By: David Mable
Women’s Cycling Network
Christina Gokey-Smith of Denton, Tex., grew up sitting in the saddle of a horse, so an invitation to go for a mountain bike ride with a friend seemed only natural. Riding a Huffy and wearing an equestrian helmet, she and her friend hit the local trails, her horseback riding skills kicking in when needed. “I thought I’d better get a helmet after our ride,” she said of that first ride. “I came upon a dip in the trail. My girlfriend stopped, but my “I can do anything” attitude kicked in. I hit that dip, went over the handle bars, skinned up my palms and walked the rest of the way out.” A short time later, Gokey-Smith had a new Specialized Stumpjumper and a proper helmet, as well as a NORBA license. She started racing mountain bikes locally, but as her experience grew, she began to see some success, and also met her husband, who currently races both mountain and cross bikes. “I think it’s important to have the support of your spouse,” said Gokey-Smith. “This is a sport that takes up a bunch of time and isn’t cheap. It would be really difficult to do if you didn’t have the support of your spouse and family.” With her husbands support, she discovered a love for the road, especially criterium racing, and now rides professionally, in 2015 for the Pepper Palace/pb The Happy Tooth cycling team.
“I love criterium racing,” said Gokey-Smith. “I just love it. I love going fast. I love the competitive side. I got my first road bike in 2006 and in 2009, I decided road was more my thing. For a while, I balanced road and mountain biking, along with my equestrian life, but eventually made the full-time commitment to road racing.”
In the fall, she trades in her road bike for her cross bike, and sees cyclocross as a great way to introduce women to the sport of cycling, and help the sport continue to grow.
“It’s intimidating on the road, it’s hard to ride in a group when you’re new,” she said. “But with ‘cross, there is a connection, and encouragement between the experienced riders and the new ones.” Because cyclocross races stretch out quickly, and each rider is out there challenging themselves on the course, it is a good place for women to give racing a try. Spectators cheer equally for those at the front as well as for those at the back and for some, just finishing is a success. “When you can connect with new riders at a cross race, it carries over,” said Gokey-Smith. “You get that connection right away and it opens the door for more riding, more experiences. I think it’s really important for the experienced riders to reach out and encourage newer riders. Invite them on rides – help them get started and learn what to do. Teaching people to ride, especially on the road is super important, but isn’t always taught. That instruction just needs to be integrated into our sport, we all need to take responsibility for that.”
Christina Gokey-Smith went from a care-free ride on the trails to a full-time professional cyclist in a matter of years. You never know where that next invitation will lead.