As a financial journalist, Sarah Max has covered the money beat for publications including Forbes and The New York Times. She’s dabbled in cycling journalism as well, even writing for Bicycling on occasion. Now, she’s the subject of interviews after bursting onto the gravel scene with tenacity, a deep love of technical sections, an appreciation for a fine IPA, and the guts to rock road shoes during a gravel race known for its difficult singletrack.
The 47-year-old took a break from preparing for her next adventure to chat all things gravel cycling, and shares her best tips for both new riders and riders looking to level up.
You’re still working full-time, but putting a big focus on gravel this season. How are you balancing the two?
I’ve been riding for a long time—I got into gravel in 2018 because of a story that was pitched to me about gravel and about what is now Unbound, and I got into the race. It scared me enough that I really trained in 2018: I didn’t think I could race 200 miles, so I worked hard to be ready. Then I had the fitness from that, which carried me through the rest of the year.
But then, with COVID and my own family’s transitions into college, I wasn’t really that focused on racing the last two years. This year, I decided to make a commitment to training. And the way I balanced it is that I work East Coast hours, so when I’m home in Oregon, I start working at five o’clock in the morning and try to be done around two in the afternoon, so I have plenty of time to train after work.
Were you expecting to have such solid results this season, with a fourth-place finish at Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) in San Diego and the win in Asheville after a solid Unbound performance?
I was not expecting to necessarily do that! The competition has increased so much since 2018. I had some good results that year, a fair number of podiums and stuff, but I was not expecting to have these results this season at all. My life was really hectic the last few years, and I did not have a lot of time to build back a base. I only started training in earnest in early March.
All Photos Bicycling Magazine