Kate Courtney on Training, COVID19, New Bike Sponsor, and Inspiring Young Mountain Bikers [Podcast]

Jesse DeYoung / Red Bull Content Pool

In 2012, Kate was the first American woman to win a UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Junior title. Then in 2017, she won the Under 23 World Cup Overall title. In 2018, she won gold at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, and then the next year she took the overall UCI Mountain Bike World Cup title. Recently, Kate was named to the 2020 Olympics team for cross country mountain biking.

This episode is sponsored by Boeshield (boeshield.com), makers of Boeshield T-9, a lube designed to waterproof your bike chain, lubricate cables, and prevent rust with its unique and effective all-in-one formula.

This month Boeshield is giving away a free prize pack to a lucky listener! Visit singletracks.com/Boeshield to enter — open to anyone the contiguous United States, no purchase necessary.

Singletracks: I’ve got to start off by asking you how this Coronavirus thing is affecting your training with all the races and everything sort of up in the air at this point?

Kate Courtney: Absolutely. I think it’s a tough time for all the cyclists, especially those who are very excited for the 2020 Olympic year, but it’s just an added challenge that we have to adapt to. I think there’s a lot of really positive parts of it. I personally love training at home and I have the chance now to put in a good strength block, make sure I’m healthy, eating good food, and of course getting out on my bike. Right now we’re still allowed to ride outside, so that’s a huge, huge bonus, but I’m prepared to ride indoors if that becomes necessary or if in any way that could help reduce the risk for other people.

Right now, we’re okay to be out in our open spaces, which is great. I think while it can be a really difficult time in terms of adjusting training and planning for goals in the future, it’s also been one, where our community has really come together, and for me it’s been great to connect with cyclists that are going through this and dealing with it and finding creative ways to adapt our training and know that we will be ready when we finally do get the chance to line up again.

Singletracks: That’s great. Well, have you had to change your training plans, in terms of when you’re going to peak and when you need to recover and that sort of thing?

Kate Courtney: In some ways. I’m a bit lucky in that I automatically qualified for Tokyo, so I have been really basing my season and my training around that July date, which of course we know is in question and we’re waiting to see what the best course of action is going to be with that. In terms of my training, it still is to peak for that one event, and for that I’m pretty grateful but of course for the next few weeks where we’re not racing and not quite sure what the next event will be that we’re targeting. It’s basically just a holding pattern, so getting some volume on the bike, getting some volume in the gym but not training too hard is actually giving me something we need to think about, because when the races are finally announced and the time does come, you want to be healthy and strong and ready to put in a really big top end block and get to the start line ready for those fast paced races.

Singletracks: Well, the story goes that your dad got you into mountain biking at an early age and I know a lot of mountain bikers would love to see their own kids enjoying the sport someday, so tell us how you got started.

Kate Courtney: Yeah. I discovered mountain biking when I was very young on the back of a tandem as the story goes, I have a lot of cute tandem photos with my dad, but for me, I think it was really important that I fell in love with the sport of mountain biking and with just being outside with exploring the mountain and engaging with my community, whether that be hiking with my parents or riding my bike with my dad, or being outdoors with friends. That was a really big part of my childhood and something that was very ingrained in me and drew me to the bike and drew me to these mountains, and continues to do so. I kind of discovered that side of the sport before I started racing or even knew about mountain bike racing. I think for kids from what I see, it’s important to let the bike be whatever it is to the kid at the time.

Let it be a fun tool to test yourself, a fun way to explore, a great way to spend time with your dad, and of course for me, a vehicle to blueberry pancakes was critical, still is critical, but I think that’s something that my parents did really well is they never expected anything to come of any of the different sports I did, or really put pressure on me to have it be a certain way or to make certain progress. They just let me explore and pursue what interested me and they supported that, and of course use that to teach me the values that would help me in those sports, sticking with it. If I wanted to do a sport, I had to put in my full effort and show up and be prepared, but there was never any pressure with it. I think for me that was a really special thing and can be unique when there are some families that are really passionate about their kids being cyclist.

Singletracks: Yeah. I mean, that seems to be the challenge for a lot of people who are mountain bikers themselves. Yeah. That just kind of pushing it too hard and not letting the kid sort of make it their thing, I think is a challenge.

Kate Courtney: Yeah. It is tough because we all love bikes and it’s exciting to be able to share that.

Singletracks: As a high schooler in 2012 you won the UCI World Cup Mountain Bike in the junior category. Were you a part of the Northern California NICA league?

Kate Courtney: I was. That’s actually how I discovered [inaudible 00:05:51]. I tried out for my… Well, try out as a strong word. There were no girls and there were five people. I joined my high school mountain bike team in the spring of my freshman year of high school, and at the time really honestly just saw it as cross training for cross country running. I think my freshman year of high school was the first time that I ever was really good at sports. I would say that I’ve always been an athlete and I was always celebrated for being a hard worker and learning and being really dedicated, but I was never winning in all the sports I did growing up.

I was never the breakout star, and my freshman year of high school I won the regional cross country meet and was really inspired that this is okay. I’m going to be an athlete, I’m going to be a runner. This is going to be great, and didn’t want to run track in the spring. I was like, “Okay. I need to support my running career, I’ll join this mountain bike team.” I would say five minutes after my first mountain bike race, I turned to my mom and said, “I’m never running again.” It was a pretty great introduction to the sport.

Singletracks: What was the local competition like in Marin County for mountain biking at that time? Were there a lot of other high schoolers that really pushed you, or was it still kind of a small, small group?

Kate Courtney: Well, it’s interesting. I think one thing about high school mountain bike racing is that it’s at a time when kids are developing really quickly, so a freshman versus senior is a big difference.

If you race the varsity category as a freshman or a sophomore, you’re going to have really good competition, so there’s that to start with. I also was part of the junior development team and often would train with the boys on that team. I was on an all boys high school mountain bike team as well. I think trying and keep up with those guys was always a good challenge, and it also was a really interesting time in the Norcal League, which is one of the oldest and biggest of all the NICA leagues. At the time, the top five in California between Norcal and SoCal were pretty much the same podium as the national championships. That was a really interesting time.

I’ve seen [inaudible 00:08:17] race Alexis Ryan. Who else was there? There’s a few other girls who raced professionally now, which is really crazy to think about that we all raced February through May every year at these, what I would consider now very local races, but it was a great kind of intro to the sport for me and it really taught me a lot about racing. It was highly competitive, especially when I was on the younger side of that category, so racing the older girls. It was also really close racing. I think that’s something that often as a junior or as a young racer, if the fields are smaller, they often split up and you don’t learn how to be tactical and how to win and how to come back from third and take the win, so having those really diverse race experiences were a huge part of my kind of stepping stone into mountain biking.

Singletracks: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Who were your athletic heroes when you were growing up?

Kate Courtney: I think I had a few of them. I started out ski racing, so that was my big sport when I was younger and I was never really good, but I loved it. Lindsey Vonn was always my big sports hero. I think she’s really a great symbol of hard work and dedication and pursuit of these big goals. She’s very tough, and I’m not sure if you’ve seen her most recent documentary, but it’s pretty inspiring. She was always my kind of hero when I was 13, 14, 15, and someone that I’ve looked up to in the sport.

Singletracks: That’s really interesting too. That to be able to see that in other sports and then be able to kind of use that to inspire you to do your own sort of thing.

Kate Courtney: I think it’s also a really special time to be a female athlete in any sport right now, and with social media and kind of the growing coverage of women in sport. It’s been cool now as more of an adult to have heroes in the sport again and to have people from across different disciplines, whether it’s meeting road bikers that are really inspirational or I’ve met cross country skiers, rock climbers, downhill skier that are really inspirational and are leading the way in their own sports. It’s been a cool time in the sport to be able to follow them and cheer for them, draw inspiration from them, but also kind of work together to see how we can improve the status for all women in sport.

Singletracks: That’s really inspiring. You graduated with a degree in human biology from Stanford in 2017 and honestly it seems like a lot of people don’t end up using their undergraduate degrees in the real world, but imagine you actually do in some ways. Is your education helpful in terms of collaborating with coaches and nutrition experts?

Kate Courtney: Absolutely. I think whether or not people use their degrees specifically, I think they use the skills that they build in college really broadly in whatever you do. I’m really happy that I chose to go to school and I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to do that, particularly while pursuing cycling. For me, I think the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from it is just to be really critical of your sources. I think that through a lot of those biology courses and social science courses, I had to parse through a lot of information, and as athletes are so many different approaches and so many things that you could be doing, so learning to parse through that information and find the things that are relevant to you, learn how to apply them and to also be able to be critical of the things that maybe don’t work for you or that don’t come up from a source that you believe in. That’s a hard skill to build, and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of value out of the work that I did in college.

Singletracks: That’s really cool, because again, a lot of people might look and say, “Oh, I’m going to be an athlete, so I don’t need to pursue this education or whatever.” It seems like you definitely get a lot of value out of it.

Kate Courtney: Yeah. I think even just in terms of your longterm goals. For me, being an athlete is a huge opportunity. It’s my favorite thing in the whole world to do is to race my bike. I’m really grateful to be able to do that, but I also recognize that my competition years are going to be… You could go for a long time. There’s a lot of women who are competing in their 40s and crushing it. I won’t say anything is impossible. If that’s what you want to do, you can, but for me, by the time I’m mid 30s, I will have raced on the world cup circuit for 20 years. I will have the opportunity to do something else in my life or even just use those skills to live a really well rounded and full life in cycling but also beyond it.

Singletracks: Was that hard to understand at the time you were going to school? Were you really anxious to like, I just want to ride my bike, or I don’t know. Were are you more grounded and have people around you who are able to say like, “Look, bikes are going to be there, your education, you’re really going to appreciate that down the road.”

Kate Courtney: Yeah. I think in some ways it was hard to balance the two, but I really wanted to go to college. I was really excited about what I was studying and it was an experience that I was really excited for. I think that’s the advice that I’ve given some of the younger riders who asked me about it is, “Oh, should I go to a school for biking?” Or like, “How do I fit my athletic career in this?” My answer is, go to a school that you’re excited to go to and it will be a positive part of your life and that will improve your racing. Being a well rounded and happy and balanced person makes you better at whatever you do. For me, there were a lot of aspects of being a full time student that were really difficult, but there were a lot of aspects that I think really helped me to kind of root down as an athlete to figure out what I wanted to do and to be confident and committed to doing that once I graduated.

Kate Courtney: I think in hindsight, if I had tried to race professionally full time from the first year, you’re 23, it would’ve been a really difficult and disappointing journey for me, because the first few years and 23 I was just learning how to race and working my way up a little bit at a time. In hindsight, I feel that being a college student held me back just enough that I could accept that progress. I say it was a really kind of linear rise in year 23. I was eighth overall, fourth overall, second overall, and then first overall. By the time, I graduated and that last year of winning the world cup overall, I finally feel that I was ready to embrace being a full time athlete and to believe that I could be at the top and that’s really what I wanted to do.

Singletracks: That sounds like great advice for sure for a lot of people. I read that in preparation for the 2019 season, you spent a lot of time improving your technical skills. I’m curious to know which skills did you work on and what does that training even look like for a professional?

Kate Courtney: I think it’s always a really important part of being a mountain biker. The courses are really technical and they’ve continued to change and require different skills. For example, drops and jumps and rock gardens that are often manmade, and so they’re not something that you maybe would intuitively know how to ride. It’s something that you need to practice and to identify, and so that’s been a goal of mine and a focus of mine since I was a junior and USA Cycling has helped us do skills camps and have different ways to work on this. In the last year and in the preparation for 2019, I was able to join the SCOTT-SRAM racing team, which has Thomas Frischknecht as our team director, and Frishy if you don’t know him, he’s a legend in the sport. For me, has been a really great mentor and that’s how I’ve been working on technical skills, chasing him around and getting a lot of tips on what I could be doing better, not only in terms of improving those features, but honestly more importantly in terms of improving speed and handling and braking and cornering in between them.

Singletracks: You mentioned that cross country courses are getting more technical. I mean, how do you and I guess sort of others in the field that maybe you’ve talked to, how do you feel about that? Is that something that athletes are saying, “Yeah, we’d like more technical.” or do you think it’s just being driven more by TV or marketing or trying to make it a little more exciting for the fans?

Kate Courtney: I think it’s a balance. When I was a junior, they were kind of first experimenting with building features and jumps and drops, and there were actually a few races where I think they went a bit far and they had a lot of riders in the elite category get hurt in South Africa and Pietermaritzburg. When I was a junior in Cannes, Australia, they had bunch of broken collarbones and broken ankles and just some of the top riders getting hurt. That is definitely not the goal of the promoters.

Definitely not the goal of the UCI, and so I think since then I’ve seen a really good, happy media and where writers are giving feedback and they’re making courses exciting and challenging, which for me as an athlete, I think is really important. We work really hard to be able to build these skills and to be able to ride strong and smooth on these really technical tracks. We want to be able to showcase that and we want a course that produces a fair and capable winner, but we also want it to be safe. There’s a lot of ways that you can make things really challenging and keep them really safe.

Singletracks: Along those lines you signed on with Red Bull in 2017 and most people associate Red Bull with more jumping and more, sort of lack of a better term, more extreme athletes. What’s the appeal to being a Red Bull athlete and what do they have to offer athletes like yourself who are more focused on endurance and speed sort of sports?

Kate Courtney: Completely. Yeah, I definitely had that association. As a younger athlete, I’d always seen really crazy amazing skills from Red Bull athletes, but I think they also just really stand for excellence and pushing boundaries and whatever you’re doing. I have seen so many of the endurance athletes that they sponsor not only doing amazing things in competition and pushing the boundaries of endurance sports, but having these projects that connect them to the community and make them real people, make them real well rounded, interesting people who have these pursuits within their sport that may not be just competition. I think for me the opportunity to join Red Bull was really a chance to be associated with that excellence and to get to explore the limits of my own performance, but also beyond that to start to understand what I wanted to achieve in cycling and beyond that. What projects might be interesting and what collaborations we could do to, not only push my results in the sport and help me achieve what I want, but to really push the sport forward as a whole.

Singletracks: It seems like they’re really the best that there is in terms of telling the stories of athletes like yourself and the more we see examples of them sponsoring athletes and what they’re able to do, it does make a lot of sense for sure.

Kate Courtney: I think that’s something that they do very well and that it’s a bit unique. They’re really a career partner. I signed with Red Bull my third year as a U23. Within my coaching team, we hoped that I was capable of making it to the top, but at that time I was really kind of a top five finisher, not even in the elite category. I was in the U23 category, so when they signed me I was kind of like, “Wait. Who? Me? Are you sure?”

Part of that partnership was really doing testing and improving my training and working with them as part of my team. and I think it’s been a really positive thing, not only in terms of that actual support, but also in terms of seeing that, this big company believes in me. Maybe I’m capable of more. It’s been really exciting to have them there from the very beginning of that first year that I started winning in U23 through winning the world championships and world cup overall. They’ve really been there every step of the way in terms of support, but also pushing me to look for the next big possible achievement.

Singletracks: That’s really interesting. Judging by what I’ve read and what I’ve seen on Instagram, clearly you’re a big fan of yoga and obviously they’re strength and flexibility benefits that help with mountain biking in terms of training and all that sort of thing, but are there other things that you get from yoga as well?

Kate Courtney: Absolutely. I think some people in endurance sports in particular are always looking for the secret thing that they need to be doing and they can do every day. I think people lose sight of the fact that often the best thing you can do is something you like to do and I always have loved going to yoga. I’ve loved the classes. I find it really grounding and it’s really good for my head. It’s very calming and it’s just something that feels good.

I have leaned into that and used it to be able to do more mobility and stretching without having to maybe sit and dedicate 20 minutes a day to doing that. I can do yoga and supplement it a bit with certain things that my PT gives me. It’s a really good grounding thing that doesn’t take any mental energy. I think there’s many different ways you can do that, and if you like sitting down and doing mobility, awesome, do it. For me, yoga has been a great way to balance out what I do on the bike, but also give me a form of training that doesn’t feel like training at all.

Singletracks: Well, after traveling the world to race your mountain bike, where are your favorite places to ride? Do you ever get to just ride mountain bikes for fun or are you always focused on your training?

Kate Courtney: I’m always having fun.

Singletracks: You do both. You can do both at the same time. That’s awesome.

Kate Courtney: I think there’s a few places. One of my favorite places will always be, of course, Marin County where I grew up. I think for most people who grew up riding bikes, wherever they started, is going to be a special place in their mind. Partially just because I can always remember like, “Oh, I had to walk this section. I couldn’t do this.” or just remarking on how much easier, how much faster you are. That makes those trails special for me. Beyond Marin, I would say Lenzerheide is one of my favorite places for potentially obvious reasons.

It’s been kind of a second home for me ever since winning that title, but most importantly since joining the SCOTT-SRAM team. I’ve had the chance to spend a bit more time over there and ride with Frishy who obviously knows all the secret spots. That’s one of my favorite spots.

Singletracks: What is it about these spots that are your favorites? I mean, is it the scenery? Is that what gets you or are you focused on the quality of the trails or the climbs? What is it that makes a really good place to ride for you?

Kate Courtney: I think it is a combination. It’s a complete experience and it can be a different thing. Riding in Marin, some of my rides aren’t necessarily that thrilling, even just riding up railroad grade fire road is one of my favorite things to do on a mountain bike, and that’s because that’s the hour and a half loop that my dad and I have always done. Ever since I was little we’ve always done that loop, used to take us three hours. Now, it takes us an hour and 15 and we have to add on. Something like that can be really special and fun in a way that doesn’t necessarily rely on the quality of the trail.

Singletracks: Have your goals shifted after you won the overall UCI World Cup title? I imagined that was probably one of your big goals and now that you’ve finally accomplished it, what do you do? What do you do next?

Kate Courtney: I think that’s one of the fun things about our sport is there’s always the next goal. Of course 2020 is centered around the Olympics and the World Cup season, the World Championships, those are all going to be targets. They are also keeping us on our toes with the schedules. This year will be about adapting to that and my goal is just to be ready whenever I get the chance to line up.

Singletracks: How does the Olympics stack up with the World Cup in terms of that excitement? I mean, it’s got to be tougher because it is only every four years, so I guess does that make it a little more special for you?

Kate Courtney: Yeah. I’d say the Olympics is the pinnacle of any sport. The World Championships within our sport is obviously the kind of prized win, that prize rainbow Jersey. The Olympics goes far beyond just mountain biking and it has a big reach, so I think that’s something that is really special and I hope I get the opportunity to race there this year.

Singletracks: Let’s hope so. Let’s hope that it ends up happening when it’s supposed to happen and that everybody is safe and healthy.

Kate Courtney: Completely.

Singletracks: UCI competition has tended to be dominated by riders from Europe, which obviously makes your results as an American, all the more impressive. Why do you think that European riders have done so well over the years?

Kate Courtney: First of all, I will say that if you go on the UCI website right now, they recently updated the points and the US went to first in the world for women for the first time in probably 20 years. I’m not sure how long it’s been, but that was a really exciting moment. I think one that we are all very proud of as a team to have kind of perform to the level that we are in that spot. Yeah, I think from what I see, cycling is just a bigger sport in Europe. It’s a little bit easier for them to race at a high level when they can just drive across the border and get to an HC race no matter what. The US is a bit bigger, so we’re often flying to get competition and there’s the last races and they’re a bit less technical.

I think the bigger thing is just that they start a bit younger as well. I think for me, when I started in the junior category and did my first World Cup, I was blown away. I couldn’t ride the course. It was so challenging and the girls were so strong and really aggressive and knew how to race. I felt pretty new to it. Part of that is because they had been racing each other in Swiss cups and Austrian cups and French cups since they were 10. That’s something that I think can be a huge advantage early on, but I actually think that for me, having a variety of athletic experiences has become a bigger advantage later in my career. Ski racing, having that full muscular strength and having really good bone density from doing a lot of sports where I jumped around as a kid. I think all of those things can help with your longevity in the sport. It just does take some time to close that gap.

Singletracks: What do you think now that NICA is in more places that that’s going to have an effect? I mean, it seems like you’re sort of part of that first wave of athletes who had that available to them and now it seems to be paying off.

Kate Courtney: I hope to see that. I think for me, one goal is to see more riders from the US racing at this level and making it a career, if they so desire. I also think NICA has a role far beyond that, which is just getting more kids outside and on bikes. It’s really a sport that is a life long sport. It’s a lifestyle sport and you can do it far beyond your high school years, but it’s also one that’s very inclusive. I think for kids at that age, having a sport where nobody gets cut from the team and the more the merrier on the trail, which I really think is the ethos of the mountain bike community, is a really positive influence and also will really go to growing the American mountain bike community across the country.

Singletracks: You’ve been really passionate about getting younger girls involved in mountain biking through various partnerships and also volunteering with the Little Bellas program. How has that experience been for you and what’s sort of your outlook for women in particular in mountain biking?

Kate Courtney: My outlook is really positive for women in mountain biking. I think it’s a really special time to be an American lady on a bike. We have equal prize money. There is really deep, really competitive fields. The racing’s really exciting, and I think it’s starting to get more and more recognition and attention. I definitely love to see little girls on bikes. That’s one of my favorite things and being able to show them, be some kind of positive role model is a really big honor for me and I take that also as a very serious responsibility.

One of the biggest things that I’ve seen, and this is mostly through Little Bellas, is just that so many life lessons can be taught just by getting on a bike. You learn to challenge yourself that you can do more than you thought you could do. I think for little girls learning that you can get dirty and fall down and get up, be strong and be tough. Those are things that are better imparted on a bike ride, and they mostly teach themselves. It’s something that I really believe in. I believe it can be really powerful and I’m excited to see that from my perspective, there are so many more girls on bikes these days than when I was growing up.

Singletracks: That’s really cool to see. Well, last year you changed sponsors from Specialized to SCOTT. I’m curious to know, is it tough to get used to riding a new bike when you make a change like that?

Kate Courtney: There’s definitely a transition, but it depends more on what equipment you’re going to. For me, I’m really lucky that I am going to what I believe to be one of the best teams, one of the best brands and we ride the best equipment available. Being on the SCOTT SPARK of course took a little bit of getting used to, but it’s definitely been a huge part of my progression as an athlete and it has a lot of features that have really helped me technically. I think that’s been actually a really great change. I think also as an athlete it can be a bit scary to change everything at once. We love to have our own, pick the lucky shoes and this cleat position is perfect. I can’t get new shoes. I can’t change any of these things.

For me doing a full rehaul on all my equipment helped me to actually identify things that maybe weren’t perfect but that I had been afraid to change. I actually was wearing a shoe size that was half a size too big and… Yeah, there is a lot of small tweaks that you just, you never questioned your shoe size. You never wake up and say, “Am I 38 and a half instead?” until you’re looking at a new brand and you say, “Okay. I guess I need a 38, a 38 and a half, a 39.” I want to try everything and you say, “Oh, actually this is way better.” That’s just a small detail, but I do think for people, even if you’re staying on the same brand or if you’re just getting new equipment, being really critical about getting bike fit, and having an open mind about what might work best for you, is a really good strategy to finding the right fit.

Singletracks: I’m starting to get the impression that this is a big part of your success, right? Is just how you are able to look at things. To some people getting a new bike, it might be a scary thing and it’s like, I can’t change this, but for you it seems like you look at it as an opportunity to say, okay, let me look at everything that I’m doing and see if I’m doing it right and maybe I can improve something here.

Kate Courtney: I think that is a good summary of part of my process, and I think for me and my coaching team, a lot of it is about just not having an ego with anything. That’s hard to do sometimes, but to be really open to other people’s ideas yet still critical and confident in your approach, is a hard balance to strike. One of the people who does that best is my coach, Jim Miller. He will entertain any idea, but he researches it and he thinks about it a lot and then he makes a decision and you can really trust that that is the right decision. I don’t have that panic of like, “Oh, am I doing the right thing? Are we paying attention to the right things?” That I think you feel when your coach is, “Oh, I know everything, I’m not going to change anything. This is your program. It’s the best program.”

Jim, on the other hand, will be like, “Oh, you heard that? Interesting. Send it over to me.” I’ll send it. He’ll say, “You know what? Nope, that’s stupid.” or he’ll say, “That’s really interesting. This one aspect of that is a smart idea to try.” He doesn’t just, he’s not changing his mind every which way, but he’s open to learning and he assumes that there’s always something to learn and an advantage to be gained from having an open mind. I think that’s what I found in changing brands and being open to what ways it might be better, what ways it might be challenging and really capitalizing on those opportunities.

Singletracks: That’s really great. It sounds like you have a great example in your coach and it also just seems like given your background, that’s just sort of part of your personality as well and obviously it’s served you really well. Would you say that you have any particular rivals in the women’s elite field for this year in particular?

Kate Courtney: I think this year is going to be a little bit of an interesting one. Of course there’s so many strong women, and I’m used to competing with a field where anyone in the top five, top 10 can win. I think it’s going to mix things up a little bit. We’ve had a few injuries this year. We’ve also had the Coronavirus situation disrupt our racing schedule. I think it’s going to be about what athletes can keep it together and focus on their preparation and be ready on the day that counts.

Singletracks: It’s tough too, to think about just even given where somebody lives in the world, right? They may be impacted in a different way than say you are in that can affect their training as well. Definitely seems like it’s all sort of up in the air right now.

Kate Courtney: Absolutely. It’s definitely going to be revealed as my mom says, all will be revealed.

Singletracks: If only we knew when, right? That’s the hard part is that, yeah. None of us know when things are going to get back to normal, if they ever do.

Kate Courtney: Completely, but we will be ready when it does happen.

Singletracks: Yes, I believe that. How has it been riding with and learning from Nino Schurter as a part of the SCOTT team?

Kate Courtney: It’s been great. I am really lucky to be on that team and to be able to learn from Nino and of course Frishy, our team manager. I think both of them have a lot of experience and have had a whole range of experiences on the bike from winning to having really tough races, having seasons that went really well for Nino, mostly seasons that went really well. For both of them I think they have been able to really push the limits of their abilities and stay at the top of their game year every year. Nino continues to innovate and push himself and find new ways to get an edge even when he’s been at the top for so long. I think for me it’s really a great environment to be in. I think they are able to really prepare the best of any team I’ve ever seen, but also be relaxed and trust that, so it’s a really fun environment and of course when things go well, it’s a really, really fun environment.

Singletracks: Yeah, it seems like it. Finally, I want to ask you, if you weren’t a professional mountain biker, what would you be doing?

Kate Courtney: I don’t know. I think for me at the moment, I’m really happy doing what I’m doing and haven’t spent too much time thinking about that. I’m just lucky that I get to do this as my job for right now. I think for the next few years, I’m really focused on seeing how far I can take the sport and what I can achieve. Beyond that, I think I’ll have the opportunity to do something else, whether that’s getting a different job or just writing book, who a knows? I think the options are pretty limitless.

Singletracks: Well, clearly you’re very focused and so I guess that answers shouldn’t surprise me. That’s who you are and you’re focused on your goal, and that’s why you are so successful at what you do. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. I really enjoyed it and I know our listeners will too.

Kate Courtney: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Keep up with Kate Courtney on Instagram @kateplusfate.

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