March’s Point of View – Madeline Bemis

Photo: Kevin Carlson

Every few months we tell a story from within our NICA family that exemplifies the meaningful impact our programs have for all involved. We want to hear your stories!

This month’s story comes from Madeline, a senior on SoCal’s Corona Composite Team and the reigning U23 World 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike Champion.

Madeline is a World Champion, SoCal League Varsity Girls Champion, and Senior in the SoCal League. Oh, and she sings a mean National Anthem! – Matt Gunnell, SoCal League Director

We recently caught up with Madeline to ask her a few questions about her experiences with NICA and racing mountain bikes

How did you first get involved with Corona Composite?

I had been mountain biking with my dad since I was about 8 years old. We’d take our bikes with us on family trips and ride the trails around our house. My neighbor had given me this crazy downhill bike outfitted with colorful of stickers, spiral suspension, a pool noodle attached to the top tube (I crashed a lot), and the pink floral seat leftover from my Walmart bike. We named her ‘The Tank.’ She was my pride and joy, and remains hanging in our garage to this day.

My Freshman year, another neighbor informed us that a local high school mountain bike team called Corona Composite starting to take form. I had just finished my cross-country running season, so I decided I’d give it a go. Getting ready for my first practice, I rattled my brain trying to think of what a cyclist was supposed to look like. Cyclists wear tight clothes, I thought, so I put on the tightest running clothes I owned. I was blown away by how kind and supportive the coaches and existing team members were, and I knew I’d be back for more.

Photo: Madeline Bemis

What’s your favorite thing about training and racing with Corona Composite?

Corona Composite is a special team. We’re a conglomerate of different ages from different schools with different backgrounds and different personalities. There’s been a bit of chaos and drama during these past 4 years, but in the end we’ve always overcome our differences and are better for it. We’re a big, crazy family, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You’ve become involved in a lot of endurance / marathon mountain bike events -what role did NICA play in taking you to this level of competition?

The way I see it, if it weren’t for NICA, there would be no SoCal League, and if it wasn’t for the SoCal League, there would be no Corona Composite – and if there was no Corona Composite, I would have never developed the passion I have for mountain biking!

I recall one of my coaches telling me that my races in the Freshman Girls category would be over 10 miles, and my jaw dropped. Then he said I should be doing 20 mile training rides, and I thought no way. Then a few weeks after, a couple team members and I were motivated by pizza to complete a 30 mile ride with a plethora of climbing. Afterward were all exhausted and completely toast. But over time longer rides became easier as my endurance improved.

The 10 mile NICA races went by fast, which gave me the confidence to keep pushing the limits. After season ended, my training partners and I would text each other on Fridays to come up with the biggest, gnarliest route to ride over the weekend. We usually ended up mounting our headlights at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, racing each other to the top of a climb to watch the sunrise, then riding all day; sometimes till sunset. The camaraderie of escaping into the mountains was magnetic, and it became a weekend ritual for me and my friends. These rides were a segway into the world of endurance racing, which I quickly found success in. These longer competitions had me falling in love with mountain biking all over again, and have helped me reach my full potential as an athlete.

Photo: Madeline Bemis

How has the NICA program positively influenced you off the bike?

When I was in middle school, I tried out for a local club soccer team. I’d been playing in an everyone-plays league since I was 5 years old and was ready to take it to the next level. I didn’t make the cut, but the girl who did got injured, so a couple months later I got the call that I was in. However, it wasn’t long before I realized I was a burden to the team as the worst player. I didn’t get to play in games much, and when I did I was getting yelled at by the other girls and coaches. I dreaded practice and would drive home in tears. Needless to say, I eventually quit. When I joined Corona Composite, we were all newbies to mountain biking, so it was an easy transition. But when we gained a couple of Varsity riders including myself, the team dynamic changed, and some of the new kids evidently felt intimidated and insecure. I know what that feels like from my club soccer experiences…It sucks. So I strive to ensure everyone; fast or slow, new or seasoned; feels included and valued as a team member. I make it a priority to learn names, talk to all of my team members, and get to know them throughout the season. Most of the newcomers are from junior high and they’re my favorite! Getting to know them has actually inspired me to want to become a Middle School math teacher as my career 🙂

As a Senior Varsity rider – what advice would you give new riders embarking on their first season with NICA?

Mountain biking is undoubtedly the coolest sport ever. I’ve met my best friends and the most amazing people through the sport, and my team has become my family. Hard work on the climbs is generously rewarded with fast and flowy single track. You’ll get in touch with nature, challenge your limits, get to add words like “rad,” “stoked,” and “gnarly” into your lexicon, AND wear spandex. It’s very unique and growing quickly, so join us in the high school mountain biking revolution!

Madeline racing the first SoCal race of the 2017 Season. Photo:

Can you speak to how your coaches have influenced you?

My coaches don’t get paid. They have families and jobs, yet still carve out time from their days to pour into us kids, and to me that’s exceptional. I’m so grateful for Coach Kevin, who made the Rebecca Rusch submission video that secured me a spot on Team Rusch for 24 Hours of Old Pueblo that started it all, traveled across the world to New Zealand with me, and has been a backbone for CCMTB since the beginning. Coach Heith trained me to be an elite competitor in Varsity last season and helped me reach my full potential by digging deeper into the pain cave and having structured, meaningful training. Coach Dana is our last remaining coach for Corona Composite this season, so if it weren’t for him hosting trainer workouts in his garage, driving everyone around, and ensuring we’re dialed on race day, there would be no team this year. Coach Jason is the head coach for SoCal Devo; an elite junior development team I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this season in addition to CCMTB. Coach J is one of the most knowledgeable, generous, and supportive people I’ve ever met, and I’m excited to see where our training takes me this season and beyond.

Thanks Madeline! Best of luck to you, your Corona Composite Teammates and the rest of the SoCal League this season!

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