A week prior to the second round of the Enduro World Series, I sat down with one of Scotland’s rising stars to waffle a load of nonsense and ask a few questions. Katy Winton is a name you will be hearing a lot more of in the years to come. Relinquishing an opportunity to represent her country at a home Commonwealth Games might seem like madness, but as you’ll see below, it’s not without good reason. Riding and racing bikes is all about having fun and going fast for the 19 year old from Peebles, something that wasn’t forthcoming in cross country racing.
A jump to enduro and this happy wee scamp seems even happier. Katy is now part of a group of very fast young ladies leading the charge at the Enduro World Series. Once she’s got her legs back, expect serious results from her. Two solid finishes at the opening two rounds (16th) and a solid result despite some disasters at last weekend’s Les Deux Alpes (22nd), shows a great ability to adapt to changing tracks and formats.
Ladies and gents, I give you Miss Katy Winton….
Lives: Tweed Valley, Scottish Borders
Favourite trail: A trail up Inners [Innerleithen] that is super steep with some sweet turns you just drop into! I love it!
Bikes: Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon (enduro race machine), Kinesis Maxlight 810 Carbon (XC race machine), Kinesis FiveT Cross bike and DMR Reptiod. I have more bikes than my dad now. He’s well jealous!
Pete Scullion: So Katy Winton, what is riding bikes to you?
Katy Winton: Fun. I like going fast. It’s an escape, as it is for most people, to get away from day-to-day life. It’s all about going faster.
PS: How did you get into riding bikes?
KW: My dad has always ridden bikes from the beginning. He’s one of those guys that was mountain biking before Glentress was Glentress, riding all the walkers’ paths. He got my brother and me into it. He’d take us to Laggan in the snow, almost an ‘are you tough enough?’ kinda thing.
PS: How did you get into racing bikes?
KW: Dad took me racing when I was twelve when I was deemed mature enough to be able to deal with losing. I went and won my first race though, so I didn’t have to deal with losing for a while. Racing spiralled from there. I did my first race way, way back, but I discounted that because I didn’t know what was going on (laughs). My first proper race, where I understood the whole racing concept, was at Glentress. It was a kid’s series that went along side the SXC series race there. It was just a wee loop, but I went round and smashed it. It felt amazing. I even got a wee mug with a ‘Number 1’ on it.
PS: How long did you race XC for and to what level?
KW: XC racing is where I started and where I’ve been since this last winter. It would have been Primary 7 (11-12 years old) when I started racing XC. So I was racing XC for 8 years. When I was 13 as a juvenile I was selected to be part of the Scottish Talent Team then moved up into the British Talent Team before moving onto the Olympic Development Programme for 2 years. I did 2 years of racing World Cups, and in my second year as a Junior I raced the Junior World and European Champs. So I was racing to a really high level and I was pleased with where I was going. After doing all that and experiencing the World Cups and seeing all the pro riders that compete, I knew the top of the sport was where I wanted to be. After that I decided to stay at home in Scotland and not go on to the British Cycling Academy, which worked well, so I thought. Still being at home I had an element of freedom and raced some other disciplines to keep things exciting. It was then I realised enduro was putting the fun back into my bike riding again.
PS: For 2013, your focus has moved from XC to enduro. What made you decide to change?
KW: It was a culmination of various things but now that I’ve changed, I realise I really wasn’t happy doing what I was doing. Because I wanted to be at the top so badly I carried on regardless. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I knew at certain points it was going to get tough but I’d just keep going, keep my head down and keep working hard. But it got to a point where I had to take a step back and ask myself “what is going on? Why am I even doing this?” I was banging my head off a wall trying to prepare to compete at a level I wasn’t ready to be at. I realised it was doing me more harm than good. During the 2012 XC season I’d raced a bit of downhill and enduro and absolutely loved every minute of it. I love going downhill really, really fast. Enduro matches my strengths and made me really happy. I knew if I wanted a career in cycling, which is what I really want, for me it is going to be in enduro, not XC. People want to see passionate riders and I found my passion in enduro.
PS: You are one of the few young female XC racers making a go at enduro racing in 2013. You mentioned your strength is descending and you enjoy descending, but what appealed to you about enduro that you couldn’t find in XC?
KW: Basically XC is about an hour and a half of absolutely smashing yourself, which I like because you get a buzz afterwards. It takes a certain type of person to understand that, and a lot of people don’t get it. Going through the pain and what is involved in winning, then coming out on top is quite addictive. With enduro though, the atmosphere is different. Everybody’s there having fun, getting stoked on bikes, there’s a lot less pressure. It’s just so much fun! It’s just bike riding that you do at home but getting a bit of timing out of it, smashing it a little bit harder then having a chat on the way back up the hill to do it again. I don’t think anyone can find that unappealing to be honest.
PS: How did you, or didn’t you, change preparation this winter for enduro to what you had done previously for XC?
KW: Well, this winter I was still fully focused on XC so, my training was very much the same as I’ve done every other winter before but we went in to the gym to try something new. Which backfired for the XC and just made me heavy and really slow, we basically just got it wrong. But actually it meant my upper body had built up quite a lot which was great for the enduro (laughs). I came back and I was able to throw a bigger bike around that I hadn’t been able to do, so it was really positive from that point of view. Recently, since I’ve moved from XC to enduro, it’s been a lot more about getting in timed runs and on technique. In XC you spend a certain amount of time on technique but you can get by with minimal skills. I was always stronger at descending so I just took it for granted that I could just get down things where as now the whole point for the race is to get down quickly so it becomes a lot more about that. Which is exciting because a part of my XC training, the training sessions that focused on descending were the ones I looked forward to the most. I could go and churn out mile after mile on the road bike or smash the fire roads on the XC bike, but spending that quality time on the bike getting corners dialled and that sort of thing is what I always enjoyed. Heading out for a training session to be told that we’re focusing on technical skill is always a great feeling!
PS: What are you plans for the year, racing/adventure/holiday-wise?
KW: I’m racing all the European rounds of the Enduro World Series, which I’m very excited about. I’ll hopefully be heading out for some Irish enduros in August and September, which should be fun as I’ve only heard good things about them. Hopefully I’ll be riding Torridon, in October with Pete as he’s told me great things about the trails there (laughs). Plenty of adventures to come!
PS: I suppose with the Enduro World Series being new to everyone and that you’ve not raced enduro on the continent before, it’s all a bit of an adventure in itself?
KW: Yeah, for sure, the whole thing is an adventure. I’m learning all the time. When I went to Italy for the opening round [of the EWS], it was all-new. When I go to an XC World Cup, I know what I’m doing, I know what warm-up I need to do etc. etc. In Italy though, I was trying to learn a course, trying to learn several different tracks, plus trying to figure out the format, figure out how people go about it and what’s the best way to do different things. It’s not like I was there just learning the tracks, I was basically having a crash course in the discipline of enduro. The thing is though, the format for each round of the EWS is different, so I had just got the first race dialled in Italy and then Val d’Allos had a chair lift which meant more learning again, which makes it exciting.
PS: Do you change your #pivot4amidget (I’m allowed to say that) depending on the race or do you keep everything fairly stock?
KW: I changed a couple of things recently that made a huge difference. My stem is now shorter, down to 50mm, which has been one of the biggest positive changes. I feel like I’ve a lot more control over the bike now with the shorter stem. The stock forks were a set of 150mm Fox Forks, but I’ve changed them out to a 160mm X-Fusion Slant fork, which has improved the bike no end. I didn’t think the bike could get any better than it was, but the new forks make me feel invincible on the bike. Me and the Pivot are getting to be quite a team. The change from the alloy to the carbon Mach 5.7 has also given it a significant performance advantage, to allow me to perform at the big races as it can handle anything I can throw at it. It’s a really confidence-inspiring bike and I know I can hit anything on it and hit it FAST!
PS: Thank you Katy! Anything else?
KW: There seems to be a stereotypical idea that female cross country racers can’t descend properly, and to some extent I think that’s true because you can get by with basic skills. I’ve been doing it for years! (Laughs) That said, I spoke to a lot of girls out in Punta Ala that have come from cross country, so there are good all-round riders in the cross country scene too, even Cecile Ravenel who was third overall is a pro cross country racer. Cross Country World Cup courses nowadays they’re gnarly as anything, so I don’t think cross country girls can’t ride downhill fast because we’re proving that stereotype wrong! The good riders have always been there, some of them just decided, like me, that they want a bit more fun in their riding.
PS: On that note, what do you think needs done to get more girls racing enduro?
KW: Just try it and if you like it then do it again, if you don’t like it then you’ve not lost anything. There’s so many girls that are into riding mountain bikes and I’m not sure what needs to be done to get more girls racing. I’ve always been a competitive person, and always been in competition, it’s just natural for me to race bikes. To any girls that love riding bikes and are pondering racing, just get along, get involved, we need you in this sport to keep it moving along! Just do it – that is the bottom line, there’s nothing else to be said!
PS: Anybody you’d like to thank?
KW: There are SOOO many people to thank because this isn’t a one horse race. Big shout to the guys at Upgrade Bikes who sort me out with my wonderful bike and spares, Pivot for designing a bike that makes me so happy, Morvelo for designing the coolest kit on the scene, Sweet Protection for keeping me in one piece, Maxxis tyres for keeping me rolling, Ian Linton for his photos that are keeping my website looking fresh and finally, my amazing parents and family for never giving up on me and always supporting me, G for getting me back on track, and everyone I know and everyone that follow/likes my pages for your support, it really does help. THANKS!