Over the last few seasons women’s racing has grown by leaps and bounds. Between ATVs, bikes and eMTB racing there are nine different classes featuring women and girls riders. The number of riders in each class is healthy as well.
Sponsors, teams, and social media are noticing this trend. Rightfully so! These women are FAST, and their success and hard work should be noticed.
Rachel Gutish is a shining example of the women involved in GNCC. From racing in the WXC to representing the USA in Italy at the most recent ISDE.
GNCCRacing.com: Rachel, thanks for joining me today. Let’s get started with how you got started riding and eventually racing GNCC.
Rachel Gutish: My dad raced when I was younger, and he owned a motorcycle dealership for most of my childhood. Which was nice because it gave him the ability to travel with me to race. And we could steal bikes off the floor if we needed to. He actually did Six Days when I was young, as a Club Rider. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to go so badly growing up. I wanted to load my bike up and go riding with him in the Czech Republic. So it’s always been a goal of mine to go and represent the USA. As far as getting into racing GNCCs, we started out doing local races and I was successful. From there we got into doing OMA Nationals, which was more of a regional series at the time. I did well there too. But growing up there weren’t really any women’s classes. So I had to run with guys. GNCC was the only place with women fast enough for me to compete against.
Did it help you racing against the boys at a young age like that?
It did! It helped pushed me in the right direction. Let’s be honest, you can spend as much time as possible in the gym but as a female you’re never going to be as strong as most of the guys. So my dad laid it out like this for, if one of the boys drops his bike on the hill, he’s going to be able to pick it up right away and keep going. If you drop your bike on a hill it’s going to take you 10 minutes to get your bike back down the hill and then back up again. So we have to make sure you’re so good on the bike that you don’t go down in those tough sections. I believe that’s why I thrive in the technical sections today. I owe that to those times as a kid I was on 65s and 85s going on these gnarly trail rides with dad and his friends and if I went down, I got no help. I was expected to get myself and my motorcycle up that hill on my own. I mean, obviously if the bike fell on top of me, they wouldn’t leave me stranded. But you get the point, I had to earn my way.
How long have you been racing GNCC?
I started when I was 15, so it’s been 10 years now. When I started it was back in the Maria Forsberg and Mandi Mastin days when it was all one class. It’s been gratifying to see how far things have come for the sport and for myself in that time.
Alright, let’s talk ISDE. I don’t want to pigeon hole you into one aspect of the experience. So let’s hear about everything! I know you’ve been several times before. Start with how that came about.
It was amazing! To give it some background this was actually my sixth time over at the Six Days. I had qualified back when women still had to qualify and weren’t hand-picked. That was from 2012-2016, I believe. Then the women’s team became hand-picked like the men’s team. Antti got involved, which was very good for the USA because suddenly we had all these really fast women who couldn’t go before now getting the opportunity. To be honest, back then, I shouldn’t have been the fastest rider on any of those teams, a 16 year old shouldn’t be going to ISDE at that level. But no one else wanted to do it and because it wasn’t paid for, we had to finance everything ourselves. Without the help of my parents, there’s no way I would have been able to go. So once Antti took over a lot of fast girls wanted to go, and I was left out. Which, again, it was cool to see the States succeed and win and be competitive but, it was hard to sit at home and watch and know I’m not there for the competition.
You never gave up on racing though. You continued to find success here in the states and in GNCC, waiting on that next ISDE opportunity.
Oh for sure! I was able to accomplish a lot back here in the states. Including winning my first ever WXC Pro GNCC at the Buckwheat 100. That was an amazing feeling and I’m very proud of that accomplishment. But it did still sting when Six Days would roll around and I didn’t get the call.
That all changed this year. How did that play out?
Yeah! When Antti spoke with me at Tiger Run this year about potentially being on the team again, I was overjoyed! Six Days is hard and stressful. But the entire time I was there I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I was just so happy to be there! It was gratifying to go back and compete on a team with so much talent.
Tell us a little bit about the team.
Brandy (Richards) is amazing! She absolutely slayed everything she did. She is the only competitor, male or female, to win every single test in their division at Six Days. And Britney (Gallegos), it was her first experience with ISDE. She’d been over a few times with Brandy as a support person, but not as a rider. I was super impressed with how quickly she adapted. Part of it, for her, was having been over there before for support. So she knew exactly what to expect from herself and what the team expected of her as well. This is a team sport, it’s one of the few places in all of motorcycle racing where you’re relying on other people and they’re relying on you. In a way that makes it special because you’re not just riding for yourself. Now obviously when you’re racing a GNCC you’re racing for your team and your mechanic, but ISDE you’ve got a lot of weight in what your teammate is doing on their bike. On top of all that, we’re representing our country, which is about the greatest honor a rider can have.
That’s a lot of pressure, representing your country. It’s one thing to go out there and race for yourself and your team. But to know you’re representing the USA, what was that aspect like?
I wanted to represent our country well. I can’t lie, I teared up when we were standing up there, having won, and hearing our National Anthem playing. I can’t imagine ever feeling that way again. Unless we were able to go back and do it again. But an encore is never as good as the first act, so I’m not sure I’ll ever capture that feeling again.
What was Italy like outside of the racing itself?
The food was amazing, I mean, it’s Italian food, come on! There were some mixed reviews about the hotel food, but I loved it. The countryside was beautiful! Like something out of a postcard. The transfer trails we run are untimed. You’ve just got to get yourself from point A to point B and not be late to the check. So there were times I was able to just pull over and look. I knew I had the time and I thought, I may never see this again. It allowed you to experience the country in a way you wouldn’t unless you arranged a dual-sport ride or something. And even then, you’re not going to be able to get to some of the places we did. I mean you go from sitting at a stoplight in the middle of a town and you get out on a two-lane highway to a hard left on some single-track that takes you up to a mountain bike park then you’re in some guy’s yard going through his pasture. And the farmer is just sitting there clapping as he sees the bikes going by. It’s amazing!
What was the reception like for you coming back to the states and going to the GNCC this last weekend?
I wasn’t able to walk more than 15 feet without someone stopping me and congratulating me on everything. Which was really amazing. Six year old me wanted this experience so bad, but I don’t think I ever really imagined being a part of a winning trophy team. That is pretty special.
I’d be doing a disservice to our mutual buddy DQ (David Quillen) if I didn’t ask, was the bike DQ Tuned?
Oh for sure! The bike was DQ Tuned! He actually let me ride his own bike for eight weeks prior. Even offered to let me take it to TKO, which is how I know he’s not right in the head. I was blown away he’d offer that. But that’s just the kind of person he is. He helped with my suspension setup; he was always there if I needed to pick his brain on a phone call. He single-handedly saved my Six Days effort and by extension the Women’s Trophy Team. He was the first person, after my family, that I saw when I got back. I wanted to make sure I thanked him; he has no idea how much he did for me.
We got back to some GNCC this last weekend, how did that go for you.
It felt good to be back at a GNCC, that’s for sure. It wasn’t really the result I was looking for. I mean fifth isn’t bad on paper, but I’m not especially stoked with how I rode. Whatever magic I was experiencing at the ISDE did not make a reappearance. I think the largest issue was trying to switch bikes without adequate seat time. I wasn’t able to ride the Kawasaki at all the week before the race and had spent 35 hours the week prior riding a totally different bike at ISDE. I felt uncomfortable on the bike, especially early on in the race. But I had a ton of fun on my dirtbike, which is a huge step in the right direction. Some tuning and a lot more seat team and I should be in a good place come Burr Oak.
Rachel, thank you so much for taking some time to speak with me today. Congratulations on the successful ISDE, cannot wait to see what the future holds for you! Who would you like to thank?
First off, I want to thank everyone who made it possible for me to attend the ISDE this year, after the mid-season shake-up: Antti Kallonen and Timmy Weigand for helping me to find a bike to ride at the event. We already mentioned DQ (David Quillen), but I’ll mention him again, because letting me ride his personal bike for as long as I did is going way above and beyond. The Sims family and Rob Waggoner helped us put on a ride day fundraiser that helped cover some unexpected expenses that came along with me no longer having a built factory bike to race at the ISDE. So a big thanks to them, as well as to everyone who came to the event or who were kind enough to make individual donations, especially the Kurt Haugh Memorial Fund, Stoney Lonesome M/C, Hill and Gully Riders, The Grand Kankakee Trail Riders and Champlin Architecture, and many, many more.
Secondly, I want to thank the V3 Kawasaki team, especially Jim Douglas and the Silvia family, for offering me a spot on the team for the rest of the season! It took a huge weight off my shoulders and so far, they have been an absolute pleasure to work with. I also want to thank all of their current team sponsors: V3 suspension, Kawasaki of Statesboro, FMF, FiveSixO Graphics, IMS, Kenda, Hammer Nutrition, Guts Racing, Acerbis, Funnelweb Filter, XC Gear, ODI Grips, DP Brakes, Shorai Batteries, DDC Racing, and Enduro Engineering
Third, thanks are in order for all of my personal sponsors who have stuck with me throughout the ups and downs of this season: Moose Racing, Arai Helmets, Enduro Engineering, Nine2 Goggles, Kenda, Motul, Mobius Braces, SSR training facility and Sidi boots.
Finally, I want to thank my parents and my family. Without them, none of this would have ever been possible for me.