"I race with guys so much that I almost don't even notice anymore," Looney says. "I'm used to there not being a lot of women at some of the events I choose because they're really tough: Most guys don't even want to do them. It does feel really good to be able to compete amongst the men, but I try not to get too caught up in it."
See also: - Boulder pro Sonya Looney on posing for the sexed-up Cyclepassion calendar - Bike Porn! Boulder champ Heather Irmiger strips down for 2011 Cyclepassion Calendar - Heather Irmiger wins mountain bike gold at 2011 Pan American Games
There's been some spirited discussion of the merits of the Cyclepassion calendar over on the Girl Bike Love Facebook page and elsewhere around the Internet, as there always is when female athletes opt to sex it up a bit, but on one point everyone is in agreement: Sonya Looney is a complete and total badass of a mountain biker.
She finished the overnight Vapor Trail 125 race in 17 hours, 41 minutes on a 125-mile course with 22,000 feet of total vertical climbing (and then some: Looney says she got lost in the dark and "took a little detour" during the race, making her route more like 133 miles with 23,000 feet of climbing).
And the craziest part -- the Looneyist? -- is that she thinks she can go a lot faster next year.
"When I go back I'd like to do it in around 16 hours, and I feel like that's a very attainable goal because I got lost for 30 minutes, I spent a lot of time at the aid stations talking with people and eating food, and I had a lot of unnecessary gear in my backpack," Looney explains. "I feel like I could have pushed my pace quite a bit. Next year when I go back I'll actually race it, whereas this year I felt like I was more riding it than racing it because I wasn't sure how to pace myself for that long. When the race was over, I felt I could have kept going for a really long time: I finished with more gas in the tank than I should have."
While the nearly 18 hours she spent on her bike was her longest single ride ever, in retrospect it didn't feel like more than a few hours, Looney says; she lost track of time, the same way she often does when hanging out with a good friend.
"I learned that on an overnight endurance ride like this, time as a unit stops to matter at some point and you don't realize how long you've been out there," Looney explains. "The sun comes up and it feels like you just started again."
Looney says she has enjoyed some of the attention her Cyclepassion photos have brought her this week, but mostly she's just glad to be back out on her bike.
"I'm trying not to make a big deal out of it because I still want my focus to be as a bike racer and not as a pinup girl," she says, "but I'm really happy that people have been super-positive about it. I've heard very little criticism for doing the Cyclepassion shoot and quite a lot of positive feedback."
For more on the Vapor Trail 125 and other recent races, check out Looney's blog at SonyaLooney.com.