After a layoff from the bike, Pua Mata is back where she started — with Team Sho-Air.
Scott Tedro, the man behind Team Sho-Air and owner of the shipping company Sho-Air, signed Mata to her first pro contract in 2006. For 2011, Mata, 31, will return to her speciality —endurance events in USA Cycling’s new Pro Ultra Endurance Tour. That includes her first race of the season at the Spa City Extreme 6 Hour in Hot Springs, Arkansas March 12. Mata is racing Spa City solo along with teammate and former La Ruta champ Manny Prado.
“It’s now come full circle,” Mata said about her return to Team Sho-Air. “I had a tough year last year and coming back to Team Sho-Air is like pressing the reset button for me.”
Mata is the owner of three U.S. 24-hour solo national championship jerseys. In 2009, she placed seventh at the Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Austria, a rare American top-10 finish in the one-day event.
Along with the Pro UET events, Mata said she is would love to race the Leadville Trail 100, an event on her bucket list. She was on the sidelines at the 2010 event cheering on friends and acclimating to the elevation in preparation for the Breck Epic, which she won.
“Leadville has been on my radar for the past few years,” she said. “I would love for 2011 to be the year that I take it on, but because I missed the lottery we have to take a look at the qualifying procedures and see if it’s possible.”
Mata said she was in Leadville two weeks before last year’s race hoping she might get an entry at the race organizer’s discretion. While she didn’t, “I was able to train on the course and see every inch of it and I knew that if I did make it to the starting line, a new record would have been made.”
With that mindset, the experience of standing on the sidelines made the day “even harder to stomach,” Mata said. “But, everything happens for a reason right?”
Another bucket list accomplishment Mata did check off last year was completing an Ironman triathlon. Mata not only competed in the Silverman Ironman in Las Veas, she won it.
“Silverman was an amazing experience that I will never forget,” Mata said. “I know that someday I would love to tackle another one, but at this point in time I really could not tell you when that may be — sometime though.”
As far as Team Sho-Air, Mata said it allows a return to her true passion — endurance based mountain bike racing. That’s after stint racing World Cup XC in Europe last year.
And for 2011 that means on big wheels aboard a Specialized S-Works Epic 29er.
“I had never ridden a 29er before until now and after just one ride on my new Epic I was hooked,” Mata said. “I expect big things this year. I will be back on the podium and having a great time doing so.”
Tedro, meanwhile, said that after a few years concentrating on pro cross-country, his team will is turning its focus to endurance racing.
“Pua is a first class person and a very talented rider, and I am very pleased that she will be riding with us again this year,” he said. “I believe with Pua Mata and Manny Prado, we have two of the best to represent us both on and off the track.”