The (Career) Path Less Taken: Professional mountain bike racer Willow Koerber
Willow Koerber, Class of 2000
When Asheville native Willow Koerber, Class of 2000, was just 13 years old, she completed a metric century bike ride (100 kilometers or 62 miles). In many ways, she hasn't gotten off a bike since.
Now a professional cross-country mountain bike racer, Koerber has a life few can only dream of. She trains hard in Colorado and races in exotic locales around the world, including Argentina, Mexico and Canada. Recently, she competed at the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Australia. At the end of the day, she found herself on the winner's podium. By taking third place—just 52 seconds behind the winner—Koerber became the first American to medal at the prestigious event since 2001.
"I am happy to have ended the dry spell for U.S. mountain biking at the world championships," she said. "I plan on improving my performance next year at the world championships in Mount St. Anne, Quebec, Canada."
Obviously, the world championship win wasn't Koerber's first trip to the podium. She has placed in a host of national races as well as winning three Collegiate National Championships while she was a student at UNC Asheville. In addition, she was featured as the "XX factor" in the June 2009 issue of "Outside" magazine and was profiled in the September 2009 issue of "Bike" magazine.
"I learned the importance of hard work and goal setting. Asheville is also the ideal place to train for mountain biking." —Willow Koerber, Class of '00
Currently, Koerber is taking a bit of time off after her big win, and says she ready to be away from airports. She travels 275 days each year. But Koerber insists she won't become a couch potato.
"I always stay active because it is an addiction I can't live without – trail runs, bike rides, hikes, shopping and lots of healthy food."
The psychology major notes that her studies at UNC Asheville has helped in her career as a professional athlete.
"I learned the importance of hard work and goal setting. Asheville is also the ideal place to train for mountain biking," she said. "I do miss riding in Western North Carolina, but I am loving my new adventures!"