Kate Courtney, World Champion Mountain Biker

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Kate Courtney’s resume doesn’t look like many 22-year olds. Unless their names are Mikaela Shiffrin or Abby Wambach. She’s a 12-time mountain bike national champion, 2017 U-23 World Cup overall champion, and now, the 2018 UCI World Champion. It’s fair to say she’s just getting started. And with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics not far away, we’ll be hearing her name a lot more.

Cycling is a national pastime in many countries, but Kate Courtney’s story paints a different picture for what could come out of the US in the years to come. She didn’t get her start on the typical team sports shown on TV — she started on her high school’s mountain bike team. She did it for fun. She loved it. She saw progress, and she never looked back.

Kate Courtney and I sat down to talk about growing up, and the nutrition, training and mental strategies that have allowed her to reach the highest levels. Also, her community of support — parents, coaches, sponsors — and the role they play.

As always, I was hoping to find the secret shortcuts to performance. Instead, a reminder that greatness is better measured as hard work in, progress out. But don’t forget to take those naps, lean on a community that believes in you, and start your day with some meditation.  

Our conversation has been edited for brevity.

Listen to the full interview on The Common Threads podcast at: Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts | Spotify.

David Swain: You just won the World Championships, but let’s start small. What’d you have for breakfast?

Kate Courtney: I had some pancakes. It’s my go-to. Get some maple syrup involved, you know?

KATE COURTNEY’S PATH FROM HIGH SCHOOL MOUNTAIN BIKING TO WORLD CHAMPION 

You’re back from Europe after winning the World Championships. Talk me through the last few weeks.

World Championships was certainly a big end to the cross-country season. The aftermath was a little crazy. We ended up going straight to Marathon World Championships, which is quite outside my comfort zone and was a huge challenge, especially given the emotional high of winning Worlds and that huge dream coming into fruition. Took a little bit to recover from, and way maybe not so pretty at times, but I made it through Marathon Worlds. Racing for five and a half hours instead of an hour and a half is something that will serve me well in the long run in terms of building that endurance and giving me a benchmark of how hard a race can be.

Then I was able to go on vacation for a bit. I brought my bike, which has been a key insight in the last couple of seasons. After racing ends, I love to just ride as long as I want with gummy bears as fuel; not be eating Clif bars, and leaving at a certain time, and riding for certain amount at a certain power. I just get to go and explore beautiful places. We rode Stelvio. That was my first ride in the rainbow jersey, so it was a special moment and a really good way to kind of reset mentally while still doing what I love and being on the bike.

I only got to watch your win on YouTube, unfortunately. Coming across the finish line, walk us through that feeling. The roar of the crowd was intense.

The World Championships was in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. It was a really special atmosphere — unlike any event I’ve been to. I think there were 25,000 fans, and that was equal for the women’s and the men’s race, which was really cool to see. For reference, that’s more than the event at the Olympics. The Olympics sell 20,000 tickets.

To be able to compete in that atmosphere was a huge honor and was really motivating, but to come away with the win and especially in a kind of surprising fashion at the end is really exciting. It was very cool to have that support and to see those crowds for what has been a bit of a niche sport in the past.

While we’re sitting in the shadow of Mount Tam in the US where mountain biking was started, it’s been pretty dominated by Europeans the last couple of decades, and particularly the Swiss. They win basically everything.

We’ve got the 2020 Olympics coming up in Tokyo. I don’t hear it being talked about yet much, but I’m sure it’s on your mind?

It’s been a big topic of conversation for a couple of years for us. I narrowly missed going in 2016. I took two quarters off at Stanford and was a bit young and racing the U-23 category, so it was a huge long shot, but at the end of the day, I really wanted to go. Not making that team was a disappointment; it would have been discretionary pick. It really galvanized my desire to go and really perform well in 2020.

After that year, it’s absolutely been a focus, and I think of it as a four-year plan. This was another step in that direction, and this year the focus was building endurance-based power. To come away with a win this year, I think it’s a foot in the door. It’s showing me that dreaming of being the best in the world is possible on my best day ever. Being able to wear the rainbow jersey is a good reminder that every race is different, and I’m not at the top of the field yet, but that on the perfect day when the preparation is right and the conditions all work out, that it’s possible. It’s really motivating for me heading towards 2020.

We’re north of San Francisco in Marin staring at Mount Tam out the window.  That was your childhood playground — talk about your athletic journey growing up.

I grew up playing a lot of different sports. I ski raced for a long time. I ran cross-country. I rode horseback. I did gymnastics. I think, looking back, a lot of those things were individual sports that show a hard work in/progress out kind of mentality. I really love to see, I’m working on improving this skill, okay, I’m getting better at it. That was something I was really drawn to in all of those sports and found the perfect place for it in mountain biking.

Growing up, the awesome thing was that those sports were just fun. My parents really didn’t put pressure on it. It was something we did as a family. Especially with mountain biking, it was a vehicle to get blueberry pancakes on Sunday mornings. It was not a competitive sport or something we did with a means to an end. It was just for fun.

This morning, I rode with my dad and my mechanic, and we did a ride I’ve done since I was 14. Took us an hour less than when I was 14, which we joke about to no end. Being able to come back and know that sports are this amazing way to experience the world and to spend time with people I love is going to be really important in my career, and hopefully protect me from some of the burnout that comes from the harder parts of the job.

Maintaining the fun in the sport while competing as a professional through college must not have always been easy. How have you been able to keep that? What role did your parents play? Where do you get your competitive drive?

It’s hard to put your finger on. I’ve always been really competitive. For me, the key is effort in/progress out. I love to see improvements at something. Mountain biking is a sport that gives you a lot of opportunities to do so, whether it’s training with the power meter and seeing those numbers go up or even just today, riding with my dad and seeing that we can do that same ride in two and a half hours that used to take us three and a half hours. There’s really tangible progress in so many ways, and that’s something I’ve always been drawn to in athletics.

Support has been a huge part of it. In college, in particular, I was fortunate to be close to my parents and have them really step up and support me, but it’s also a tricky balance. I think parenting an athlete is a really challenging thing. I’m incredibly grateful. My dad has always had a really good balance between believing in me and pushing me to see what might be possible, but also putting no pressure on me. At the World Championships, if you watch the video, a little tear-jerker, I cross the finish line and went straight to my parents, and we all cried our eyeballs out. 

My parents were there because they love me and they love the sport, and they would have been unconditionally proud of me. They’re proud of me just for taking the line — it’s something that takes bravery and a lot of preparation, and they respect that. If I had had my worst race ever at Worlds, we would have still gone and had champagne, and celebrated the season, and I would have been with people that love me and that I enjoy being with.

It was a really special moment to surprise them, and surprise myself, and achieve something that we’ve talked about jokingly since I started. Because they never put pressure on me, because they believe in me unconditionally and love me unconditionally, it’s even more special. It’s a huge bonus to be able to achieve that together.

I was able to give my dad the world champion watch on the podium. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been able to do. He’s been checking the time a lot since then (laughing). “Does anyone need to know what time it is again?” I won the parent lottery.

These sports like ski racing and cycling are individual sports where the US hasn’t always been at the front of the pack. They can be great outlets for kids and adults, even if you’re not competing. When you look at the future of cycling or outdoor sports in the US, are there things we could bring back or learn from? You started on a high school mountain bike team, which is a foreign notion to many of us. They’re fully-packed high school teams, right?

Oh, it’s unbelievable. I went to Branson High School in Marin and started bike racing my freshman year. I did it in the spring as cross training for running. I was really into cross-country and was having some early success in the local leagues and was really motivated. As soon as I tried mountain biking, I decided never to run again because it was everything I loved about running, but with a lot of new elements.

Something that really makes cycling meaningful to me is that it is a lifetime sport. It’s something you see in cycling and sports like ski racing. You see people who are at the top in ski racing — they still ski for the rest of their lives. People who are at the top in mountain biking, they retire, and they still ride their bikes all the time because it’s something you can do in so many different ways and that can be a part of your life — especially with ebikes now!

Cycling enables so many people to enjoy the outdoors in the way that’s best for them. For me, being able to share my cycling career and connect with all those kids that are just taking it up or even adults that are starting riding is what makes it a little bit more meaningful to race, and is a huge motivator in terms of interacting with people on social media and sharing the love for the bike, which, whether you’re racing or not, is often pretty similar.

Have you gotten a lot of inspirational notes from girls and boys who have your poster on their wall?

I’ve gotten some pretty cute ones. My favorite was when someone sent me a screenshot of a sixth-grader who’s in the middle school league. They now have middle school leagues, too, which is unbelievable. She was asked what she wanted to be when she grows up, and she said, “I want to be KatePlusFate, but I also want to be a mom, so I’ll have to figure out how to bring my babies with me so I can win the World Championship.” In the words of a sixth-grader, you can’t say it any better.

There are so many women and athletes across a lot of different sports that have shown me it’s possible for Americans to achieve at the top level. In cycling, Georgia Gould and Lea Davison have both won medals at the World Championships in my career. Hopefully, this win continues to show the next generation, hey, look, it’s possible. Go one-up me. Go win an Olympic medal.

How much progress are we seeing with putting the sport on the map in US? We love TV with a lot of action, crashes and excitement – mountain biking has it all.

It’s exciting. All the races are so competitive at this stage, and, in particular, the women’s racing in the past five years has been in some ways more exciting than the men’s. I think that’s being recognized. I’ve been talking about it with some fellow racers. I think it’s starting to be appreciated with the gender line kind of fading a little bit. Both the men’s and women’s races are seen as taking grit, and hard work, and all these amazing, exciting things that we love about sports and we love about bike racing are being recognized and appreciated.

People are watching, and I hope that continues to grow because it is an exciting sport, and it’s special to be able to share it. The coverage is great; Red Bull’s done an amazing job streaming the races and giving people an appreciation for the athletes, and what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it. That’s something that will hopefully only pick up steam in the future.

KATE COURTNEY’S KIT: NUTRITION, TRAINING AND MIND 

TRAINING

In some ways, everyone has a different approach. I’m a numbers gal. I love it. I love training with power, and it’s really motivating to me. I think for some people, it’s like they’re chained to their power meter, and it’s a limiter. They would go harder or go faster without it. Whereas my coach and I are both very numbers oriented. We have an approach that works for me, and a way to use those numbers to get the most out of my training, and to make it as specific and optimal as possible.

I transitioned to being coached by Jim Miller, who’s amazing and has been the perfect partner in dialing in my training and taking things to the next level. One of the things I learned quickly was when I have rest, take it. When you have a rest day, put your legs up because something is coming. That’s something that I really thrive with: doing complete rest when I need to and being absolutely full gas when I need to.

For example, I did the Cape Epic, which was 35 hours in 8 days and absolutely insane, hard intervals, really hard days on the bike. It was mentally and physically so much farther than I’d ever pushed myself before. Just objectively, that’s a lot of time to ride your bike. Doing something like that is really helpful for me. It’s so hard, and shows what the human body is capable of. It only works if you then completely rest. Often times that means mid-season, taking time completely off the bike. During the winter, I will take a week or a week and a half and go up to Tahoe without a bike. I cross-country ski, and I do a lot of strength training. It’s really meant to be breaking from my normal routine and getting that deep mental rest that I think a lot of people are afraid to take throughout the season.

Is there anything you’ve learned along the way that the everyday athlete or kid coming up should have in their head? How do we all get fast like you? 

My biggest things is to pick a plan and stick to it. I think everyone’s looking for the secret to success and the one thing because I think, really, it’s not a fun answer. It’s pounding the rock every day and deciding what that plan is for you and really committing to it. For me, every year I pick a new goal. I pick one thing I want to develop or focus on and usually it comes from weaknesses in the past season. We pound the rock on that one thing and typically, I emerge from the season and that’s a strength.

With training, it’s important to have concrete goals, have an approach. There’s a million different ways you can approach it, a million different ways you can structure training, but just pick one you think will work for you and if it doesn’t, you can always change long-term. I would say stick with it, give it a fair shot, and see how your fitness changes month-to-month, year-to-year, and then you can tweak it from there.

How much strength training do you incorporate throughout the year?

It depends a little bit on the season and the goals and how many days a week I can get into the gym. It requires a lot of coordination so that you’re not too tired for strength days or too tired on the bike. Those two elements have to really work together to be successful. It’s usually three days a week in the Fall, and when that ends it depends on what the Spring goals are. The past couple of years, I’ve done strength through the season, and that’s been really helpful for me, especially as a smaller rider. Being able to build a lot of muscular strength and handle the bike and get through those technical sections smooth and fast is related to my strength training, and especially to coordination and balance work.

How much time do you spend on agility and core vs. strength?

Half and half, I would say. I think also there’s the element of injury prevention that plays a huge role. There’s many other elements to my training. For example, I do yoga a lot during the off-season and maybe a little less so when I’m traveling, but I still do stretching and recovery protocols, and the strength training. All those things complement what I do on the bike — they’re really important to developing a lot of those other skills, strength, endurance, coordination, and injury prevention.

(check out more of Kate’s gym workouts)

How do you think about recovery?

I don’t know if I’m the expert. My number one thing for recovery is napping! Napping is amazing.

When I was a student, napping was just not going to be a possibility. I was pretty rushed during the days and would come home from a ride and run straight to class with a Clif Bar in hand. Now, I have time to focus on what works best for me and what helps me recover most. For me, a lot of times either separating sessions with a nap in between or just making sure that when I get off the bike, I do something immediately that switches on that parasympathetic nervous system and switches my body into recovery mode. Sometimes it’s a nap; maybe it’s doing some quiet stretching after you ride. Maybe it’s meditating. I meditate every day. Those types of things can really help me switch. Sometimes you get home, and you have endorphins. You just had this big ride, and it’s easy to spend a lot of time on your phone or do something immediately or try to run around your house doing a million things at once.

Trying to be really deliberate about those recovery processes – I think it’s a lot easier when it’s your full-time job and you have to think about that, but it’s made a difference for me in terms of being able to get the most out of every training session.

MIND 

Meditation every day, when did you start that?

I’ve been off and on interested in it since high school. I got a little bit more serious about it during college and was the teaching assistant for the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class (Jon Kabat-Zinn) at the Stanford Med School for three quarters every Spring. It hugely helped my cycling. That class was a much bigger dose; it was Tuesday nights, and was two and a half hours. You’d meditate for an hour and talk about stuff, but you’d end up getting a huge amount of meditation in, and that motivated me to start doing it every day.

I think you have to find what works best for you. For me, it’s 10 to 15 minutes in the morning right away. I can do it unguided, and I used to just use a timer. I’ve also started using the HeadSpace app. A lot of times, I just do the unguided one, but it’s nice to have on there. Honestly, as much as it shouldn’t matter, when you have a streak going, it does motivate you to do it. There are times when I was like oh, I haven’t done it. Okay, I have to do it. I have a hundred-day streak. I have to keep it going. I think that’s a good thing.

Your races seem perfect for meditation. All-out and tremendous pressure to not make a mistake. Talk about how you stay present during a race.

I think that’s a huge part. If you go back and watch my World Champ series – I haven’t watched the tape yet — I’ve been told there were these times I made mistakes and people are like, “Oh, we saw you make that mistake, and we thought it was all over.” I don’t even remember making the mistakes. I think when you’re in that space and you’re really focused on the present moment and the present task at hand, you don’t think oh, my God, I clipped out in this route. The world has ended. You think okay, I’m just going to get around the next corner, and you’re focused on the task at hand. I think that’s a key for me to having my best personal performances.

It’s something I continue to work on. I have a sports psychologist. I meditate. I do a lot of things that center around the mental training and the goal is really to find that space as much as you can, so figuring out what’s going to get me there and keep me there for as long as possible in a race so that I can rise to the challenge of whatever comes at me and really stay present on just doing my best in the moment.

Do you see the same level of attention on the mental side in your peer group?

One of the really interesting things about being an athlete at this level is everyone has a different approach. I’m sure there are things other athletes are doing that really work for them and wouldn’t work for me and vice-versa. I think having these methodical approaches and having everything quantified and planned out, and I have my village of support and my team. I work with them really closely — that’s an approach that’s really worked well for me across all the different elements, whether it be nutrition or meditation or the strength training. I think other people have different approaches, and they clearly work for them.

What is your approach for getting yourself through the bumps in the road when training doesn’t go as planned?

A lot of times, there’s an explanation for one bad day or workout. Sometimes it’s just an off day. Sometimes, you didn’t sleep well. Sometimes, you train too hard the day before. For me, given how big the picture is, given how long the season is and how many training cycles I have, I’m usually able to stay calm in those moments. It is a little tricky if you have your last workout before you go to a World Cup and it goes horribly wrong, which has happened a lot of times. That can be a little stressful. I think once you’ve had those moments and you’ve seen that you can still race well, it becomes a little easier to trust the process and focus on doing your job and getting it done, whatever that looks like on that given day.

Your support network and the community that you have around you with your coaches. What’s that communication like? Are some of them on the road with you or are you doing weekly calls?

Most of the people are not on the road with me. My mechanic will be on the road, and I have my support team with my sponsors. Usually my coach, my sports psychologist, my nutritionist, my strength coach, those people are remote and I’ll have calls with them.

I’ve been really fortunate to work with people who are really bought in. They’re there for whatever I need, and they believe in me, and they’re there to support me, and I am really close with them. I text my nutritionist about his kids. He sends me videos of them. They are really into watching women’s mountain biking. They actually don’t watch the men’s. His two little boys only want to watch the women’s, which I love. They will hold mock races and pretend to be different women in the field. They’re like, “I’m Jolanda; I’m Kate Courtney.” He sends me videos of those.

It’s a silly example, but I think for me being close to those people and having them part of it means we work together on a different level, and we really are a team. When something big happens like Worlds, we did it, and those people are a part of it and they feel a part of it. I don’t just call them up at the beginning of the season, set up a plan, and check in. I’m texting them the week of Worlds. “Okay, nutritionally, this changed, or the weather’s looking like this, or I can’t get – my –” This was a funny Worlds one. My skin-suit didn’t have pockets. I called my nutritionist. “Okay, we have to figure out a fueling plan. I don’t want to try something new at  World Champs.” Those are examples where having someone who knows you really well enables you to dial in a plan that’s maybe better than it would be if you were just kind of winging it.

NUTRITION

What have you learned about food and fueling yourself during training and racing? Do you have a formula?

 I don’t know if there is an exact formula — it’s so individual. What makes me feel good on the bike might not work for someone else, and there’s just weird things. Certain caffeines really hurt my stomach during races, whereas they work perfectly fine for another athlete. It is trial and error. For me, waffles or pancakes are a good pre-race. I do Red Bull as my source of caffeine and that’s worked really well. It was something I hadn’t tried until two years ago, and it was a game-changer. I don’t drink coffee daily and being able to have a really reliable amount of caffeine is something I’ve struggled with.

Do you incorporate caffeine before training?

Yeah, usually before a really hard workout or before races. During the off-season – right now, I’m a little more free to do whatever I please. During the race season, I use caffeine as a tool. On a rest day, for example, I would purposely not have caffeine and feel terrible. I think it’s important to feel terrible on some days and to really, really rest whereas I could have two cups of coffee and run around and do a bunch of stuff. I see it as a tool to help me train more and sometimes, something that I have to control in order to really let my body do what it needs to do and recover.

You come back from a ride and reach in your fridge, what do you grab?

Recovery shake. If I had to say one nutrition thing that I think is universally important and is not individual, it’s have some kind of recovery shake after your hard workouts. I have found one that works for me, but I’m sure there’s different levels of protein and carbohydrates that might work for different people or that certain people believe in. There’s never a consensus on that. For me, getting that protein and carbohydrates right after my ride – it’s usually the Clif Recovery Mix, tastes like chocolate. It’s delicious, and almond milk. It serves a purpose in terms of getting me nutrition quickly. So then I’m not starving, reaching into my cabinet for potato chips or anything. You know how it feels after a hard ride. You’ll eat anything.

Having a recovery shake staves that off enough that you make better decisions. You have enough time to say oh, I came to make eggs and polenta instead of just grabbing whatever is in front of you. Then also, I think my nutritionist has talked to me a lot about training your body and your mind to know what’s coming. When I do something really hard and they know that – made it sound like someone else. No, but my body knows okay, we’re expending this energy, but we’re going to get fuel along the way. We’re doing this really hard thing, but we’re definitely going to get the fuel we need right after. It keeps your body from shutting down and protecting yourself and I think is really important to do consistently throughout the season.

Is what you eat during a race different from during a training ride?

Not super different. I think it’ll be a little simpler. I wouldn’t eat a Clif Bar during a race. I’d eat the Shot Bloks or a gel or something. It can be a bit different. In a cross-country race, it is only an hour and a half, so fueling is important and I stick to a plan, but it’s not as important as maybe in marathon racing or on those longer training rides. On a four and a half hour ride, if you’re not on top of things, you will get  home and be starving. If you’re doing that one day, cool. You can make it happen. If you’re doing that day after day after day, it impacts your next workout and impacts the workout after that. It also can, long-term, affect your health and hormones if you’re consistently underfed on rides. It’s something I pay a lot of attention to.

Have you needed to make any changes to your diet?

I have a really weird response to gluten, and I’ve done blood tests and talked to different doctors about it, and we can’t really explain it. I get super congested and I get asthma if I eat gluten. I used to have an inhaler, and I’d have to take a daily inhaled steroid just to not have really bad breathing problems on the bike. Cutting out gluten completely solved that problem. During the off-season, in Italy, I was on the baguette diet for a few days, and I really feel the effects of it. It’s not bad enough that in your daily life, you would notice if you weren’t exercising. As soon as I go above Zone 2, I can’t breathe. Maybe one week a year that I’m a little more flexible in it, especially if I’m off the bike.

I went gluten-free my sophomore year of high school. That was before it was cool and trendy, and there were no options. The bread was terrible; you couldn’t get gluten-free pasta. You just had to cut it out. My dad actually had the same issue; he struggled with seasonal allergies and cutting gluten out worked for him, and that’s how we figured it out for me. Because of that, our family just ate differently. We ate quinoa and rice and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are my favorite food. Now, it is a lot easier. I can get gluten-free bread anywhere in Europe.

A LEARNING MINDSET AND THE FUTURE 

In addition to the community you have around you, are there resources or things you turn to stay grounded or motivated?

I aspire to be a life-long learner. That’s for sure my approach to cycling. In general, I read like crazy. It’s a perfect thing to do for recovery and to do on planes and when you’re waiting for many days, agonizingly, to start a World Cup race. A lot of times, it’s books. I listen to audiobooks. I listen to podcasts, and a lot of times, I am drawn to sports psychology stuff and things that  sometimes you wouldn’t even think relate to cycling. It’s just a completely random book you’re reading, and there’s little insights that come out that infuse what I do. You take the little nuggets away that mean something to you and connect with your place in the world, and that’s how reading is for me. A lot of books I read are related to sports, and I particularly like reading memoirs of awesome female athletes. It’s a good pre-race motivator.

Any favorites or female athletes you’ve really looked up to?

There’s so many, which is an awesome place to be now — we have so many strong, amazing female athletes. Lindsey Vonn has always been a huge inspiration to me. I just read Abby Wambach’s book. I just read Rhonda Rousey’s book. Being able to read about all these different approaches – you take little nuggets away. Maybe it’s Rhonda Rousey’s bad-assness and just willingness to fight and persevere. It’s not something where you read a book and say oh, I’m going to do it that way — it’s the little nuggets that give me sources of inspiration and help me find ways to improve.

Where does cycling go from here — are there exciting pockets you’re seeing that give you hope or excitement about the future.

I think there’s huge room for success in American cycling in the future. There’s so many athletes my age and younger that are blasting onto the scene across disciplines and getting a lot of support. I think USA Cycling has really stepped it up and is putting a lot of support behind those athletes. I think that there’s going to be some exciting results in the coming years. More so, beyond just the racing side and the strictly high-high level competitors, there’s been a huge influx of people just riding their bikes. The high school leagues, getting boys and girls – the ‘and girls’ part is really important to me. Getting boys and girls out on their bikes, out on the mountains, out in nature, and giving them the choice to do it competitively. I think with high school racing, there are really good race opportunities, and those races are competitive. If you want to make that your thing, you have the opportunity.

I think with cycling, which is not the case with all sports, there’s room for people who just love to do it. It doesn’t hurt anyone to have more people in the race. I mean, I’m sure the NorCal week had to split into North NorCal week and South NorCal week because they had so many student athletes, which is awesome. If there’s someone who wants to do it, and it’s their thing, and they’re the most competitive person, and they want to win the race, awesome. There’s also room for someone who just wants to try it out and might finish a little further back, but they’re still out there, and they’re valued and appreciated as parts of those teams. The cool wave that’s happening is more people being drawn into the sport just because it’s fun, and they love doing it, and it keeps them healthy, and active, and outside, not necessarily just the competitive side of it. Hopefully both continue to grow.

I’m picturing moms and dads out there across the country who are bikers who could be starting more high school teams. What’s the biking season in high school?

It’s typically in the Spring here in California. It has spread — I think it’s in 20 states now, so they have a lot of leagues and a lot of kids doing it.

It’s also really cool for the families. At these races, the families set it up — it’s like a big barbecue. Everyone comes, brothers and sisters running around. It’s a cool atmosphere that invites in so many different people and is a really positive thing for kids who maybe are not athletes. Maybe that’s not what they want to do, and that isn’t their whole identity, but it’s part of what they want to do. Someone who might get cut from the basketball team can ride their bike and be a valued, awesome member of that team, and doesn’t have to win. Just being there racing, being a part of the team, you bring a lot to the table. You can share that with your family and with your community. That’s a really special thing that mountain biking has. Hopefully we’ll make it a really huge sport in the future.

It’s on its way. You are a wonderful spokesperson for the sport.

I do my best. I really love it.

Listen to the full interview on The Common Threads podcast at: Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts | Spotify.

Interested in more from Kate Courtney? Check out her profile here on Prokit and her homepage.

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  1. […] from these women and others on Prokit, head to the original features with MTB world champ Kate Courtney, gravel cyclist and Dirty Kanza champ Alison Tetrick, 2x Olympian triathlete Sarah True and sports […]

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