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Katy Winton on Enduro Racing, the EWS and Women’s Participation

The flying Scots woman is soaring her way through the World Enduro scene

Katy Winton hails from the mountain bike mecca of Peebles in the Scottish Borders so, it’s no wonder that Katy’s path leads her down some steep, technical and gnarly mountain sides where she’s found her home in enduro racing.

Riding for Trek Factory Racing, Katy has been on fire this season with top ten finishes at each of the four Enduro World Series rounds thus far. Her most recent performance in Wicklow, Ireland at round 4 saw Katy really come into her own as she sailed into 2nd place.

To better understand how this highland warrior came to be an enduro star, we caught up with Katy for an all access areas interview.

What was your first bike?

It was a wee blue bmx sort of thing with red tyres! I thought it was SO cool!

Do you have siblings, and did they influence your riding growing up?

Yep, I have a younger brother. My dad got us into bike riding and my brother was always more of a daredevil than me which meant I was always pushing my limits to try and do what he was doing… and getting very frustrated when fear took over and I couldn’t ride a section! I’ve always been really competitive.

Was there a specific event that made you think “yeah, I wanna do this for a living?”

There was never a pivotal point where I wanted to do if for a living as such because I didn’t think that was possible! In XC, it was when I first got onto the Scottish “Talent Team” for Cross Country MTB and my coach said I could go to the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics if I wanted. When he said that, I realised that it was exactly what I wanted to do “when I grew up” haha, I was 13 at the time! At that point I hadn’t considered the fact that you could even make a living out of bike riding, I always thought I’d have a ‘normal’ job.

How have you ended up in enduro over other riding disciplines?

It’s as a result of quite a horrible time in my life actually. I recently talked about the whole story in a raw and honest interview with downtime podcast … it was hard to talk about but people’s response to it was quite overwhelming so, if you’d like to listen you can: HERE. Basically, whilst training to try and qualify for the Commonwealth games I overtrained to the point of nearly giving up bike riding

Basically, whilst training to try and qualify for the Commonwealth games I overtrained to the point of nearly giving up bike riding altogether. All I associated with bikes was the pain. There was no fun in it anymore and I was so physically and mentally broken I wasn’t even myself anymore. This was right at the time when the EWS started up in 2013 and I’d planned to do a couple to break up my XC season but it went from a few rounds to all the European rounds when I decided to quit XC.

A difficult decision as it was something I’d been working towards all my life but was the best decision I ever made! That summer I had the best time riding with friends in massive mountains on a full bouncing bike which blew my mind after years on a hardtail and discovered the wonders of chairlifts and big mountain riding! Although it was the hardest thing I have ever had to overcome I wouldn’t change it because without that I wouldn’t be living the life I am now!!

With legendary riders such as Tracy Moseley and Casey Brown on the Trek Factory Enduro team, Katy is surrounded by phenomenal bike riders and inspirational women.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or habits?

I think every racer has their own wee ritual. I just like to make sure everything is tidy, which if you know me is ridiculous because I am not naturally a tidy person at all… But to leave the morning of a race with things in their place just feels like I’m getting everything in line. Or maybe I’m just getting old and realising that tidiness is worth the effort

What’s the best thing about being a professional rider?

Getting to ride sweet bikes all over the world and race hard as my “job” – that makes me very happy!

Where’s your favourite place to ride your bike, and why?

Whistler, the bike park, the trails outside of that are SO good and the dirt is amazing, it’s my favourite style of riding! I loved New Zealand this year too, the likes of Queenstown, Craigieburn and Wairoa Gorge were right up there.

How were you feeling as you headed into Wicklow?

I wasn’t feeling great after Madeira for a number of reasons so I had a lot of work to do to turn things around to get ready to race again. Coming into the week of Wicklow the team nailed the accommodation so it was super chilled which was ideal preparation for the race!

How was it to podium and did you expect such a great result?

OH, MY DAYS! It was the best feeling ever! After my results and stage times at the first two EWS’ I proved to myself that a podium result was within reach I just needed to put a full day together – sounds simple but a lot can happen over so many stages! Ireland is somewhere I feel confident as the trails are similar to home though so I was expecting a good race I just needed to give my best with minimal mistakes. I was really pleased with my riding, I felt like I was laying down everything I had on every stage which is a great feeling and even better when it’s enough to be on the podium!! It was extra special

Ireland is somewhere I feel confident as the trails are similar to home, so I was expecting a good race I just needed to give my best with minimal mistakes. I was really pleased with my riding, I felt like I was laying down everything I had on every stage which is a great feeling and even better when it’s enough to be on the podium!

It was extra special beacause my Mum and Dad were watching as they stayed for the end of the race for the first time in the three years it’s been to Ireland (they’re both teachers so couldn’t get time off) so it was really amazing to have them there to be at my first podium!

How do you feel the season has gone so far?

Really well, better than I had imagined! I am always looking for progression but this was a big jump. There is still plenty of racing to go but I’m really happy to have started strong and can’t wait for the rest of the season!

What rounds are you excited for that are still to come?

All of them! They are all another chance to get on that box again and now I’ve been up there I just want it more!

 

What’s the women’s competition like this year and are you seeing any increase in women without teams?

I think this year the competition is at its most unpredictable. Cecile is running away with it for now and it was great to see Isabeu take her first win, hopefully she recovers quickly from her illness to be back up there too, but, at the moment, at each round there have been new faces on the podium with no predictable order so it’s all to play for.

I’ve seen an increase in female riders without teams but with their own personal sponsors which are awesome because that’s how you start and shows that they are serious about racing to the highest level! The likes of Bex Baraona, Noga Kerom and Becky Cook among others are killing it, I hope more team opportunities open up for them to get more support too.

How has women’s participation in enduro changed since you started out?

Ever increasing! On the trails everywhere I’ve travelled I now see groups of women heading out to ride, female organised events which I think is great for making friends and creating riding groups within a community. The EWS participation is always really healthy, we have the core racers that compete in the whole series but everywhere we go the number of new women racing hard or just giving it a go and embracing these tough races is awesome to see!

How do you think brands, media bodies and athletes can help to encourage more women into MTB?

Keep covering women in bike riding and racing in a positive light.  It’s awesome to see crankworx doing a lot of instagram take overs at the moment with a lot of the female racers as it’s so cool to see things from their perspective and show that they’re having just as much fun as the guys and riding FAST! I’m a big fan!

Really, through solid equal coverage of male and female riders and racers means you’ve got something for everyone to be inspired by. The more people who know about bike riding or racing the more people who will get into biking or try a race or show them what’s possible on two wheels… whether they are male or female. Great coverage should mean more people on bikes and that sounds good to me!

Katy has four round left of the 2017 Enduro World Series with her next challenge taking place in the steep and technical mountains of Millau, France this weekend June 30th – July 1st.

You can follow Katy’s journey on social media and see how she gets on with the rest of the season to come.

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