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Friday, August 19, 2016

Mountain bike riding and racing is what fuels Memphis area cyclist - Laureen Coffelt

Mountain bike riding and racing is what fuels Memphis area cyclist -  Laureen Coffelt
By:  Michael Lander

Laureen Coffelt is extremely passionate about riding mountain
bikes and she not only loves to compete, but she also loves
just being outdoors, learning more about her sport, and
about herself, and making lifelong friends in the mountain
bike community.  (Photo:  Courtesy of Mike Brooks at

If the word “relentless” had a name attached to it, it would have to be Laureen Coffelt.

Coffelt, who was born in Montreal, Quebec and raised in Northern Ontario,Canada, has been relentless in her pursuit as a competitive cyclist with an astounding record of accomplishment and a tremendous amount of success in mountain bike (MTB) racing.

Off of her bike, and in her career life, Coffelt is an Occupational Therapist (OT) and a certified hand therapist (CHT) at OrthoMemphis.

On her bike, Coffelt is the consummate competitor who has won well over 100 of the events in which she has participated since she did her first MTB race, (a 100 mile MTB race in Oklahoma City), in 2003.

“I have had many open female wins and success at the national level, but it does not really interest me to keep track of the exact number of them,” Coffelt said.

“These aren’t as important to me as the lessons and friendships that I have made along the way,” she said.

Along with the friends that she has made over the years, Coffelt has managed to also rack up plenty of wins and she finished in the top three in Open Women at the USA Cycling (USAC) National 24 Solo MTB Championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

She also recently completed the 240-mile, 6-day 2016 BRECK Epic MTB Stage Race and took second place for all six stages at this event.

Of the racing events in which she has participated, her best and favorite one is the 24-hour solo MTB races. 

“The 24-hour solo MTB races are where I met my coach and long-time friend, Chris Eatough.  As for support in my 24 Solo MTB racing, my husband, Joe, has been my best pit crew for this.  In 2014, both Chris and Joe helped me race into second place at the National Championships.  Both have always taught me to dig in and to go beyond what I believed that I could manage,” Coffelt said.

While in college, and still living in Canada, Coffelt was a varsity athlete and runner who competed at the national level.  After she was recruited by U.S. health care company, she ended up moving to Memphis where she continued to run well into her 30’s.  In 2003, however, she required a surgical procedure on her left heel and that became a life-changing event.

Laureen Coffelt got into mountain biking after suffering an
injury in 2003.  Since then, she has excelled in the sport,
riding just for fun, commuting to and from work on a
bike, and winning solo MTB titles at the national level.

“I had to adapt after the injury and surgery and it changed my focus away from running to cycling instead.  It was a pivotal point where I had to let go of no longer being a runner, which had always been part of my identity.  The great silver lining of my injury, though, was that I learned how to adapt and reinvent myself as an athlete.  I can look back now and see it as a true blessing,” Coffelt said.

Beyond the competitive aspect of cycling and her preference for mountain biking, Coffelt has many other reasons why she has a deep love and affinity for her sport.

“What I love most about cycling is that it brings me into nature.  It lets me travel far, and faster than hiking or running.  It lets me truly feel the terrain, the roots, the rocks, the sand…. I connect with it all.  Every new trail has a new experience for me.  Every different weather condition gives the ride a new and different lesson to learn.  I also love the people whom I have met, too.  There is an interconnectedness with being out on the trail, in the woods, for hours,” Coffelt said.

As for what has gotten her to where she is today, and for the success that she has had thus far in cycling, Coffelt attributes it all to three things that drive her, coupled with the support of her friends, especially the one who has helped her and who has been a role model for her.

Persistence, overcoming fear, and always getting back on my bike that have gotten me where I am today.  I have to also say that my friend, Chris Eatough, who is a former 6-time World Solo 24 MTB Champion, has also been instrumental in helping me along the way.  He started coaching athletes as he retired from professional MTB racing and he has been a true role model and friend to me for years,” Coffelt said.

Laureen Coffelt was one of about 150 cyclists who participated
in the 5th Annual, 25-mile, Ride for Life at Memorial Park on
June 26, 2016.  The ride is sponsored by the Mid-South
Transplant Foundation and is done to raise awareness for
organ and tissue donation awareness.  Coffelt is riding
her Pivot Mach 429 SL carbon full-suspension mountain
bike, of which she is especially fond.

“What motivates me to ride and compete now is nature, itself.  The more that we can be in it and appreciate it, the more it can heal us.  I love the rhythm of riding, which for me, means being in the outdoors.  A straight jacket is preferable to me than riding on a trainer or a stationary bike.  I am an all-weather girl,” she said.

Coffelt is on the Los Locos racing team, and has been since they opened themselves up to off-road  MTB athletes in 2010.  It is a team, according to Coffelt, with a great deal of diversity and talent.

She currently has four bikes and is especially fond of her latest one.

“I currently own a Pivot Mach 429 SL carbon full-suspension MTB, a Jet-9 RDO carbon full-suspension 29er, a Trek SF-100, and a Cyclo-Cross Redline bike,” Coffelt said.

“I am especially dialed into the Pivot Mach 429 SL right now.  We do not have a distributor in Memphis; however, Pivot has worked with me, along with Outdoors, Inc., to have it built up here.  The suspension on it rocks, and rough terrain is a special treat.  It corners extremely well on 180-degree hairpin turns and it likes to climb and it is light and can easily be carried,” she said.

Aside from racing, Coffelt also enjoys commuting on a bike to work at OrthoMemphis. 

“I like to ride to and from work and I try to make it longer, depending on time, energy and weather.  It is a short commute of 10 miles one way, taking the safer route, but I can easily pop onto the trails, and make it a 30+ mile mix of bike trails and paths if I want.  Usually, if I work a longer day, I ride on fumes, but I find the mental and physical fatigue of a 11+ hour day and commuting by bike has been more than I ever expected,” Coffelt said.

Laureen Coffelt is a lifelong athlete who is no stranger to the
awards podium, having won countless MTB racing events
ever since she started in it in 2003.

Coffelt especially loves riding at sunrise and sunset since that is the time that she can see all kinds of wildlife like bobcats, skunks, armadillos, racoons, owls, hawks, and more.  Riding at these times, or when it’s dark, doesn’t bother her because she is used to 24-hour solo racing, with many hours in the dark, and she is sponsored by a San Diego company, NiteRider, which provides her with some state-of-the-art lighting for riding.

Coffelt gets a lot of support for her cycling from her colleagues and friends where she works at OrthoMemphis.

“OrthoMemphis supports my athleticism, and the surgeons have readily helped me with my own injuries.  When you are an athlete, it is not a matter of if you will get injured, it’s a matter of when.  I look at those who I work with as an extended family of mine and it is an honor and a daily privilege to be a part of this physician-owned orthopedic practice,” Coffelt said. 

For those who are interested in doing what she does in cycling, Coffelt has some very simple advice.

“Do what you love and love what you do.  Don’t ever be intimidated.  Going in without any expectations is a non-threatening way to start.  I was scared to death to do my first cross-country MTB race, but I knew that I just had to get out there and try,” Coffelt said.

In addition to that advice, Coffelt also sees great potential in all of us, whether you ride or not.

This is a photo of Laureen Coffelt during
her most recent Breck Epic 6-day MTB
stage race with 240 miles of single track
and 40,000 feet of climbing.  She
finished in second for the female in
general category.  Ciara MacManus of
Ireland took first, Coffelt, second, and
Melanie Webb of Australia took third.

“Nature and being on a bike can ground you when there’s chaos all around you, and the power of good is just waiting for us to bring it on.  Each one of us has the power to make positive change in this world.  It’s going to take that to shift things around for the better,” she said.

With a relentless drive and determination in all that she does, Coffelt is likely going to be one of the very ones who will do just that and whatever else that she sets her mind to.

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