Athletics appear to come naturally for some folks, and eight-time British Moto-Trials Champion Becky Cook is clearly one of those lucky athletes. The elite-level Enduro World Series racer’s list of achievements on the trials bike outshines her more recent gravity MTB career, for now. In addition to an octagon of UK championship titles, Cook was the European Trials Champion in 2012, five-time vice World Champion, and seven-time Trial des Nations World Champion. So, she’s wicked good at balancing and hucking a motorcycle.
In the human- and gravity powered-world of enduro racing, Cook is off to a fantastic start. After winning one of her first enduros in 2015 she went on to take 15th place in a UK-based EWS event in 2016. Cook then raced as a privateer for a Pivot-sponsored squad in 2017 before accepting a position on the Orbea Enduro Team in 2018 and 2019. Over the two seasons with full team support Cook earned 12 solid top-ten overall results, with her best finish in fifth place overall at the 2019 event in Rotorua, New Zealand.
The 2020 season saw Cook back on the privateer grind, managing all of her own flights and mechanical work for EWS events, in addition to her day job driving a truck for her family’s business. We asked her how the season went after her run at the Crankworx DH event, and she kindly agreed to share part of her story.
What initially piqued your interest in enduro racing?
I’d always enjoyed mountain biking and used to ‘mess’ around on bikes as a kid with my brother. As I got older I followed the downhill racing but never raced. Then when the Enduro World Series started it really captured me. The big long days riding in the mountains made me want to give it a go!
What made you trade in the moto boots for mountain bike racing? Are you still riding trials moto?
It was the end of 2014 whilst in Andorra for the Trial World Championship, I bought a cheap full suspension mountain bike to improve my fitness for the following season. Although still mainly focused on trials, I found myself enjoying riding the mountain bike more and more. Then in August 2015, a friend who owned a bike shop encouraged me to enter an enduro race in Wales and lent me a decent bike. It rained nonstop for the whole weekend but l had so much fun and ended up in first position! In 2016, I raced both Moto and Enduro but I was getting fed up with certain things in the trials and enjoying enduro more so I’ve focused solely on that from 2017 onwards.
How has your elite trials background influenced your enduro racing style and skills?
I think trials has helped massively with my technical skills and bike handling ability. When you are used to throwing a 70kg motorbike around, a mountain bike feels easy.
Trials or enduro: which sport is scarier and why?
They are both scary in different ways. For me, the sheer speed you hit obstacles at on a mountain bike is scary because I am more used to the slow speed of trials. But then the sheer size of some of the obstacles you have to hit in trials is scary.
Tell us a bit about racing DH on your enduro bike this year. How did that go?
After the EWS race in Slovenia was canceled I decided to race at Crankworx Innsbruck as I’d already booked the time off work. I went with no pressure, just to ride and enjoy it as I’d never ridden a Crankworx event or a downhill race, and I only have an enduro bike. It turned out to be a lot of fun, very chilled and I did pretty well, finishing 7th.
You recently moved from the Orbea team to a privateer position. What has been the most difficult part of that transition?
Everything from organizing and paying for all my travel, accommodation, etc., to doing my own mechanics at the races. I raced as a privateer in 2017 so I already knew what needed to be done but trying to manage my time so I get everything done and am still able to perform at my best in the races is really difficult.
Can you share some highlights from the Team GB race at the Trophy of Nations? What did you think of the format?
Everyone was a little unsure if it would work but Team GB really embraced it and the camaraderie really made it a special event to be a part of. We worked well as a team, riding each stage tactically and playing to each rider’s strengths. In the end, we surprised quite a few and were unlucky to be beaten. I really hope I get to race this event again and go for those rainbow stripes.
What’s your favorite off the bike (and off moto) hobby? What do you get excited about when not riding something?
I don’t really have any spare time for hobbies between racing, training, and work so it’s nice to just relax when I do get the chance.
What have been the most fun EWS venues for you and why?
I don’t think I could choose just one or two, every venue is different and riding bikes is fun wherever you are!
How do you balance training/racing with your private life? Are you working full time in addition to racing?
Yes, I am actually a lorry driver and I work for my family business back home. It is very difficult to balance work with training and racing but I have learned over the years as a privateer how best to manage it. The hardest thing is not getting enough rest/recovery. Fortunately, my family allows me to be quite flexible with my hours but still, it is far from ideal preparation.
As a privateer, how do your sponsorships work? You ride a Scott, but are they supporting your bid for the series in some way?
Scott UK has supported me this season by providing me with a bike and some gear. This bike, my Contessa Ransom is the sole bike I’ve used every day for training and racing this year so it had some use! Fortunately, I’ve got some great personal sponsors in Wight Mountain – my local bike shop. They keep [my bike] running smoothly all year round and have been key in getting some of my other sponsors on board, like Sixth Element Wheels, Burgtec, and Can’t Quit Cartel who designed my awesome kit.
If you could be on any supported factory team, which one would you want to join, and why?
Right now, I don’t think I would be too fussy – haha!
Is there a story behind the tattoo-font and spider graphics on your bike and kit?
Yes. So when Sixth Element had shown interest in supporting me I came across the Can’t Quit branded wheels on their website. I thought they looked really cool and read about Can’t Quit Cartel and its founder Steve Aitchison’s story. Although my situation was very different, the motto remained the same.
Following a conversation with Steve, he was really keen to design my kit and graphics for my bike. The tattoo font is the same as the Can’t Quit branding and the spider webs are inspired by the early 90’s Fox kit (coincidentally they have just re-released this!). I feel proud to wear this kit and promote a meaningful cause.
Do you perform all of your own repairs and maintenance at races? If so, do you have a favorite mechanical procedure that you enjoy?
Generally I do all my own repairs and maintenance at the races, unless it is something I’m not confident with, then I have to start blagging around the pits for help or find a local shop! I don’t have a favorite mechanical procedure that I enjoy, only hoping I make it to the finish without something breaking or falling off!
What are your thoughts on e-EWS racing? Will you give the e-bike gravity events a go any time soon?
I think e-bikes are great but I’m not sure about racing them myself anytime soon, but I would never say never.
Now that the season has come to a close, what’s the rest of 2020 look like for you? When will training start for 2021?
I am going to take a break from training for a few weeks, go back to work full time, and then depending on the support I can get for next season, make a plan from there. At the moment I really am not sure on 2021 as it’s too expensive for me to fund a whole season myself so I really need more backing to continue.