WORCS Women’s Champion, GNCC Women’s Champion, X-Games Gold Medalist, ISDE Gold Medalists, and AMA Female Athlete of the Year, what women racer could I be talking about? No, this isn’t me! I wish I could add the Gold Medals to my list of accomplishments, but not yet, that will have to wait till another year because of this woman. Maria Forsberg-Hahn. I had the opportunity to sit down with Maria this past weekend and catch up with her and ask her some questions about the amazing year she has had so far and what kind of advice she could give to other women racers. One of the best parts I think about women’s racing is that even though we are competitors on the track, off the track we are all friends and that is what made this interview so much fun!
How did you get into racing?
I got into racing because that is how my parents meet. We would always go camping and ride.
So your dad raced?
Both my dad and mom raced. Back in the day when there wasn’t a women’s class my mom raced the C Class and won a championship.
That’s awesome! I didn’t know that about your mom!
Oh yea, she is bad ass!
So it always been a family thing?
This year KTM signed you as the first ever off-road full factory women’s racer. How has that experience been for you?
Awesome! Everything I’ve dreamt it to be! Unlimited help and support! Sometimes I will tell them I don’t need a set of graphics and they will be like, “Yes, you do.” My mechanics are awesome, my team is awesome and I get along with my teammates and their wives and/or fiancés, so it’s really cool and a great atmosphere.
The past 2 years you have pretty much dominated everything you have signed up to do, GNCC’s, Endurocross and even a National Enduro this year. Because they are all so different in disciplines and riding styles, what do you find that works best to train and practice for all of them?
Crossfit! It’s my new addiction. It is circuit training, so it’s quick plus it works endurance and strength and it really helped me in the mud race today. And then I chase my dogs around, I run, and mountain bike. Plus, my hubby is now a Washington State Patrol Trooper so he is always practicing all his wrestling moves on me which are pretty hard.
You now have 2 X-Games Gold Medals and have won the GNCC Women’s Title 3 times and you just recently made history by being the first female racer to overall a morning GNCC event. You have accomplished most goals that every women racer only dreams about doing. What’s next on your list? What does the future hold for you?
I don’t know what’s next on my list….
Is there anything in the off-road that’s left that you would like to still accomplish? Really, you have accomplished everything.
Yea, I have accomplished way more then what I ever dreamed of as a little girl. My goal as a young girl was to finish an ISDE and somehow I’ve pulled off 2 gold medals and then I’ve done the X-Games, which they didn’t even have so that came about and I’ve gotten 2 gold medals there. I’m really pretty content with what I have accomplished.
I know that you like the extreme stuff and they don’t have the Red Bull Last Man Standing anymore, so have you ever thought about Erzberg? Is that something you ever see yourself doing?
Yea! I would actually like to do Erzberg. I almost did it one year but my deal fell through, so yea that would be cool and would be on my list and would be gnarly to do some day.
You come out every weekend and dominate beating the other women in your class by 6, 8, 10 minutes. So, what keeps you motivated and driven to accomplish your goals and to keep pushing forward?
The overall, that’s like our goal now. It’s kinda cool now since I have won one and been close at other races. I found myself last year on the last couple of races not focusing and sometimes you can get yourself into trouble doing that, you know you crash if your mind is not there. So now I find its better for me to race at 100% the whole race. And it’s good for me to focus on that and push myself and my body and see what I can do for myself and the team.
GNCC or Endurocross—Which is your favorite?
GNCC by far! I think Endurocross is going to get big and going to be the most publicity and you can watch on TV and will be what people know about, but by far I have loved–well there were a couple my first year that I didn’t like–every single GNCC track that I’ve been too. And the people are awesome and have really taken me in like family and it’s fun and I enjoy coming.
On the off-road side of racing, what do you think the future holds for women’s racing?
We sure have had a big women’s class the last few times which is awesome! There are some really fast girls coming up. Becca Sheetz, she has improved a ton since I have started. Sarah Baldwin, Ashley Copeland, Hannah Otto and Leann Bange, they are all really good riders and they are getting better and better each race. I think that it is awesome and they all need to bring their friends out and tell everyone about it and if we spread the word and do a good job getting ourselves out there, I think it will get bigger and better.
That’s the thing, you’ve stepped the bar up with racing but they are following you. Yes, you are getting the overall but their getting better overalls as well.
I know and sometimes the girls get frustrated with me and want me to bump up the last race so that one of them can get a win. But that is how I got my speed, by always getting 3rd and 4th place, because I always rode with faster people. It takes time and riding with slower people doesn’t help you get faster and doesn’t push you. So I’m hoping those girls keep striving and even if they are quite a ways behind me, I hope they strive and push to get closer to me each weekend. Because you know, I’m not going to be here forever, I think we all know that. So that is what I am doing for the overall. I got 3rd at the beginning of the year and I was like “Shoot, I can do this!” Then today I got beat by two people, two old guys that are badass and legitimately fast guys and haul! But see the thing with me is, when I lose it gives me more drive. Like, I want it that much more! Louise beat me at an Endurocross this year and it didn’t make me mad it just sparked me and I went home and did my homework. It is really humbling for me to lose because it gives me something to push for. So I think if the girls look at it in the same sense they will just get better and better and quicker and faster.
Yea, you’re right, like you said it gives them something to push for not only by decreasing the gap between you and them but also improving their overall position as well. So it’s a good thing.
Yea it is!
So you have already touched on it a little but as an ambassador to women racers, what advice would you give them?
It might sound cliché but don’t ever give up. These girls have to remember that I have not always won. I’m 26 years old. Some of these girls are 18 and 19 years old. I was not winning at that age. Kelly Yancey was kicking my butt. I remember getting her autograph and drooling over it!
Me too! I have her autographed poster still hanging in our garage!
I was like “Wow, she is so fast! Someday I want to be like her!” And then a year and a half goes by and I beat her at one race, but then she beat me at 5 more races and then I beat her at another. So, it’s a long process and these girls can’t come at 18 and expect to just win. I’ve worked hard and been lucky to have a lot of really fast guys that I have got close with and now I’m on a team with guys that give me pointers and I can go ride with. Best advice is to ride with people that are faster than you. Ride with faster people and see the lines that they pick. It’s a whole package thing, you have to work out outside of racing, you can’t just ride your bike, there’s a lot of work that goes into to winning.
You work full time, train full time, practice full time and fly back and forth across the country to race on weekends. Do you ever have any free time to yourself and if so, what other activities do you enjoy doing off the bike and not training?
I have no life! I swear … I have no free time! But I do have a husband and two dogs that are my babies and I paint their nails and do doggie stuff with them. And I love anything outdoors. Our buddy built a ramp and we were doing backflips on bicycles into the lake this summer. Our life is pretty crazy and we do crazy stuff all the time. It’s something new at our house all the time. Like riding trials bicycles on our deck.
Sounds like a fun lifestyle! Adrenaline junkies!
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Who are some of you sponsors you would like to thank?
Everyone at KTM, my mechanics AG and Woody, GE, Dunlop, Thor, FMF, Motorex, IMS, Acerbis, WP, Muscle Milk, Bell Helmets, Scott USA, EVS, Twin Air, Motion Pro VP Fuels, Rekluse, TM Designs, Ogio and anyone else that I might have forgot. Plus my family, friends, and fans!
All right, good Luck the rest of the season and we’re all cheering for you to get another overall!