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Photo of Tara Llanes

Tara Llanes


Team: Giant

Sponsors: Giant for Women, Shimano, Troy Lee Designs, Smith, Bell Helmets, Leatt Brace, CAF, Perfect Pushup

West Covina, CA

On Saturday September 1st 2007, the BMX and mountain biking worlds suffered a tremendous tragedy. While competing in the Jeep King of the Mountain finale in Beaver Creek Colorado, one of the greatest athletes the sport has known, Tara Llanes, suffered a horrific crash during the first run of her semi-final heat. Tara was rushed to Vail Valley Hospital, then airlifted to Denver Health Hospital a short time later. Following seven hours of surgery to the back and spinal cord, it was determined she had no feeling from the waist down.

Tara has been a phenomenal competitor throughout her career, and a dear friend to everyone in the mountain biking community around the world. Her competitiveness, aggressive riding style, and never say die attitude have motivated competitors and spectators alike to dig a little deeper. Tara�s always been there for everyone around her. Whether it be offering advice and encouragement to younger racers, a strong sounding board for her family and friends, or lending a helping hand to anyone in need, she truly possesses the heart of a champion.

How did you get into bicycle racing?
I grew up in the OC so there were plenty of places to ride BMX. I saw Orange "Y" BMX off the freeway and asked my mom if I could go. We did and I started the next week on a pink CW that weighed in at about 50lbs! I started racing around 11 or 12 years old.

How old were you when you started riding?
I always rode a bike. I had a rad powder blue Huffy when I was about 7 or 8.

Where did you grow up?
Orange County, CA.

How did you first get introduced to TLD and/or Troy?
I was still racing BMX and just starting to race mtn. bikes when I was invited on an XC ride in about 1993 or 94'. It was a Troy Lee employee XC ride and I had no idea where I was going and had ZERO cross-country fitness. Everyone was waaay ahead of me and it was getting dark and I kinda started to freak out a bit. I had no idea where I was and we just started climbing this long hill and I look behind me and I see this guy. He rides up to me and we start talking and we finally make it back to Troy's office and that's when I realize that I had been talking to Troy the whole time! That night Troy asked me if I would like to be sponsored by them and I jumped at the chance. I have been with Troy ever since and he is by far one of the raddest guys I have ever met who has a heart of gold.

How long have you been riding for TLD?
16 years. Holy crap... I hadn't realized it'd been that long!

Which TLD products are you using?
D2 Helmet Carbon History Black, 09' Skyline jersey white, 09' XC LIte Shorts Black, and the 09' GP Youth Gloves Black.

Do any athletes/riders influence or inspire your style?
I've always like Greg Minnaar's style. He's fast, he's smooth, and he's efficient. But I respect anyone that can absolutely pin it and just be on that edge.

What do you like to do when you're not riding?
Work on event promoting and also coming up with different ideas for sponsors to market their products. I hate TV so I'm usually outdoors or trying to be creative.

What bands/music are you into?
Tegan and Sara, Muse, Lupe Fiasco, Flo Rida, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, YouLoveHerCuzShesDead

List three goals you have for the upcoming season:
1.) Qualify for the 2010 Ironman
2.) Win the 2010 Ironman
3.) Be able to give back to the SCI community

List a few highlights of your career:
2002 Dual Slalom National Champion, 2004 4x National Champion, 2006 DH National Champion, X-Games Gold, Silver, and Bronze (2x) Medalist.

What is your favorite race/event and why?
My favorite DH track was Les Gets and my favorite slalom track was Mammoth the last year they had it. It had massive berms and sick uphill step-ups and you hit about 30mph. The hardest DH track was Sainte-Anne, Quebec. If you placed there you were on it. It was long, it has hard high speed rock sections and muddy rooty sections. It just had everything! For not though I just did the San Diego Triathlon in a hand cycle and it had 4,300 feet of climbing and I did it in 5 hrs. and 10 min.

What is your idea of an epic riding day?
Shuttling to the top of a sick DH after it's rained a bit and it's super loamy and you can rip through the turns and hit 30 foot gaps all while riding with good friends. Then hitting up the killer burrito stand at the bottom with a beer in hand.

What is the best thing about being a professional athlete?
Being able to see the world, riding the best equipment, and meeting some of the raddest people ever!

If you weren't a professional athlete, how would you want to spend your time?
Probably being an event promoter full time and marketing rad products that I believe in. Oh wait... I do that now! Haha.

If you were running things, what would you change about the industry?
I read Sam Hill's response and I second that. Get rid of all the idiots!

Who would you like to thank?
Troy and everyone at TLD for making me part of the family. Giant, Shimano, Smith, Bell, CAF, Mom, Elladee, Aaron Baker and family, the Hargraves Family, and everyone else that has helped me along the way. It's been a long road, but there is so much more to travel.

Any words of wisdom?
Never Ever Give Up!