West Bend Rider Chosen as Ambassador for Mountain Biking

By Amy Daniels, Current Staff

When she attended her first mountain biking practice, Anja Lanser never thought that six years later she’d be officially encouraging other girls to do the same.

This year, Lanser, a junior at West Bend East High School, had the honor of being chosen as one of six GRiT ambassadors from across Wisconsin. GRiT stands for Girls Riding Together and is a National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) program designed to encourage more girls to participate in mountain biking.

Lanser has been in the mountain biking game for about eight years and has been on the Washington County Trail Sharks mountain bike team for the past six years.

“My dad started racing at an elite level when he was in his 20s, and my brother started racing for a couple years,” Lanser said. “So of course I tried it, and it just stuck.”

The Trail Sharks is a composite team with members from 17 different schools across Washington County. The team is part of NICA, which develops interscholastic mountain biking programs for student-athletes across the United States.

Currently, girls make up only 20% of the total student-athlete participation nationwide. The goal of the organization is to significantly increase that percentage over the next five years and make the sport more inclusive.

“GRiT is important to me because mountain biking is a really male-dominated sport, and when I started I was one of only a couple of other girls on the team who really took on biking,” Lanser said. “It’s hard for girls to feel comfortable and not intimidated in a sport like that.”

Anja Lanser, left, and her father John Lanser at the Minooka Park race Sept. 11 in Waukesha. Photo courtesy of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.

At the big Trek races, GRiT has a ride with all of the girls involved and the six ambassadors will usually scatter themselves around the course and give advice to the girls and encourage them as they ride. 

Not only do they ride together, but at the races they will also have a tent where the girls can do crafts and hang out with each other. Once the girls start coming to the tent, they even put glitter and face paint on each other.

“The tiniest fraction of it is the racing,” Lanser said. “It’s more about the community, and building connections with each other.”

In addition to being an ambassador, Lanser is also a very accomplished athlete. Throughout this season, she placed third at her first race, and second in the next two races. At Trek, the final and biggest race, she placed third.

“What would I tell girls who are interested in getting into mountain biking? Just do it,” Lanser said. “Biking is one of the only sports that you can do at any level, whether competing or just for fun. It’s such a great community, and it’s all about getting to know your body and having fun with it.”

(Top image: Anja Lanser at the Lowes Creek race Sept. 25 in Eau Claire. Photo courtesy of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.)

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