BLOOMFIELD, NJ — There is not a lot of money to be made by riding a mountain bike professionally, but there is a lot of passion, according to Watsessing-area resident Kristine Contento-Angell, the 2015 New Jersey state champion in the professional category of cross-country mountain biking.
An Upstate New York native with a sports-competitive streak, Contento-Angell, 36, said when she moved from Queens, N.Y., to Bloomfield seven years ago, she became acquainted with bicycle road racers. That sport, in her words, was, “not my cup of tea.” But she discovered and fell in love with mountain biking.
Competitively racing for five years, Contento-Angell became a professional last year.
“I specialize in technical riding,” she said during an interview at her home this past weekend. “That’s when there are rocks and logs or roots in the road.”
Other racers, she said, may have more difficulty with these obstacles than she does because part of her training concentrates on these problems.
“Momentum speed is so important,” she said. “It’s keeping that speed steady through obstacles and turns.”
A cross-country mountain bike race is usually between 20 and 25 miles in length and takes about 1 3/4 hours to complete, Contento-Angell said. She trains almost every day and uses different bicycles for different workouts. One bike has a sensor which measures headwind, tailwind, and her energy output in watts. Sometimes her training will concentrate on producing bursts of energy; at other times, endurance. She also trains for strength with a form of exercise called plyometrics, or jump training.
“An example would be jumping with one foot onto a bench and then jumping off and going into a squat,” she said.
While there is not a lot of money to be made on a mountain bike — just a few hundred dollars for her championship — Contento-Angell said it was great a feeling having her husband and two children at the finish line. And it takes a considerable amount of money to cross that finish line.
It takes a coach, Contento-Angell said, an essential for a champion. She is coached by Ken Lundgren, the CEO of Elite Training Systems. And it takes a top-of-the-line bicycle. Her bike costs $9,000 and is used only on race day. It was provided by Jamis Bikes, a bike manufacturer located in Northvale, NJ and her racing sponsor.
“It has a carbon frame,” she said. “It weighs almost nothing, 24 pounds. That is not a lot for a mountain bike. The pedals are little bindings. The shoes clip into the bindings. The wheelbase is shorter and produces a tighter turning radius. It makes the bike feel snappy. But different bikes have different geometries.”
In addition to her various bikes and specialized equipment, there are entry fees.
“I did 28 races last year,” she said. “It adds up.”
This coming race season, Contento-Angell will also have Bloomfield resident and businessman Shane Berger as a sponsor. Berger is a member of the Bloomfield Board of Education.
“Shane is the first non-bike related sponsor,” she said.
Contento-Angell also belongs to a bike team. Mountain Bike New Jersey, whose sponsors provides her with additional funding. She won her state championship last spring on a course at Jungle Habitat, in West Milford. Her diet during the race season, from the last week in February to mid-August this year, is a paleo diet. The term paleo is used to imply paleolithic, or foods eaten by early humans.
“It’s mostly meats and vegetables,” Contento-Angell said. “You cut out glutens and grain. My coach recommended trying it and I had really good results. I felt good racing. But I’m sure there are vegans racing.”
Contento-Angell is preparing for a short trip out West where she will compete next month. But Bloomfield residents should have an opportunity to meet her when she returns. A member of the Watsessing Home and School Association, she is planning a bicycle festival at Watsessing Elementary School sometime in the spring.