Ciao, Wahine! :: Pua Mata Represents USA at Marathon Worlds

Pua in Italia.

Story by Tonya Bray, Photos by Pua Mata and others.

When USA Cycling issued the first press release announcing the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championship team, Pua Mata was not on the list. The winner of the 2011 Whiskey Off Road was the first candidate in many minds for a nomination. The Whiskey Off Road, contested 1 May 2011 in Prescott, Arizona, was not an official qualifier for the Worlds team, but with the likes of Catharine Pendrel (Luna Chix) and Kelli Emmett (Giant) showing up for the cash, any result would be worthy. Pua took the win in Prescott in the last minutes of the race, besting Canadian National Champion Pendrel, earning $4,000, and cementing her name as the best Marathon Mountain Bike Racer in North America.

Pua wins the Whiskey Off Road.

Pua Wins the 2011 Whiskey Off Road in Prescott, Arizona

Pua was in Italy when she saw the team announcement, without her name. The UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championship race will be held in Montebelluna, Italy on 23 June 2011.

“When I got here and the team was announced and I wasn’t on it, I went into a small panic mode!” says Mata. Pua hadn’t planned on racing in the 2011 Marathon Worlds, even as late as Sea Otter, where she finished 7th in the cross country (held in April in Monterey).
“If you had asked me at Sea Otter or even the Whiskey, I would have told you that this race was not even on my radar,” says Pua. “The training started so late and this year was a year to just have fun and be an ambassador… no expectations.”
“After the Whiskey he [Scott Tedro] told me that he was sending me to Worlds and sending me a whole month early.”  From Prescott, Pua rushed home to Hawaii for 5 days to visit family where she would meet her first, newborn niece and see her grandfather whose health is faltering. Upon returning to Southern California from Hawaii, Pua had one week to pack for Italy– without a passport. Pua’s expedited application was caught up in the process.
“24 hours before my plane was leaving, I was standing in line at the Federal building hoping and praying they would help me out and 15 hours before my plane was leaving, they put my new passport in my hand.”
Pua made it to Italy, and she’s been training and eating Nutella (the Italian blend, which is better then the American version, in my opinion!) for the past two weeks. The passport drama, followed by the team announcement sent Pua into panic.

The mountain bike race courses in Italy go right through town.

MTB Race in Italy… they go through the town!
“Can you imagine?  I would have to go to Tedro and say, sorry, I am all the way over here, but they won’t let me race!”
Pua holds 6 National Marathon and 24 Hour National titles, and is competitive in cross country, usually finishing well within the top 10 against the Nation’s fastest women in addition to posting the best female time at the Vision Quest ride in Orange County, California (where she even breaks into the top 10 in the men’s category). Which is why it was surprising she had not been asked to join the team. While the qualifications are clear for the first two bullet points of automatic nomination, the third bullet point of appointment by the coaches of USA Cycling is not as clear. Since Marathon is not an Olympic event, filling 15 team spots is not a priority.
“I have no idea how the team was even selected, I really thought they would have asked me.”
After all the drama, Pua has settled in to training in the Dolomites, preparing for the upcoming race.

Ruins along the race course.

Ruins on the race course.

“It is an amazing experience and I am so blessed to be able to be here for this long and actually just blessed to be here to be able to race my bike!!”

Pua, who likely has the best chance of a medal, is joined by Crank Brothers Amy Dombroski, another last minute addition to the team. Sonya Looney will also represent USA in Italy later this month.




UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships
Montebelluna, Italy
June 26, 2011
Women’s Team
Amy Dombroski (Boulder, Colo./Crank Brothers Race Club)
Sonya Looney (Boulder, Colo./Topeak Ergon)
Pua Mata (Huntington Beach, Calif./Team Sho-air)

Men’s Team
Jeremiah Bishop (Harrisonburg, Va./Cannondale Factory Racing)
Michael McCalla (Santa Fe, N.M./Magura)
Blake Harlan (Boulder, Colo./Jamis Factory)

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