Interview: Ian Linton / Images: Ian Linton
This week we introduce the first female rider of our Frisky Friday series. A rider who has been turning heads all year with some impressive speed aboard her Bergamont steed. A true favourite of ours, in no part due to her being a disciple of van life and grafting with real determination, this rider is set for big things in 2016.
Yes – Katy Winton was kind enough to face our ten questions and even answered them while aboard a ferry on the Irish sea!
Katy – welcome to Frisky Friday! First things first – you’ve been leading the ladies charge up here in the Borders for a while – It must be great to see so many women out enjoying the trails these days. Do you see more and more women taking up mtb in the future?
Yeah, it is awesome, I see more and more women taking up mountain biking right now. The numbers are growing and it really feels like the ball is rolling and we’re going to continue with this snowball effect. MTB can be a little daunting but I think when women get together and go ride (in my experience) there is this supportive atmosphere – there are no ego’s, if you don’t want to ride something then you don’t have to but equally if you want to try something new they will encourage you. I love heading up Glentress and seeing women heading out on rides together, when I started riding here 10 years ago that was something you just never saw really! It’s so encouraging for the future and I believe it’s only going to get bigger.
You came from an XC background and you’ve now have 3 yrs of “enduro” riding under your belt, how’s the transition been for you and what’s the aim for the future?
The transition was a little bumpy, I had a pretty tough exit to XC, with chronic stress for 8 months+ my body was in survival mode and this was all on the lead up to trying to qualify for the commonwealth games. I was pushed to my very limit physically and mentally and drove myself into a huge hole. At that point I was on the verge of giving up all together as it was a horrendous time. But, these times help you learn and in my case, make the most of a new opportunity because I quit XC and went full enduro and never looked back! It has taken a couple of years for my body and mind to recover, but thanks to my coach G he got me out of the hole and helped me make bike riding fun again and get me into a position to cope with training. Enduro changed everything for me though, I found my forte, I love it, I see the world by scaling mountains all over the world and riding back down as fast as I can with a great group of girls – it was the best decision I have ever made. For the future, there is only one thing… World domination haha! I am playing the long game and building towards being World Champion, which is super exciting learning, working hard and gaining experience all the time towards my end goal, I love the process. Watch out world
You and Greg are the 2015 King & Queen of enduro – what’s it like being in a relationship travelling the world and racing together? And, more importantly do people bow and curtsey to you?
Oh, all the time yeah! We have crowns stuck to our helmets now and everything haha jokes! That was an awesome weekend and sharing the win with Greg was well good! It is amazing to be able to share these races and experiences with Greg. We got together in the first year of the EWS and it is crazy how much has changed since then, from living in a van on the breadline to signing contracts with international teams with pits and mechanics and everything that goes with it! It’s mental! It can be a bit intense and hard balancing everything as we are both working just as hard as the other towards the same goal but at the same time you just get it, you understand what is going on and how to support each other and also share the successes along the way like in Ireland. Blimmen well gid!
You’ve now competed all over the world, so what are your top three trails in the world and why – outside the tweed valley that is…
There are SO many, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Tracy and her partner James in the summer and we visited their favourite place – Verbier – and the trails there are something else! The guys at bike Verbier showed us so many cool and different tracks that challenge your every skill, which was awesome. I loved stage 5 in rotorua in New Zealand, it required a lot of hopping around and was quite awkward which I loved! And all the trails in Whistler, man that place lives up to the hype big time!!
Racing bikes has it’s up’s and downs – what’s been your highs and lows this year and how do you deal with them.
My high was going to New Zealand at the start of the year, somewhere I have always wanted to go and getting some of my best stage results and coming away with 9th. I was over the moon the winter training had worked so well! My lowest point though was at the Spanish round of the EWS. After hitting my head hard in Samoens and Whistler a losing valuable points I was determined to get some good results at the last two races to show what I was capable of. I wanted to achieve my goal of top 8 in the overall and put myself in the best position to negotiate my deal for next year. I am lucky that I have Bergamont, because for some girls without deals this is an even more stressful time of year especially when quite a few teams don’t even want girls. I rode hard in Spain, made some minor mistakes, nothing major, but I was way out the back. There was no stand out reason like mechanical/crash etc. for why I was off the pace, I was just slow and that was really hard to take at a crucial time of year. These ups and downs are all part of it though and all the lows are valuable learning experiences but the less highs and lows you can have then the more consistent you’ll be. And in Enduro consistency is key! I’m still learning that craft.
You seem to have been around bikes and the racing scene in the Tweed Valley since a very young age and now a full time racer – did you ever think what you would do for a job if that weren’t the case?
Yeah, the school’s career advisor didn’t believe that biking could be an actual career so I had thought about something in telly or radio. But as it turns out, biking is a pretty darn good option! I really enjoy giving talks through Winning in Scotland’s Champions in Schools program and talking with the kids to help them realise their potential wherever their passion lies and how to get the best out of themselves to achieve that. It’s really rewarding and I absolutely love it so that’s something I would like to pursue further after racing.
So what is it about the Tweed Valley that has produced so many fine riders?
Accessibility of trails so there are loads opportunities to practice and having brilliant clubs and coaches within that to help the kids get on the right path. Big credit to Peebles Cycling Club because I believe their help started Grant, Lucy and I off in the best way and now many more coming through! There is such a demand in the area for clubs I think we have 4+ now! All the clubs are great for making friends and having pals in the sport definitely helps keep the kids interested.
And what’s your view on e-bikes in racing? Are they the next big thing?
E-bikes are mental, I have only pedalled one around and you get so far for not much effort. I am not sure about the racing side of things though and how they will work within that but it is definitely a huge positive for those who are maybe older to get into biking, as it’s not so taxing for them. Also for commuting they are perfect for head wind battling!! I’d say once you’d ridden one it would be hard to go back to human powered bikes though, it would be so slow!
Your top 3 tunes right now?
Loud places – Jamie XX……Redemption – Sigma……Army – Ellie Goulding
And finally, if you could race anybody (past or present) on any trail in the Tweed Valley, who would it be and what trail?
I wouldn’t like to race, but I would love to go for a ride with Gun Rita-Dal, and just hear what she has to say about everything really! I’d probably show her the old DH track in Cademuir, it’s a classic and one of my favourites of all time.