Born to ride
A triple world champion in extreme endurance mountain biking, Ronel Cook is at the top of her game – and says the sport has completely transformed her life.
Programme Coordinator at Moana Pool; World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Biker
The freedom and feeling of biking is why I love it so much. I can have the worst day ever, but even riding home, I just forget about it.
Not many people can say they’re a three-time world champion – but Dunedin resident Ronel Cook is one of the few!
A diligent and demanding training regime keeps her in peak condition and at the top of her game in her beloved sport of mountain biking.
Ronel’s specialty is gruelling 24-hour racing that requires exceptional fitness levels and heroic endurance abilities. In recent years, she has won world titles in her age group at world championship events in Rotorua, Italy and Scotland, covering distances of up to 300 kilometres each race.
To stay at this elite level, Ronel lives and breathes riding, fitting in anywhere from 16 to 24 hours of riding a week – all while working full-time at Moana Pool as a Programme Coordinator.
I might ride for about three or four hours after work, and get home around 10.00pm. Then I’ll eat, shower and go to bed. I’m up again at 6.00am and ride to work most mornings.
It’s clear that mountain biking is source of great joy for Ronel.
"I love the whole process of getting outdoors and riding,” she says. “It’s challenging, it keeps me busy and active, and it relieves stress. I get to meet lots of good people, and there’s the great feeling of all the endorphins. It’s like a drug."
Ronel has been training seriously for about six years – “Before then, I couldn’t even ride up Stuart Street,” she laughs.
Before riding, I was overweight and I used to party as hard as I train now. Because of mountain biking, I stopped drinking, stopped smoking and started eating healthy. I feel so much better, physically and mentally.
She admits that, initially, training was tough.
“But I was really determined,” she says. “I don’t often give up. I don’t think I’ve ever given up in a race. Something would have to be really wrong before I’d do that.”
If money were no object, Ronel says she would spend her time traveling and racing all around the world. In the meantime, she has her sights set on the Oceania champs this year, and the World champs next year – both events in Australia.
I love racing long distances and the lack of sleep has never bothered me. Your mind remains active because it’s so technical. There are always rocks or drops or roots or sharp corners, so you’re always concentrating.
Painful physical challenges such as severe chafing and aching hands haven’t stopped her yet, either.
“I just keep riding until someone says I can stop,” she smiles.
They've made it theirs - now make it yours!