Life as a Mountain Bike Champion, Training for the Olympics, and the Value of Competition
Kate Courtney is a professional mountain bike racer for the Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team. She is the reigning UCI World Cup Overall Champion, the 2018 World Champion in women’s cross-country mountain biking, and a member of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team. Kate has also earned multiple Continental and National Championship titles. She is a member of the USA Cycling National Team and a Red Bull Athlete.
Kate grew up in Marin County, California, at the base of Mount Tamalpais, the birthplace of mountain biking. Though she was introduced to the sport at a young age – riding on the back of her dad’s tandem mountain bike – her race career started as a freshman on the Branson High School MTB Team. In 2018, Kate became the first American in 17 years to win an Elite XCO World Championship, only the fourth American woman to do so, and had the honor of bringing the title back to Marin and the roots of the sport.
Besides training and racing her bike, Kate enjoys yoga, skiing, hiking and writing. Kate is known for her insightful and clear voice, and her articles about being a professional athlete have been published in numerous outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Outside Magazine, VeloNews and Cycling Tips. Kate holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University.
Kate joins us to talk about life as a mountain bike champion, getting a second year to train for the Olympics, and how having her family as part of the team makes the whole process joyful.
Athletes, Mantras, and Tacos mentioned in the episode:
05:08 Kate’s intro into mountain biking
07:40 Building the aerobic base early
08:23 Kate started competing in high school; Her dad stayed faster than her for quite a while, until he wasn’t
10:38 Do elite athletes need to excel at multiple sport to compete these days?; Levi Leipheimer, Peter Sagan
12:47 Kate focused on strength training to gain upper body strength to manage the bike better at high speed
14:54 World Cup Races; Returning to racing after Covid
19:15 There’s always a moment in a race when Kate hasn’t raced in a while that she thinks, “what is everyone going to say when I physically can’t keep going and have to stop?”; Steve Prefontaine ”the suicide pace is the right pace”
21:07 All about the mental game – crash, broken brake lever, flat tire→ Kate didn’t quit; Thomas “Frischi” Frischknecht; Brad Copeland
24:04 Kate didn’t “snit”
25:12 Thomas Pidcock
25:50 Race starts matter
26:35 There is huge value in competition
28:45 Haley Batten
35:53 Kate is training for (and going to) the Olympics
38:55 Team Mantra: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfect”- The process does not have to be perfect to garner the perfect result
41:55 Kate’s team has an espresso machine in the bike repair truck; “Everything is portable if you care enough” – Brad
42:29 Brad takes care of Kate, so in turn she dedicates herself to acts of service like making him coffee and hiding Haribo Gummi Bears everyday
44:40 Kate’s Taco Tour; Mas Masa; Mi Pueblo; Grilly’s Mill Valley Fish Tacos
45:53 Under 23 World Cup Overall Champion
50:00 Georgia Gould; Leah Davidson
52:28 Kate was the only female on the Branson Mountain Bike team when she joined, but luckily they had a good captain: Will Patterson
55:23 Some of Kate’s inspirations: Lindsey Vonn; Mikaela Shiffrin; Jessie Diggins; Colleen Quigly; Sasha DiGiulian
56:35 Sparkle On Scholarship
58:00 What’s next for Kate: Olympics, getting married
59:19 Kate’s Socials
60:05 Kate’s Superpower: Joy
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