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A rare U.S. Hall of Fame athlete in both road racing and mountain biking, Ruthie Matthes said she was “exhausted” when she quit racing after a 15-year pro career that included her 1990 road worlds silver medal, 1991 world cross-country rainbow jersey and 1992 Grundig World Cup title. “I didn’t have the retirement plan like friends said I should have,” she remembered. “I was cooked. I could not even think what I wanted to do. My body was exhausted, my brain was exhausted, I was exhausted. And I didn’t know which direction I was going to go. When I was little all I wanted to do was be an Olympian. I was so focused [on bike racing] for so long, and before that I was a ski racer; and the world opened up at 35 or 36. And I thought, now what?”
Matthes—who grew up in Ketchum, Idaho, and moved to Durango, Colorado—completed her mountain bike career at the 2000 Olympics. “That fall I went into a healing course, doing massage therapy and energy work, and I had a bodywork practice for a while,” she said. “But plants have always been a big part of my life…and I keep returning to that. I mean, I enjoyed my career a lot but, damn, I was going a hundred miles an hour all the time—even when I was sleeping. When I retired I was still rushing around—I find that to be terribly disturbing now. I really attempt not to have my nervous system so intensely upset. There’s something that Lao-Tze said: ‘Nature doesn’t rush, and everything gets done.’”
Matthes returned to the cycling world for a while, working as product liaison for Magura Direct, promoting the Magura, Uvex and Vredestein brands. “I was with them from 2010 until December 2018. My job doesn’t exist anymore, but I still believe in their product,” she said. In recent summers, Matthes has worked on an organic market farm that sells its produce to restaurants and Community Supported Agriculture. “It’s hard work,” she said. “It’s harvesting, cleaning, bagging, getting it ready for market…and there’s always weeding!”
Matthes has a close relationship with her mother Susan, now in her 90s, who often watched her daughter race, including a trip to Sydney, Australia, to see her achieve that childhood ambition of becoming an Olympian. Now on “an extended stay” in Idaho to help her mom while working on construction projects, Matthes has plans to build a labyrinth, plant trees and flowers, and develop a food garden. She’s finally found her direction.
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