Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Sponsored Content

A Conversation with Kate Courtney

Mountain Bike racer Kate Courtney reflects on her life and career

I first started mountain bike racing in high school as part of the NorCal High School League. I was a runner my Freshman year in high school and wanted to find a sport that would help me cross train in the Spring. I wasn’t a big fan of track and one of the things I loved most about running was being outside exploring the trails with my teammates. When I heard my high school had a mountain bike team, it seemed like the perfect fit. I loved riding my bike for all of the same reasons I loved to run—exploring, adventure, freedom, connection. But when I started racing, something clicked. The racing itself was exhilarating, requiring a mix of technical, tactical, physical and mental skill that intrigued and motivated me. More than that, it was just plain fun. I felt like mountain bike racing was what I was meant to do. 

***

I believe being a great athlete means being open to learning and improving. Every day, I learn something new that might help me refine my craft physically and mentally. Over the course of my career, I have had so many mentors that have contributed to my knowledge of the sport. Early in my career, I was teammates with [fellow pro XC racer] Lea Davison who showed me how to compete at the top level with equal parts joy and ferocity. My coach Jim Miller has been by my side since 2017 helping me explore the limits of my physical endurance and mental toughness. My team manager Thomas Frischknecht has become my greatest mentor and role model, as he helps me improve my skills as an athlete and person. Together, all of these mentors have helped me recognize that if you can just improve a little bit each day—as an athlete or as a person—you can really build the life of your dreams. 

***

I think the key to my racing success is consistency. I have consistently worked hard and made progress in my training year after year. Small changes over a long period of time add up. 

***

My training involves a lot of mileage on the bike, time in the gym, mental preparation through meditation and visualization and of course tons of focus on recovery through yoga, mobility and very good sleep!

***

I use Hyperice as part of my pre-workout and post-workout routine. Before training, it is a great way to warm up my muscles, and in particular loosen up my hips before hopping on the bike. Post training, I use Hypervolt to work out any tension and start the process of recovering my muscles. One of my other favorite tools is the Normatec Recovery System, which is immensely helpful for my muscles, but also keeps me seated and still for a period of time. Usually it is a time that I can read, write or just mentally relax.

***

My proudest achievement is my World Championship win in 2018, but my proudest race would be my World Cup win at Les Gets, France, in 2019. I was in the rainbow jersey and had won multiple World Cups that season, but sadly without my family present. I was so afraid that I would never have the chance to win in front of them in the rainbow jersey (you have to be the current world champion and on fabulous form, something you can never take for granted). In Les Gets, I was able to make that dream a reality and put together a great ride in front of my family. 

***

I love what I do and find ways to infuse joy into every aspect of the hard work. A big piece of this is sharing it with my family and close friends, from happy hour rides to training with my dad.

***

I believe that mental strength in races is something that can be trained, rather than a character trait. I work with a sports psychologist to develop a mental strategy and mantra before every race so that no matter what happens, I have something to help me refocus and keep moving forward.

***

My lifestyle is built around cycling not just because it is my job, but because it is one of my favorite things in the world. Because of that, however, it is even more important to make time to feel like a human being and not always identify myself as an athlete. My fiancé Will is certainly a big part of my off-bike time, as is our dog Monte who we got during the pandemic. Monte, in particular, has helped me focus on the present and appreciate that not everything in life has to have a specific purpose and goal. Sometimes it can just be fun. 

***

My advice to up and coming racers is to focus on trajectory rather than a starting point. I think it’s easy to get caught up in race results or power numbers and try to chart exactly where you are going. I would encourage young racers to just focus on one or two things each year that they really want to work on.

***

My goal for upcoming competitions is to give em hell. That’s what my grandpa has said to me before competitions since I was a little girl running track in middle school. My goal is to give everything I’ve got! And to remember and honor all of the people that have been a part of getting me to where I am today.