Laurie Brandt carries many names: mother, geologist, athlete, bike racer and environmentalist. She gives to each part of her life a high degree of enthusiasm and energy.
A graduate of Penn State and Cornell, Brandt has worked as a professional geologist for close to 30 years. Her office at DOWL, formerly Buckhorn Geotech, displays pictures of Brandt during her five years as a professional bike racer among a collection of rock samples from the region.
Brandt grew up in the San Diego area and says that even as a young child, she wanted to be a scientist. Although her father was a mechanical engineer, Brandt was drawn to working on what she could see around her, to geology. Her job description (in part) reads “evaluate building sites for soil properties, geotechnical constraints, and geologic hazards.” She shares her enthusiasm for her work by teaching three geology classes at Colorado Mesa University.
She is raising two daughters: Paige, 15, and Abby, 13. “I’m a passionate person and that’s what I want to pass on to my daughters,” she said. “My passion for riding a bike, for teaching my geology classes. I also teach mountain bike maintenance and skills. I like to share what I love. It’s fun to share both geology and bikes. When I go on a ride with friends they’re always getting an earful about our surroundings.”
Brandt loves Montrose. She’s lived here 20 years and is glad there are no freeways and huge malls. “Also, I think the area is becoming more progressive and that makes me happy,” she said. Copmoba is important to Brandt. It’s a group that advocates for, builds and maintains sustainable mountain bike trails on the Colorado Plateau. She’s been on its board for years and is excited that they’re finally getting funded.
“In 10 years from now I want see 100 miles of single track mountain bike trails. I want to be able to say we are what Moab is and Fruita is. We’ve got the terrain and I think we’ve got the momentum and the businesses and the interest in this being a mountain biking destination.”
Her history with bike riding goes back to 1989 when she started training with the CU women’s cycling team and tried her first road race. She was working as a geologist for an environmental firm studying impacts of hydroelectric dams on streams. The following year she raced in road, track and cyclocross events.
In 1991 she borrowed a mountain bike and started mountain bike racing. In 1992 she was laid off from her job and this may have sent her in a new direction at exactly the right time in her life. She found sponsorship and raced World Cup, National and Colorado mountain bike series. For the next five years Brandt raced full-time as a Professional Mountain Bike Racer. She was the only woman to place in the top 10 overall in the Leadville 100 and to set a record under 8 hours in 1990’s technology.
“I’m not trying to force my daughters into being bike racers like me,” pointed out. “But I will keep bike racing as long as it’s fun for me. It gives me something to train for and look forward to and have as a goal. If my daughters choose not to go down that path, I hope they find something that they have passion about, that they love doing. Paige is more competitive of the two of them. Does fun rides with others, goes camping in Moab. That’s the beautiful thing about bicycling. You can travel so much further under your own power than you could in any other human powered activity.”
Brandt can’t say enough of the quality of road biking around Montrose. “You can ride anywhere here,” she said. “Especially if you get a little bit bigger tires so you can go on gravel roads and dirt roads—the sky’s the limit. You can go on the Plateau. You can go as far north, east, south or west as you want to go. Up on the mesas, it’s very rolling terrain, you get up on one, drop down, do another one. It’s very interesting terrain.
“As a kid I remembered wondering what it would have been like to grow up as a girl 100 years ago with my same ambitions. It makes me really appreciate what we have today. I think that all women are role models; all women are breaking our own glass ceilings.”
She considers the early ‘90s when the women athletes earned less than the men. The Olympics only had a few sports like gymnastics and tennis that women would compete in. Now there are many more sports for women to compete professionally. Much has changed. If girls have good athletic ability, they can get a scholarship to a college or university.
Brandt and the girls are taking a unique family vacation in July. They will be driving to Snowshoe, WV for the Mtn Bike Nationals. Paige will compete in the 15-16 girl’s age group and Laurie in the 55-59 age group. Abby will be their cheering squad and moral support. “Paige has taken the lead on us going and she is super excited to race at the national level. It has been over 20 years since I have been to nationals, so I’m looking forward to it, too.”
Laurie Brandt reflects on how she’d hope to still be racing her mountain bike 10 years from now. “I hope to be healthy and able to race at whatever level I’m able to. I’d still like to keep teaching. I’d like to work less and play more.”