Life On Two Wheels: Cat Ambrose shares a passion for singletrack through Yeti Beti
Special to the Daily
Passion is something that cannot be taught. It must come intrinsically, as an emotional reaction to a pursuit you connect with on a deep level. Talk for a few minutes with Summit local Cat Ambrose and you quickly realize her passion is teaching women the sport of mountain biking.
“With mountain biking, there are some barriers of entry for women,” Ambrose said. “It can be intimidating — there’s rocks, there’s roots. Men embrace the adrenalin rush more, but when we show women that they, too, can embrace this atmosphere, they realize that it’s a great sport on so many different levels.”
Fittingly, Ambrose’s passion for teaching others mountain biking was sparked at her first race in 2003.
“I was this young 20something, and I was totally cocky,” she remembered with a laugh. “I entered the Summit Mountain Challenge thinking I would do great, and I got my butt kicked. I was getting passed by 50-year-olds.”
This dose of reality was a blessing in disguise. Motivated to improve and intrigued by the challenge, Ambrose started riding with and receiving mentorship from some of Summit’s top female riders, athletes like Katie Stamp, Annie Black and Sarah Rawley.
“Everyone was so supportive,” Ambrose said. “There are so many amazing, talented people that will take time with a beginner.”
With time, she improved and started entering endurance bike races. There, she gained the attention of the Colorado-based Yeti Beti bike team and joined shortly after. Yeti Beti, a group of bike ambassadors representing Yeti Cycles, is dedicated to growing women’s mountain biking through female-friendly bike races and clinics.
Although Ambrose says she’s “just a cheerleader” for the team, she’s still an elite rider, with a recent win at New Mexico’s 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest race. But, every sport needs an ambassador, and Ambrose’s talent for sharing her passion is undeniable. She came full circle three years ago, when she started organizing and hosting Yeti Beti clinics through the town of Breckenridge.
At the clinics, she taught groups of beginner and intermediate riders the basics. She also helped them overcome misconceptions and fears about the sport. She enthusiastically explained how this approach makes sense for women, especially beginners, because they can watch and learn from other women. Men, in contrast, tend to be more independent.
“We see such a big difference in their confidence and maturity before and after the clinic,” Ambrose said. “Before they start, we’ll hear them say, ‘I don’t really know if I can do that,’ and by the time they’re done, they’re beaming. It’s kind of like tapping from the fountain of youth.”
Her upbeat approach to biking is a breath of fresh air in the stoic mountain bike community. It’s also contagious. Back in July, she hosted two days of classes during Breckenridge Demo Days, and both clinics sold out far in advance. She now enjoys teaching nearly more than riding.
“Teaching is hands down way better,” Ambrose said. “It’s a completely selfish thing for me … When you can help someone get over a barrier, when you see the smile on their face, them yelling, ‘I got it, I got it.’ There’s not a question the feeling I get from that is way better.”
None of this is to say, however, that she doesn’t still love biking solo. When not teaching, she’s most likely riding the Colorado Trail, Kenosha Pass, or Ridge Trail near Alma on her beloved Yeti SP5C.
“To promote and represent a Colorado company of bike junkies who are so passionate, who build all their bikes with input and feedback from riders like me, it gives me just the happiest feeling,” she said. “We’re just paying it forward. We want women to have the opportunity to experience the joy biking has brought all of us. We all have spandex, so there’s so many ways to love this sport, as long as we’re doing it together. It’s such a healthy sport and a great vehicle to get you further back into wilderness and the backcountry, and it will take you to so many places that you wouldn’t go to otherwise.”
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