German National Downhill and Enduro Champion, Raphaela Richter, only entered two EWS races last season, where she placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in the elite women’s category. To ice that cake of impressive gravity prowess, the 22-year-old athlete manages those results without the support of a team or dedicated sponsors. She works as an optician in Germany and only attends the races she can fit into her busy schedule. That’s right, no team mechanic, no one making her meals or booking her flights, no masseuse or team management to deal with the B.S. so she can focus on the race, and, most importantly, no one paying for her race program so she can train instead of working.
Why doesn’t she have these vital resources that most elite level athletes depend on in order churn out peak performance? Your guess is as good as mine. When I’ve asked pro team managers why they don’t have more women on their squads the common reply has been “there simply aren’t any women out there to hire.” Hmm… Someone needs to sponsor this lady, quick.
At the fifth EWS event of 2019 in Les Orres, France, Richter won three of the seven stages, coming in second on every other stage to finish the day in second place behind the series overall winner Isabeau Courdurier. Her only other EWS appearance of 2019 was just up the road in Zermatt Switzerland, where she finished 3rd behind Rocky Mountain’s Andréane Lanthier Nadeau, with Courdurier on the top step. Those results are built on a far longer list of wins Richter earned last year and throughout her impressive U21 career.
I recently chatted with Richter on a break between training and work to get a better idea of who she is and what her racing program will look like for 2020.
What first drew you into gravity riding and racing?
I did my first enduro race in 2012. I was a bit fed up with XC racing and was thinking about quitting racing. But then my brothers came up with this enduro stuff and I quite liked it a lot. The whole atmosphere and the technical riding just suits me better.
Which tracks and trails do you train on most often in Germany?
Mostly at home in the nearby forests [Franconia, Germany]. With work there’s not too much time to go somewhere farther.
How has your career/schooling as an optician affected racing, and how has racing affected your career?
I was a bit lost in life in general before I started my vocational training as an optician. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a professional racer and I found out that my geography studies weren’t the right thing either. So I had to find out what to do and that stressed me out quite a bit during that time.
Now that I know I want to do racing as a professional, it is a bit stressful at times to be working 40 hours a week but it also helped me to find out what I want to do and achieve in life. Racing affects my career concerning organizing training, racing and my work schedule (that is different every week). So most of the time I get things working quite well but every once in a while I stay too early/too late at work or attend to work when I normally had a day off. Sometimes I just get confused.
After such a successful season in 2019, will we see you at more EWS events this year?
I will for sure be in Burke, Whistler, and Zermatt. I also really want to race in Canazei and Petzen but I can’t surely tell if it will work out. Probably my practical final exams will be right during that time when the EWS will be held in Canazei and Petzen.
Do you plan to compete in more DH races this season than last?
I’m also planning to compete at a few, but I want to do more enduro racing. I feel like that suits me better and to be honest, I’m also enjoying it more.
Will you be on a full factory team this year, or still shredding Juliana privateer style?
I will do my own private program pretty similar as in 2019.
What is your favorite part of training?
Riding is the best. I like to see the progress whilst riding my bike and I like to see that all the not so fun training pays off as soon as I’m on the trail. But to be honest, in the wintertime gym training gets me good too because there you can also see the progress a lot.
What did it feel like to take second and third place in the two EWS races you entered last season?
I was just so happy because I realized that my hard work during the winter had paid off and it also gave me a bit of a confidence boost.
Putting together a good enduro or DH run takes a high level of focus and composure. What do you do or think about to get your mind in the best place for those descents?
I’m always riding the best when I don’t think too much. Of course, I’m focused and I try to picture the stage or the DH track before the run. But as soon as the clock is ticking, I’m living in the moment and focused on breaking points and gears.
What’s your favorite bike repair project?
None – it drives me crazy. Except for putting a fresh set of tubeless tires on the rim and putting air into it. I like that ‘plop’ sound.
If bikes disappeared from Earth, what would you do with your energy and competitive drive?
I guess I’d try to invest in further education in my optician’s job and go studying again or something like that.
What question do you most wish people would ask you?
If someone asked me how to corner like me.
What’s your favorite gelato flavor?
Chocolate is always good but at the moment I’d go for pistachio.