We sit down with Tweed Valley's big talent Katy Winton to talk women in cycling, the best trails at Innerleithen and what's on her training playlist...
When did you discover your love of mountain biking?
When I was a kid, my Dad used to take my brother and me out riding all over the place. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the freedom and independence bike riding gave you at that age… not to mention the speed! I was really into my horse riding though so spent more of my time doing that… but eventually the bike riding took over. I remember my first race really well, actually. My dad asked my brother and I if we wanted to try a race. We both said yes because we thought it could be fun... And I absolutely loved it, it was an SXC race for ‘sprogs’ (the kids) up at Glentress and I was immediately hooked! I loved pushing myself to go as fast as I could up and down the hills… I also realised I liked winning a lot too, haha!
XC was your thing, and then you transitioned to enduro. Why?
Because it is so much fun! It is accessible for so many people because it’s essentially just mountain biking: ride to the top and race down as fast as you can. You get a great weekend of bike riding whether the race goes well or not so well for you. Plus trying to beat your pals down the trails is always fun!
What's your pre-race prep like?
Well training is fun! I thrive on hard work and with Chris Killmurray coaching me this year, there has been a lot of variety – in the gym, running, biking… which keeps things interesting! When it gets to race weekend, I don't really have any rituals. Nothing too odd anyway! I have to lay all my kit out and all the stuff I will need for race day the night before… I’m not a naturally organised person, so on race weekend my organisational skills go into overdrive to make sure the prep is in place for a smooth day on the bike.
Tracy Moseley has been a huge inspiration for you. Who are your greatest cycling influences?
Tracy is a brilliant role model and so generous with her time to help the next generation of mountain bikers! My dad has always been a huge influence and still is – he got me into bike riding and racing. He continues to push his limits physically, like cycling from Belgium to Istanbul, fully self-supported in two weeks via Mont Ventoux in the Transcontinental Race. He is a wild man, but committed and determined!
Greg – my boyfriend – is also a huge influence in helping me improve as a bike racer and athlete. There’s also Gary Forrest, my good pal and training partner; Geraint Florida James who has taught me some of my most valuable lessons and brought me back to full health and to the fittest I’ve ever been after leaving XC… Chris, my current coach has a big influence too, helping me with all aspects of racing and preparing. The people you surround yourself with are so important in getting the best out of yourself in life and in racing, so I am lucky to have a great group of people helping me!
What more do you think organisations can do to promote female cycling?
I think the situation is improving massively. I think we just need to keep featuring female riders in magazines, features, videos and articles. Total Women’s Cycling is brilliant; it really is a go-to place for female bike riders to find out bits and pieces related to us.
You’re from the Tweed Valley. What keeps you coming back?
The trails keep me coming back but the weather keeps me away! Riding in the rain and snow is fun, but when you are doing it every day, getting soaked, freezing then cleaning up to do it all again, it is really wearing… especially this winter then there was no let-up in the rain. Going out to warmer climates makes you realise how much it holds you back when you go out for 5hrs without even thinking about it yet 2.5hrs at home can feel like a mission. So mother nature, die down with the rain next winter and I’ll stick around, haha!
In terms of my favourites trials, I love Golfy [at Innerleithen]. Finale is awesome too. The trails out that way are all fast and really fun. Away from home, Rotorua in New Zealand is a favourite too.
Have you got any advice for aspiring MTB racers?
Enjoy it and get in about it! Especially if you’re a girl. Give it a go – you have nothing to lose! Just get a group of your pals to come a long and have a laugh. It really is great fun!
Tell us about the main features of your race bikes?
I'm currently riding the Trek Remedy 29 and the Trek Slash. The Remedy has big 29 wheels, 140ml travel on the rear, and 150ml up front. It's a super fun bike that makes everything easier - it's like a bulldozer! The Slash has 27.5 wheels, 160ml travel on the rear and up front. Both bikes have a 'Mino Link' on the rear triangle that you can flip to change the steepness of the bike. I have it in the slack setting on the Remedy but flipped on the Slash to make it a bit steeper for the trails at home otherwise it is just like a DH bike - which will be ideal for the Alpine races, but can feel a bit sluggish on my home trails! Both bikes have Fox Suspension and Shimano Di2 - I'm a lucky girl! Equipment is so important in this game... It's like F1 and I have (thanks to Tracy) a race-winning bike!
What's your 2016 highlight... and next challenge?
My highlight has been riding for Trek Factory Racing... Although I think that is a highlight of my life, haha! My next challenge is to break the top 5 in the Enduro World Series.
And finally, tell us what's on your training playlist right now?
I love all sorts of music, just not the heavy metal stuff. At the moment, MK & Becky Hill's 'Piece of Me' and Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna 'This is What You Came For' is on the playlist… dancing around like a loon counts as training right?!