Gravel Season: Training and Preparation Tips with Ambassador KC Cross and fiancé Megan Pearson
Interviewed by Stan Jones
Spring gravel season is here, and our Social Media Specialist Stan Jones sat down with Northwest Arkansas couple KC Cross and Megan Pearson to talk about their spring training season. Stanley dished about KC’s new ambassadorships, training with a professional coach, Megan’s first race, bike ride snacks, music and more. Read along for perspectives we are loving in our riding community from new and seasoned riders. If this story inspires you to prepare for summer in the gym, KC shared their favorite workout playlist here.
Stan: Gravel season is upon us! How are you feeling?
KC: That is a good question! I am not where I want to be. I was sick and then was traveling for work, so I am finally getting back into the swing of things. I know it is early for the season, but I was hoping I would have been at a different point at this moment. Overall, I feel good. The main thing I would like to get nailed down is my nutrition for these longer rides. I want to make sure my body is fueled so I can get through 7-10 hours of riding.
Stan: We understand you brought on several new supporters/brands in the past year. Congrats! Who are they and how will this support impact your season?
KC: The newest ambassadorship is Velocio Apparel. Anything you see me wearing and training in is Velocio Apparel. I signed with them because honestly, they make the best cycling kits and bibs. I like to keep my lower part as cushioned as possible when on the bike. They make a loose fitted jersey that I normally throw on top of whatever I am wearing. I like fashion so I want to look and feel good while riding.
Shimano is providing significant support this year by taking care of my footwear and bike component needs. I also like to wear Lazer and use Chamois Butt’r.
While we are talking about Chamois Butt’r, I must brag about them. The way they [and Kara] execute their ambassador program is amazing. I am proud to be part of the brand. They really go out of their way to support cyclists and the communities that are involved. People ask me all time “Who is your favorite brand to work with” and I always say CB. The creams make a significant difference when riding for a long time.
Stan: How do you feel about working with Leborne Coaching? Have you ever trained with a coach before?
KC: IT’S HARD! [Laughs] Scotti Lechuga is a phenomenal cyclist and coach. I think I will be feeling pretty good around May or June for these upcoming races that I have. This is the first time I trained with an actual coach with a structured training program [Leborne Coaching]. This is new to me. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be this tough because I am naturally an athlete. There are times when Megan hears me screaming from training because I am just trying to get through it.
Megan: This is very true! [Laughs]
KC: But I can tell I am getting stronger. I can tell in the tone of my muscles.
Stan: Do you have a go-to cross-training workout that you’ll turn to during the race season?
KC: I don’t have a go to cross training program, but I try to incorporate a lot of metabolic conditioning in my day-to-day workouts. I do a lot of cross fit types of workouts; a mixture of olympic/power lifting, cardio, and body weight movements. I try to include a lot of squatting in my workouts. I try my best to keep my legs strong because it’s going to make my life on the bike much easier. Any workout that allows me to squat, I’m with it. I should do more pushups, but I hate it. [Laughs]
Stan: What are some must have pieces of gear that you use during spring training?
KC: My go to bib is the Velocio Apparel. I just got their Radiator Mesh Baselayer and I absolutely love it. I don’t feel hot or cold in it. The best thing about it is that I don’t feel wet in it.
Stan: What are your favorite snacks when riding?
KC: Gu Energy helped me a lot during this past year with my nutrition. I can be a picky eater, but Gu makes the best Stroopwafels , gummies and chocolate protein.
A lot of my friends make fun of me because I eat Uncrustables on my rides. [Laughs] They are already frozen so by the time you’re riding for a couple of hours; they are ready to eat. You can’t go wrong a peanut butter sandwich. My perfect riding meal would be Lays, a Coca-Cola, and a pickle.
Stan: Who is your favorite artist/genre to listen to while riding?
KC: My favorite is J. Cole. It doesn’t matter if its ‘07 Cole or ‘21 Cole—he’s my most played artist. I mostly listen to rap and hip-hop music, and because I am a millennial baby, I sprinkle a little bit of *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. [Laughs]
Photo of KC Cross completing The Mid South 2022 with Bobby Wintle. Photo by Beckie Irvin.
Stan: What are your current goals for the upcoming season?
KC: With these 100-mile races, I would like to get faster with each race. My competitive days are over, but I live to continue pushing myself. My biggest goal would be to finish one of the 100-mile races in under 9 hours.
Also, Megan raced for the first time this year!
Stan: How exciting is that, Megan?! When was your first race and how did you prepare?
Megan: My first race was at Mid-South in Stillwater, OK. The plan was for me to be on the bike every other day for 2 months leading up to it and getting 40-50 miles per week, but life and work got in the way. Leading up to the race, I focused more on yoga and meditation to get my mind right to be on the bike for 6+ hours. My main goal was to finish, and I accomplished that!
Stan: That’s amazing! How was the race? How do you feel?
Megan: It was amazing! I only had one mechanical issue, dropped my chain with less than a mile to go but I fixed it and cruised to the finish line. I rode the “50 mile” option but the route ended up being 56 miles. I am proud of myself for finishing, but I don’t think I could've done it without the support of my amazing community.
I ended up riding with 5-6 different groups of people on the route, including strangers from 5+ different states, and some people I’ve been fortunate to meet through KC. It truly is a community and seeing everyone so excited for everyone was really uplifting.
Photo of Megan Pearson completing The Mid South 2022. Photo by Beckie Irvin.
KC: I have been pushing and encouraging Megan. As a cyclist, I want to encourage another black, queer, or non-binary person in cycling to keep pushing because there is a space for you in this cycling world. I found a community once I started racing and I want Megan and everyone to do that as well.
Stan: That’s amazing! What community or organization would you say helped you/Megan feel the sense of community?
KC: I spend most of the early part of the pandemic in Austin with Megan and most of the time I was riding alone or with Megan. During that time, I began connecting with several other BIPOC and/or Queer cyclist all across the country. When I returned to Arkansas, I was finally able to meet some of these people in real, beginning with Beckie Irvin, founder of Grit MTB Fest. Shortly after, I was fortunate to connect with Bea Apple & Kim Seay at the Bike.POC Solidarity Ride in the summer of 2020. At that time, I was primarily providing DEI presentations and consulting with higher education but once we all began riding together, we realized we were really aligned in our social justice advocacy so it only made sense to begin working together to create the community and culture in Northwest AR that we all were missing.
Other organizations and people that I've been able to befriend, build community, and really expand on local and national activism with this space are Rachel Olzer & Eric Arce, co-founders of Pedal 2 The People, Devin Cowens of RAR.ATL, and The Black Foxes, all of which inspired me to co-found Beyond the Binary with Megan to create content showcasing Queer, Black, and other People of Color as well providing education and consulting with the cycling industry.
Photo by Beckie Irvin.
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