Meet The Riders And Their Rides: Vaea Verbeeck

Meet The Riders And Their Rides

One of the standout riders at the Red Bull Formation in Virgin, Utah (featured elsewhere in this issue), Vaea rode her Rocky Mountain Maiden downhill bike for that event. Photo by Paris Gore/Red Bull
The name can throw you. The first time we saw it, we thought Vaea Verbeeck was probably from Europe or somewhere else even farther away. It turns out that Vaea was born in Tahiti, but she moved to Canada with her mom when she was 3.

Vaea took up mountain biking as a teenager. Now, at 29, she has risen to become one of the top downhill and dual-slalom riders in North America, as well as one of the most impressive women jumpers we’ve ever seen, which she demonstrated by launching her bike over the 40-foot double jumps in the Red Bull Best Whip contest at the latest Fox U.S. Open. Vaea can also be seen elsewhere in this issue competing in the Red Bull Formation (the women’s equivalent of the Red Bull Rampage).

We got together with Vaea recently to find out how she became one of the top mountain bike riders in the world and to learn how she sets up her bikes.

RIDER PROFILE

Vaea Verbeeck and her Thunderbolt.

Name: Vaea Verbeeck

Age: 29

Birthdate: November 25, 1990

Birthplace: Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Height: 5-foot-8

Weight: 140 pounds Shoe

size: US Women 8

Helmet size: Medium

Waist: 28

Marital status: in a relationship

Current home: Coldstream, B.C.

Car(s): 2007 Audi A3

Started racing or competing: First race was the national champs in Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2008

Turned pro: 2018

Racing/riding specialty: Bit of all mountain biking disciplines but background is in downhill racing

Favorite course or riding area (North America): Squamish, B.C.

Favorite course or riding area (Europe): Hafjell, Norway

Favorite food: Thai

Goals: Become the best mountain biker I can be from racing to free riding.

Heroes: Stevie Smith

Favorite recording artist: Anderson Paak

Favorite movie: Blue Crush

Favorite hobbies: Biking, hiking, dirt biking, snowboarding, skiing, outdoors, cooking, indoor climbing

Jobs held (other than racer): Previously worked four years at Lululemon’s head office, order specialist and fit model

Most embarrassing moment: Can’t remember

Always takes on a trip: Camera, personal journal, an open mind

What you would be if you were not a racer: My first love was snowboarding, and my friends and I hung out in the park quite a bit. Slopestyle snowboarder would be cool. I could also be working in logistics of some sort, racing my keyboard at a desktop

Vaea Verbeeck’s Rocky Mountain Maiden

Vaea showed off her Rocky Mountain Maiden downhill bike at the Red Bull Formation in Utah. Photo by Paris Gore/Red Bull

Frames: “I ride Rocky Mountain bikes. My downhill bike is the Maiden, carbon frame, size large, 27.5-inch wheels, 200mm of travel. It is the most playful downhill bike I’ve ever owned. I love cornering and bike handling with the Maiden.

“My shuttle or big-mountain trail bike is the Slayer, carbon frame, size medium, 27.5-inch wheels, 180mm of travel. I love this bike on mellow downhill trails or for racing air downhill races, jumps and flow.

“My main trail bike is the Altitude, carbon frame, size medium, 27.5-inch wheels, 160mm of travel. The Altitude is a very capable trail bike. It pedals well and gets me on most of my trail bike adventures.

“My slalom bike is the Thunderbolt, carbon frame, size medium, 27.5-inch wheels, 140mm of travel.”

Shock and settings: Fox DHX2.

Fork: Fox 40.

Tires: The Maxxis Minion front and Minion DHR II is my favorite tire combo.

Inner tubes or tubeless tires: Tubeless.

Rims: We Are One, Strife carbon wheels, 27.5.

Brakes: Shimano Saint, 203mm rotors on downhill bike, 180mm on trail bikes.

Stem: Deity Copperhead 35mm.

Handlebars: Deity Blacklabel 800, 31.8mm, 25mm rise, cut to 780mm for the downhill bike; Deity Skywire, carbon, 35mm, 25mm rise, cut to 770mm on trail bikes.

Grips: Deity Knuckleduster.

Shifters: Shimano Saint.

Rear derailleur: Shimano Saint.

Pedals: Crankbrothers Mallet E.

Cranks: Shimano Saint or XT.

Chainring: Shimano 36t or 34t on trail bikes.

Chain: Shimano Saint or XT.

Rear cassette: Shimano Ultegra or XT.

Saddle: Deity Sidetrack or Speedtrap.

Seatpost: Deity Retina I-Beam or Fox dropper post.

Bottom bracket: Shimano.

Carbon or titanium bolts: No.

Weight of complete bike: Downhill bike: 35.7 pounds [others not known].

Estimated value of bike: Fun is priceless.

MBA Q&A

MBA: Where did you grow up?

Vaea: Granby, Quebec, since the age of 3.

MBA: What kind of work did your father and mother do?

Vaea: My parents ran a local journal and then a hotel chain in French Polynesia for a dozen years and split when I was 3. Then my mom worked in publicity at the local newspaper in Granby, Quebec, and my dad moved to the south of France and ran his own stock trading business in the gold market.

MBA: When did you first start riding a bicycle?

Vaea has a full quiver of bikes to suit any occasion, choosing this Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt for her podium finish in the Pro Women’s Dual Slalom at the recent Fox U.S. Open.

Vaea: I learned to ride a bicycle as a kid but didn’t ride a bike as a teenager until I was 17 and discovered mountain biking in 2007.

MBA: When did you first start competing on mountain bikes?

Vaea: My first race was the Downhill National Championship in Mont Sainte-Anne in 2008.

MBA: How did you do in your first mountain bike event?

Vaea: I crashed twice in my race run and finished second in Juniors, 7th overall. Not a stellar performance by any means, but it was a steep learning curve!

MBA: What have been your best national and international results?

Vaea: I won the Canadian Championship in 2014, 2018 and 2019. My best World Cup result would be a 6th in Hafjell, Norway in 2014, followed by lots of 7th places.

MBA: What titles have you won?

Vaea: Queen of Crankworx 2019; dual-slalom overall world champion 2019; three-time national champion—2014, 2018, 2019.

MBA: Where did you go to school?

Vaea: Granby, Quebec, then Saint-Lambert, on the south shore of Montreal for a pre-university program.

Verbeeck is fearless when it comes to big jumps, as she proved in the Best Whip contest at the Fox U.S. Open.

MBA: Did you attend college?

Vaea: I graduated in business, sports marketing & management.

MBA: Do you have any other career training?

Vaea: First-aid ski patrol; sporting-goods salesperson; serving was my job after school to save money for racing and have a flexible schedule.

MBA: What other sports do you like besides mountain biking?

Vaea: Hiking, dirt biking, climbing, snowboarding, skiing, and gymnastics. I competed in gymnastics and swimming growing up. I got second at my first provincial gymnastics competition. We couldn’t travel to more competitions, as it was too timeconsuming for my mom to handle my sister and me on her own.

MBA: Can you tell us something interesting or unusual about yourself or your family that is not widely known?

Vaea: These days, I don’t know if too many of my fans know of my French background. I grew up in Quebec and only moved to North Vancouver, B.C., in 2013, once I was done with my studies. My family is still in Quebec, and I followed my passion, which brought me to B.C.


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