I didn’t know Lily until this summer when she jumped into the Shred Girls contest and won a random draw for a helmet and some other swag (like this sweet hat ^!). After she won, though, I looked her up and found out that she SHREDS. This MTB and CXer is a total boss, and after we chatted at the Waterloo World Cup race weekend recently, I was even happier that we were featuring her on here. She’s wicked fast, but also super fun, super friendly, and an awesome ambassador to the sport. So, let’s hear from her!
My name is Lily Peck and I am a 16-year-old elite mountain bike and cyclocross racer from Shelbyville, Indiana! I have been racing for 5 years and have traveled the country to take part in a variety of different races.
Why did you start riding bikes?
Throughout my younger years, my Dad raced mountain bikes. I always would go to his races to cheer and be his “pit crew.” In 2013 he decided to start racing less, which inspired me to try out racing. My first race ever was in the back of Kingswood Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had no idea what I was doing, yet somehow won the junior girls’ race. I was instantly hooked. Before cycling, I had tried cross country, track, volleyball, etc, but nothing compared to being on a bike. Even today I still get that feeling of amazement and joy whenever I ride. Cycling is liberating and since it’s an individual sport, it helps you learn a lot about yourself. You are in control, rather than relying on others, which also really helps to give you a sense of independence. Initially, I planned to race only MTB like my Dad, but after overalling our local series my first year of riding, I decided to try out cyclocross as well. My next season I would also start racing road and since then have done all three throughout the years.
What was your favorite part?
My favorite part about cycling would have to be how independent of a sport it is, yet how inclusive the community is. When you are riding, you’re pushing yourself. You may have coaches, trainers, etc pushing you, but in the end, you are in control of what you do on the bike. Because of this, you are able to get an amazing feeling of accomplishment when you do something you didn’t think that you could do. Whether it is hopping a log properly, winning a race, or just going faster or farther than you thought you could, it’s all been done by you and only you. Through cycling, I have learned that I can do so much more than I think I can and that feeling is unsurpassable. Even with all this individuality, however, the cycling community is one of the most inclusive and supportive groups you can be a part of. During my first couple years of racing, I didn’t know many people, however, someone was always there and willing to help. The same continues true today, especially when I am at races far from where I live. I have had so many people come up to me at races, having no idea who I was, and section off an area of a course until I mastered it. In fact, at Mountain Bike Nationals this year, I had a pro women come up to me and explain what form I needed on the pro rock garden drop. She proceeded to record my form coming down 3-4 times and would analyze what I needed to change until I felt fast and comfortable on it. Everyone helps everyone and it makes the environment of cycling so welcoming, especially for new and younger riders.
What was the hardest part?
I think the hardest part would have to be how mental riding and racing is. Not only do you have to be able to focus solely on what you need to do, but also overcoming both physical and mental obstacles. When you are in a race, you have to keep your mind on pushing past your limits, which is something difficult to get used to. You also have to be able to try things that you aren’t always comfortable with, but doing so helps you to gain a lot of confidence which I have tried to apply to other aspects of life. When preriding a MTB course before, I’ve been absolutely terrified to do a section or obstacle. After doing it, however, I always get such a feeling of pride. It’s really hard to get started doing something that is hard for scary, but overcoming that feeling is very confidence boosting.
What made you choose to focus on MTB? (or have you totally focused?)
My main focuses are MTB and cyclocross. Over the years though, I have also raced road quite a bit. The reason I have focused on MTB and cross is mainly because they are both off road. I absolutely love the technical aspects of both, especially MTB, in which you get to hop logs, smash through rock gardens, bomb downhills, etc. It’s exhilarating and always keeps you on your toes. The same goes for cyclocross. It’s such a unique discipline of cycling and incorporates all the aspects of riding. You have to have the power of riding road, while also have the technical skills of mountain biking. I really like this because it evens the field for racing. You have to be an all around rider, rather than road in which you can win a race having only power and tactics.
What was the best tip or trick you’ve ever been told?
“Happy watts!” One of my former teammates would always tell me how much faster you are when you are relaxed and having fun on a course. For someone who is known for getting very anxious and stressed before and during races, this advice was always super helpful for me. It gives me a little mantra to think about when I’m in the middle of a race or just a hard interval session, and reminds me to always just enjoy the ride.
I’ve had a lot of racing moments that I’m proud of, however, my most proud one would be when I finished the deCycles Ride Across America 2017. Me and 46 other students rode nearly 2,000 miles from Los Angeles, California to Bloomington, Indiana. After spending 25 days sleeping on floors and riding about 100 miles every day, arriving home and seeing my family was unreal. Less than a week after this, I also had my best ever Nationals finish with 4th place in the Junior Women 11-16 Short Track XC. The combination of both of these happening so close to each other comprise my most proud accomplishment.
Goals in cycling?
My goals in cycling would have to be the best rider I can be, on and off the bike. Of course, I hope one day to race UCI, win nationals, etc, but along the way I’m trying to push my limits on the bike, ride as fast as I can and do well in all of my races, and most of all have fun on the bike. I also have been ranked #1 in my class at school for the past few years, so I am trying my best to balance my education and riding. I’m trying to do all I can with my local junior team and supporting younger riders, especially girls, as well. It’s so much fun to work with new riders and see them progress and find joy in the sport.
Advice for younger girls interested in riding?
Learn all you can. The sport of cycling is so complex. Making sure to ask questions, watch others, and try new things will allow you to learn so much and expedite the learning process. Being able to take constructive criticism is also key and something I have struggled with over the years. It’s hard to hear that you are doing something wrong, but being able to accept this and learning how to improve from it is extremely helpful. Also, make sure to take all the opportunities you can. Whether it’s trying a new discipline, or just a new trail, trying new and different things will not only help you learn, but also teach you what kind of riding you like. You may be surprised and find out that you can ride something you didn’t think you could, or love a new type of riding. Overall though, just make sure to always have fun on the bike and enjoy the ride.
Follow Lily: @aetherracing and @midwestdevocycling on Twitter and Instagram