Kelly Ault | Reader Athlete August 2012

Kelly Ault
Age: 41
Residence: Middlesex
Family: Husband, Phil Beard; sons, Austin and Carson, 8; chocolate Lab, Ali
Occupation: Organizing director for Kids Are Priority One Coalition
Primary sport: Mountain biking

Kelly Ault has a passion for knobby tires. She shares that passion with her husband and has passed it down to her sons, but she wanted to go one step further. Two years ago she founded Mountain Moxie to help get more women into mountain bike racing, and this year she became involved with Moxie Sparks, an initiative to bring more girls into the sport.

VS: Tell us about Mountain Moxie.
KA: Two summers ago I was racing mountain bikes, and I felt like I was having a hard time connecting with other women. After Millstone Grind, I talked to [Race Director] Andrew Wellman, and he asked me how we could get more women into racing. It got me thinking about Vermont Women’s Cycling/Team Betty, who I rode with when I first moved to Vermont. The idea that I could be part of recreating that was exciting. I did a Beers and Gears event, and a number of women attended. By the end of the meeting, we had a team, a name, and a mission. It’s not just about riding, training, and racing, but also about giving back to the community and creating greater access to the sport for women and girls. That was a year and a half ago, and now we have 24 women involved.

VS: How has it been going?
KA: It’s been wonderful. It certainly has brought women together to share in the racing experience. For example, 12 of the 14 women who raced the new 12 Hours of Millstone last summer were from Mountain Moxie. We provided some structure, as well as camaraderie. For some women, it was their only race of the year, but others continued for the rest of the season. This year we’re going a step further by partnering with the Stride Foundation and Little Bellas (see story on page TK) to create Moxie Sparks. We are sponsoring three sixth graders for an entire summer of racing. I’ve been racing for 20 years, and I took a lot from the sport, but I want to do something greater than myself. I want to give girls experience and life skills.

VS: What was your favorite bike race?
KA: That would have to be the BC Bike Classic. Almost two years ago, I was looking ahead to a race goal for the following year. My husband and I knew it would be our 40th birthdays, as well as our 10-year anniversary. We wanted to combine something really fun and adventurous with those milestones, so we signed up for the race and committed ourselves to training. The BC Bike Classic is a seven-day stage race from Vancouver to Whistler. It was a really challenging course. There were racers from all over the world, and the relationships we developed over that challenging terrain were very powerful. It was a really great experience.

Phil and I did really well in the race. We had no idea the Vermont terrain would prepare us so well. We rode in April in the mud and did a lot of climbing. Vermont offers so much technical terrain that we felt like we could handle anything thrown at us. My husband was seventh in his age group, and I was third among women. I was on the podium almost every day.

VS: What other sports do you do?
KA: I did five years of triathlons, but three years ago I hung up my running shoes and wetsuit to focus on mountain biking. I ride through the winter, but I love to tele ski, and I really enjoy the backcountry. I just play; I don’t race. It’s fun to go to the mountain with my family. It’s our family play time. Tele skiing is also such a vigorous sport that it’s great training for cycling, but I might have to turn to Alpine so I can keep up with my boys.

VS: How do you find time to train?
KA: That’s always the tricky part. I do feel like having a goal helps me develop structure in my weekly life for training. Sometimes I ride at 6 a.m., doing a lap on the Waterbury trails before work. My husband is a competitive cyclist, so we understand and respect each other’s needs for time. I benefit from having so many trail networks so close to home and having a flexible schedule, to some degree, so I can take a lunchtime ride and not throw off the work/family balance.

VS: What do you enjoy about mountain biking?
KA: In general I’m motivated by the terrain and beautiful trails, but for me, mountain biking can also be time for reflection and time to roll by myself in the woods where it’s quiet. Because I’m balancing work and family, it’s about time for myself and my friends to play. It’s also a big family thing for me, since it allows us to play together as a family. A lot of times, everybody does their own sport, but this is something that’s able to bring us together. I feel very grateful for that.

Vermont is becoming a mecca for the mountain biking. We have incredible trail networks that are beautifully built and include cross-country, downhill, and pump tracks, which have opened the sport up to kids and youth and added a free ride aspect to the sport. I’m constantly challenging myself emotionally and intellectually on the trail. Plus, the progression is obvious, and there is real empowerment that comes from that.

VS: Did you mountain bike as a child?
KA: I always had bikes as a kid, but I got my first mountain bike in college, and that’s when I did my first race. Now bikes have suspension and beautiful geometry, and it makes the sport even more enjoyable and fun. You used to ride on old woods roads with stiff hard tails, but now you feel like you’re floating. My children have been biking since they were 2 or 3, and now they are racing at Catamount. I’m finding as much joy and reward in watching them as in riding myself.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with her partner Bryan and two cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”