IMBCS Racer Spotlight: Liz Van Houweling

This weekend brings us IMBCS #9 Sugar Bottom Scramble at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area located between North Liberty and Solon, Iowa! In our 13 year history of IMBCS, one venue stands out as having been included on the schedule every single season for each of those 13 years. Sugar Bottom!

Let’s hope that Ma Nature continues with her nice music for our August Quartet this weekend, as both the Hin und Zurück TT and the George Wyth MTB Race were able to play out as planned on their scheduled days. The George Wyth MTB Race had 86 racers toe the line. That turnout included our highest percentage of Women racers this season (22.5%) including a field of 10 Women in the CAT III race alone! Racers who attended were treated to excellent weather, very fast racing, perfectly groomed trails, wonderful spicy pasta, bagels, coffee, beer, fruit, prizes, and a great job by Race Director Lee Geisinger and his entire CVAST crew.

This past weekend’s turnout puts our total number of racer entries at 515 racers at this point in the season as we try and climb our way to the 1000 – 1100+ mark for total entries by the end of the 2015 season. We have a lot of new faces showing up at our races this year which is great for our growth and really exciting to see. I urge everyone to continue to consider coming out to one of our events whether you are chasing series points this year or not. Bring a friend. Bring a colleague. Bring a partner/spouse. Bring a teenager. Bring a kid. Bring a neighbor. Bring a Presidential Candidate! There is plenty of fun left to enjoy as we head into our next 6 events. We have age classes and categories for everyone and for all abilities to give mountain bike racing a try here in Iowa.

Numbers to date…

IMBCS #1 – Illiniwek Abermination had 188 racers

IMBCS #2 – Beverly Fat Tire Frenzy had 117 racers

IMBCS #5 – Iowa Games had 59 racers

IMBCS #7 – Hin und Zurück TT had 65 racers

IMBCS #8 – George Wyth MTB Race had 86 racers

Let’s see if we can get a good attendance number to support Race Director Mike Frasier and the ICORR crew for their Sugar Bottom Scramble. I know they have been working diligently in preparation for Sunday and have the trails in good shape.

Racing this coming weekend means that it’s time for a new racer Spotlight for all to read.

In case you’ve missed any of our previous racer Spotlights here at, we continue with our feature series of highlighting some of the many IMBCS participants throughout the state of Iowa. You can get to know some of the folks involved in racing and see how they do it, why they do it, what got them started, and read some of their thoughts. We will continue this feature throughout the season. Spotlights will attempt to provide a nice representation of ages, categories, and locations to introduce you to people you may or may not know so you can read their thoughts about racing mountain bikes. Are you considering racing in an IMBCS event this year? You don’t have to be a member of a team. You don’t have to have an expensive bike. You don’t have to have matching socks. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, a seasoned veteran, male, female, young, old, tall, less tall – mountain biking in IMBCS events is open to everyone. We will show that in our Spotlight series and encourage you to sign up for a race and give IMBCS a try.

Today’s Spotlight features one of our CAT I racers, Liz Van Houweling. I first met Liz last year in March standing around post-race at an event as we all waited for the awards ceremony. She was standing with Ryan Van Houweling and Ryan introduced me to her. Liz and Ryan were married this June – which I guess explains why they are always standing around together. Liz gave me an easy tip at the George Wyth MTB Race on how to pronounce her new last name correctly. Even though it looks daunting to pronounce, it’s just like saying the English word “howling” as in “the wind is howling outside”. Well, if you have been to any of the IMBCS or Psycowpath races, you feel the wind howl as Liz races by. She is fast. Her riding has been impressive enough to land her on the podium many times this year and last.


Evidently, Ryan and Liz rode to their wedding in June…

Let’s get to the interview so we can get Liz’s perspective.


Name: Liz Van Houweling

Current Home: Waukee, IA

Age: 25

Employer: Zoom Performance and Fitness By Design

Racing Category for 2015: CAT I

Race Bike(s): Niner Air 9 Carbon

Bike Team: Des Moines United


Liz atop the Beverly Fat Tire Frenzy CAT I Women’s Podium


BB: What’s your favorite idea of a great mountain bike ride here in Iowa?

Liz: While I wish we had real mountains here in Iowa, I do love the fast, flowy singletrack that we do have. The perfect trail for me would have a good mix of challenging climbs to get the heart rate up followed by rewarding descents with big, smooth, sweeping downhill turns. Although I won’t turn down a pancake flat, wide open trail that just lets you go FAST!


BB: When did you start racing mountain bikes?

Liz: I did my first MTB race in 2014. I raced on the road for about 6 years prior to that and was ready for a new challenge!


BB: What kind of race results and series results for the IMBCS did you have in prior seasons?

Liz: Last year was my first year racing IMBCS, and I was fortunate enough to win the series for CAT I.


BB: What are your goals for this year with regard to your mountain bike racing?

Liz: With it only being my second year, I am just excited about the progress I’ve made since last year. My fitness is very similar, but the difference in my skill level has been huge. I want to continue to race and do well in a lot of the local Iowa and Nebraska races, but my big goal for the season is to improve upon my result at last year’s Dakota Five-O race. Last year I really struggled with crashes and mental barriers, so I’m excited to enter this race with a lot more confidence, experience, and skill!


BB: What has been your favorite race venue to date in the IMBCS?

Liz: I have really enjoyed a lot of different courses for a variety of reasons, and it’s wonderful that every race course has its own character. Illiniwek is just fun because it’s so smooth and fast with a healthy amount of gradual climbing. But Banner is probably my favorite! It’s relatively close which has given me the opportunity to ride it more often and learn the climbs and turns better. The trail is always either going up or down short, steep hills, and it’s a good challenge for both fitness and skill. I still get excited when I’m able to “clear” a whole lap!


BB: Liz, in preparing for the 2015 racing season, how many hours a week do you train? (Minimum, Maximum, Average)

Liz: I really don’t like riding in the cold or on the trainer in the winter so I only rode about 4-6 hours in the winter after racing cyclocross. This summer I’ve been trying to get in more volume to prepare for longer cross country races and for Dakota Five-O. Max is about 12 hours, but I probably average 8-10 hours most weeks. Things like getting married in June and lots of cancelled races due to weather have made consistent, focused training a little difficult this summer.


BB: Have you ever had something happen during a race that prevented you from finishing?

Liz: I have been lucky in that I’ve never had a bad enough mechanical or crash that has prevented me from finishing a race. Last year’s Dakota Five-O finish was a real struggle after crashing about 10 times (including going backwards and over the handlebars!), but I made it…even if I was nearly in tears crossing the finish line! I owe a lot to my wonderful husband and personal mechanic for always making sure that my bike is in perfect working order for every race 🙂


BB: Do you use a coach?

Liz: I am a coach for Zoom Performance, so I am my own coach! I also have the opportunity to talk with the other Zoom coaches about training which is very helpful. I also ride with my husband, Ryan, and he has a lot more mountain bike experience than me so I am constantly learning from following him on the trails and and being pushed by chasing him up gravel hills!


BB: Do you strength training as part of your training?

Liz: I am a personal trainer, so I know the benefits of strength training. However, I am guilty in that I don’t do a lot of it on my own. With limited training time during race season, I think I personally benefit more from training on my bike rather than spending time in the gym. Steep hills and scurrying around tight trees are my on the bike forms of strength! Every off season I have good intentions of doing more strength, but that never quite happens like I plan.


BB: What do you like about the Iowa cycling community in terms of mountain bike racing?

Liz: I love how inviting it is! The atmosphere around a mountain bike race is so different from road racing with people socializing, congratulating, sharing trail/training secrets, recounting race stories, etc. Everyone is just so friendly and welcoming! It’s also fun to make friends from all across the state and have the chance to see them for a lot of weekends each summer (and into the fall/winter if they race cx!).


BB: What would you say as words of encouragement to folks out there who are trying to make the decision to race a mountain bike in Iowa or not.

Liz: Just do it! Even after racing road for 6 years, I was hesitant to race mountain bikes because I was super intimidated by the thought of trying to RACE a trail I’d never even seen. But it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made! There is a category for everyone and the other racers are more than happy to offer advice. Not to mention, one of the best ways to improve is to go to new places and ride. Iowa has some very beginner friendly trails as well that would be perfect for first timers. Just go into the “race” with the intent to gain experience, learn/practice a skill, and have fun!


BB: Thanks for participating in this Spotlight, Liz! Best of luck on the rest of your season and at the Dakota Five-0.


If you see Liz at one of the upcoming races, introduce yourself and say hello. She will most likely be standing next to 6’5″ Ryan visiting with people after the race waiting for the awards ceremony.