Rebecca Rusch is one of cycling’s most respected and accomplished athletes. Known as the Queen of Pain for her perseverance under pressure, she has continually redefined her own limits—and become a role model to many. We asked her for a few comments on role models and on women in cycling today.
Who was your first role model?
Marla Streb…because she was the first person I heard about who raced against men and beat them! She is one of the very first American female downhill mountain bike racers. She’s smart, fast, a business owner, an author—the complete package. And she’s so spunky and such a charger.
In the introduction to Queens of Pain (Rapha, 2018), Isabel Best writes: “Parity with men’s racing remains a distant goal but there will be no shortage of available heroines the closer it gets.” What are your thoughts on that?
And what year did Isabel write that? How frustrating that we still have parity with men’s racing after all this time. True, the heroines who came before us have inspired us and there are new generations of heroines in cycling showing up all the time, but yet the inequality and lack of opportunity for women in cycling still exists.
How did you get the nickname Queen of Pain?
Just like any nickname, I was dubbed that by my athletic peers. QOP became my moniker during my adventure racing years as I raced on mostly men’s teams and was known for being able to suffer and hang on. I take it as a badge of honor. Pain is part of cycling and endurance sports. Pain has become a great teacher to me via cycling.
What would you like to see happen for women in cycling in the next year, 5 years, or more?
Really, I’d love to witness a time when we don’t have to talk about gender, when parity isn’t an issue any more.
Do you feel like gravel cycling, cyclocross, or mountain biking has opened more doors for female cyclists?
Women find cycling through so many outlets, but I do feel that gravel road cycling has really moved female participation. Gravel has addressed two important issues for anyone wanting to get involved with cycling: Riders want to be away from motor vehicles, and riders are often intimidated to learn mountain biking due to a lack of skills. Gravel is the perfect solution to learn off-road riding in a safe and non-intimidating place.
Any advice for a young female cyclist just starting out?
Find a posse. Riding together is always more fun and a great way to improve your skills.
Read more about the modern-day Queen of Pain in her extraordinary biography, Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled.