bikes!

1. Who is Marie-Helene Burle?

I’m a Biologist. Grew up in France, but a dream to study wildlife took me on a 10 year travel to the most remote places – High Arctic, Sub-Antarctic, uninhabited islands on three oceans – where I led a life amongst polar bears, albatrosses, penguins, fur seals, macaws… Back in the “real world” in 2007, I started a PhD studying a bird endemic to the Tuamotu in French Polynesia – so I still live a part-time Robinson Crusoe’s life.

I’m quite new to riding. But the one day I hopped on a mountain bike for the first time (in 2010), I knew right away that was it. I started with DH and technical shore riding – I loved the focus required by skinnies and my favourite trail then was Boundary. When I got a lighter bike, I realized that mountain biking is not just about going down: trying to clean a technical climb is also part of the game. I still feel I am at the beginning of a long journey: mountain biking is a thorough and humbling sport and developing the fitness, confidence and skills for it is an endless process. I’ve made my first baby steps in the mountain bike adventure, but really, I am only starting to learn to walk.

2. You as a group have been dominating the FVMBA Super-D Spring Series, share us your secrets? Is it the 26”, 29” wheels? Carbon bikes?

What makes the Muddbunnies a strong presence at these races is the support a team provides: the camaraderie, the fun to share the experience of the race and be there together, the free beers offered by our generous sponsor Red Racer, the cheering of our race leaders Diana Walker, Crystal Lambert and Ryan Petersen… It all makes racing so much easier, so much more fun and so much less stressful.

3. What are the current bikes you ride/race and your set-up?

I just started racing and so far, I’ve done them all, XC and Super D, on a 2011 Santa Cruz Nomad Carbon. It’s built rather light, at about 31 lbs: Fox 36 Talas 160 mm and DHX air 5.0. I’m running Mavic Crossmax SX with tubeless Continental Trail Kings, Avid Elixir CR, SRAM X0 shifters and derailleurs. And I took it to Arthur at Suspension Therapy for fitting of course!

My “big” bike is a 2008 Norco Six 1 built as heavy as can be: 39 lbs, all coil (Fox 36 Van 180 mm and DHX 5.0) with a wheelset way too hefty for me. Since I am petite and can only drive, control and power a light bike, my dream DH bike is a Santa Cruz V10 carbon, built light, with maybe the Van 180 rather than a double-crown (Arthur’s suggestion). But for now, all I have is the fork!

Here is Marie front and centre, all smiles after the Sumas race!

4. Do you ride left foot or right foot forward?

Right. But I want to start practicing the left foot in front!

5. How do you deal with the mental pressure of racing? Do you conjure up the MTB spirits before the race? Is it meditation? Music?

I don’t stress about it. When I was younger, many people tried to convince me to compete in various sports, but I was worried about the pressure and despite my competitive nature, I stayed away from it. I have reached a point in my life where I am very peaceful about it, so I am now free to get into it.

6. Energy drink or Coffee?

God, none! I would drive everybody crazy!

7. What is the place you call home?

Whew. That’s a hard one. Since I got into mountain biking in 2010 – and moved to North Van to live on the Shore, I have been tempted to say “here”. Before then, I had no idea.

8. What is your favourite training regimen?

I don’t train! For now, I go on fun rides with friends as often as I can and I do a fair bit of yoga. But I ride with guys that are very fast climbers and this pushes me to always ride way harder than I should and I tend to get into overtraining.

Leaving Vancouver to conduct field work on a desert tropical island several months every year has also made me suffer from huge setbacks in both my physical condition and my riding confidence.

So my riding habits are far from optimal! I want to start training properly, but in a supervised environment and options are lacking – or I haven’t found them yet. I don’t want to turn towards a personal trainer – unaffordable for me, but I would like to find a team which trains year-round under the direction and advice of a coach. So basically I would like to see clubs who offer training options, like any roadies’ club does.

9. What is your favourite trail to ride/race in the Fraser Valley so far?

Honestly, apart from Heritage which is not my type of riding, I truly love them all: the Bear Super D was a blast (I love Lorax too), Vedder was a ton of fun (even if I was dreadfully slow with the snow on the course), Sumas is full of cool trails (I love KnobGobbler!) and Red has some beautiful technical XC (Crazy 8 is awesome!). What’s fun about them all is that they are fast and flowy and give me a break from the gnarl of the Shore!

10. Three websites you visit on a regular basis?

The Muddbunnies Race Team group on Facebook where race info, pictures and comments get posted.

The Vancouver Mountain Bike Meetup. This is how I started riding and where I met most of my riding buddies. Full of awesome friendly, fun and helpful people offering rides for all level and style. I post or sign up to rides there often, when I’m not riding with friends I met there.

And the FVMBA website now!!

11. Who or What do you appreciate the most in the MTB industry and community?

In the industry, I’d say Tara Llanes – an amazing woman! I am thrilled she now lives on the Shore! All the riders from The Collective, to stay local. And Brian Lopes (I read his book with Lee McCormack a good 3 times).

But because I am so new to the world of mountain biking and have become passionate about the Shore, my real fascination is for locals who have made its history. They are usually not the Whistler type and with a few exceptions, they aren’t pro and are not famous outside the community. But their skill level is beyond belief and they flow lines with grace and style, you would never guess a bike could take… and survive. They’ve ridden everything on steel hardtails with cantilever brakes, they’ve built crazy trails, saw structures being put down but obstinately re-built them. They know the stories behind stunt names. They’ve cracked half a dozen frames over the years and their bodies carry the marks of life-threatening crashes. They are quiet, building and riding almost unnoticed. They are the spirit of the Shore and they are my heroes!

12. What do you think is the future of MTB racing in BC?

DH, Super D/XC, Enduro All Mountain(i.e. BC Bike race)

Super Ds are definitely growing, particularly since light AM bikes really perfect for them have become available. It is a great combo of fitness and downhill challenges. And they are so much fun! I think they have a good future, at least in low key races.

13. In your opinion, what needs to be done to further the growth in women MTB racing and riding in B.C. as a whole?

Groups like the Vancouver Mountain Bike Meetup and clubs like the Muddbunnies are awesome to get women started in the sport in a smooth friendly way. NSRide also has a women night ride every week. So lots of options around and lots of women do ride! Getting them to race is trickier though as many are worried about the pressure or fear not to be good enough (though, one doesn’t have to be fast to race. One only has to be fast to win!) The races organized by the FVMBA are ideal to get just anyone into racing because they are low-key, extremely fun and ultra-friendly with an amazing atmosphere! And it’s great that it is a whole series as you see the same great folks each time and it’s a nice way to build bounds and make new friends!!

A good way to see more racers, whatever their gender, would be to develop more race teams. I didn’t want to race solo and that’s what drove me towards the Muddbunnies: they offer the team spirit and the moral support I needed. But while there are a lot of amateur road race teams around, amateur mountain bike race teams are rather scarce… in a way, I feel fortunate to be a woman and have this great option. For guys, as far as I know, unless you are a pro or a locally recognized amateur and can race for a team, a shop or a company, you are pretty much on your own, which is not encouraging.

14. Please share us your insight on growing the Super-D series in the Fraser Valley?

I think the FVMBA has already reached perfection, so I’d say, keep doing it!! And thanks so much for the fun!

15. Any shout out and Sponsors to thank?

Sure! All the sponsors supporting the Muddbunnies – full list available on the Muddbunnies website – particularly our Title Sponsor Red Racer Beer, as well as the FVMBA spring series sponsors: Pinkbike.com, Avenue Body Shop, Kintec, Suspensionwerx, Suspension Therapy and Marx Conditioning!

Shout outs? Many! All the people who have given me advice on my bikes – that’s so important to get started! Rick at the Lynn Valley bike shop, Andrew at Different Bikes, Arthur Gaillot, James Downing, friends, roommates…


FVMBA video featuring The Muddbunnies on pinkbike.com

Follow muddbunnies on Twitter

A huge thank you goes out to our 2012 Muddbunnies Race Team sponsors! Our racers have the opportunity to race because of these wonderful sponsors, please take a moment to visit their sites:

Red Racer Beer: www.redracerbeer.com/
Reflect Sports: www.reflectsports.com/
Dirty Girl Designs: www.dirtygirldesignscanada.com/
Design Out Loud: www.designoutloud.com/
Caps New Westminster: www.capsbicycleshop.com/
Different Bikes: www.differentbikes.ca/
Velocity Cycles: www.velocitycycles.ca/


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