Crystal Pena, a longtime Loxahatchee resident and avid equestrian, has turned her career around in the equestrian world and is now an accomplished mountain bike racer.
For years, Pena, now 26, was a regular in the show jumping and barrel racing scene in western communities, at one point operating her own equestrian service business.
However, she had to sell her horses in 2019. When COVID-19 hit, looking for a hobby to occupy her time, Pena bought a mountain bike as a weekend activity. It wasn’t until September 2020 that she really got into the sport. That’s when she bought her current mountain bike, a Specialized Epic. “At that moment, I knew I was addicted! Pena called back.
There are major differences between owning a horse and owning a mountain bike, but there are similarities as well.
“The big difference between owning a horse and owning a mountain bike is that you don’t have to feed the mountain bike,” Pena joked. “However, maintenance is necessary to keep your equipment running smoothly. And to be successful on horseback or mountain biking, balance and athleticism are very important.
After beginning the sport of mountain biking, Pena established herself as a proven and avid participant in the competitive world of mountain bike racing.
In a short time, she has also racked up some impressive wins. Last December, Pena became the Florida State Cat 2 women’s champion in mountain biking. In fact, of the 12 mountain bike races she entered last year, she won nine. Each race lasts between 90 minutes and two hours.
“I felt uncomfortable about racing at first, as I had only been riding for nine months,” Pena said.
One of the keys to his early success was the role of his Miami-based trainer, Freddy Viera, owner of F2 Performance Lab.
“He really helped me get to where I am now,” Pena said. “We work on interval training, endurance and developing upper body strength.”
Pena’s success has caught the attention of more people than its competitors.
“As a professional photographer for over four decades, seeing Crystal explode onto the scene and dominate the podium in most of the races she entered was extraordinarily impressive,” said Donn Ingemie, a photographer based in Naples, Florida. “For as long as I’ve been in bike shooting, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who are national champions and recent Olympic medalists. I don’t remember anyone breaking into the sport and dominating as much as she did. Crystal is an athlete to watch.
This year, Pena will move up to a more competitive level on the MTB circuit.
While it’s easy to find sites where people are perfecting the art of passing a soccer ball, shooting a basketball, hitting a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, or fielding a ball molle, mountain biking sites aren’t as common, especially in South Florida.
“Some of our local Palm Beach County trails include West Delray Regional Park, Dyer Park in Palm Beach Gardens, Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Jupiter, and Pinehurst in Greenacres,” said Pena, who works as a rep. external sales representative for the marine division of City Electric Supply. .
Competition venues for mountain biking are spread throughout the state.
“Some of the trails I’ve competed on are located in Ocala, Gainesville, Tallahassee and Lakeland,” Pena said.
One of Pena’s most immediate goals is to hit the mountain bike trails in one of the hotbeds of mountain biking in the United States – Bentonville, Arkansas.
If there are Olympic dreams to pursue in show jumping, mountain biking is also part of the Olympic rotation.
Pena admitted she was chasing that Olympic dream, but maybe not as soon as the 2024 Games in Paris.
“I always aim for the top,” Pena said. “But I need to gain more experience. I have a long way to go.”
Watching Olympic mountain bikers compete in Tokyo last summer, she imagined herself one day competing at this level.
Don’t be surprised to see her climb to the top of the ATV, maybe sooner rather than later.
If you want to follow Pena’s mountain biking adventures on social media, you can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @TheeCrystalP.