Getting to Know: Junior DH World Champion & Wyn TV's Privateer of the Week from Val di Sole - Izabela Yankova

Jan 13, 2022
by Ed Spratt  
A dominating performance all season long for Izabela Yankova.

Izabela Yankova

Izabela Yankova had an incredible first year racing World Cups as a Junior with three wins and a World Championship title. The only other rider to match her success in 2021 was Jackson Goldstone who also won four races. After her huge successes, Izabela is on a new program and bike for 2022 and we caught up with the rapid young rider to find out about her start in mountain biking.

Describe yourself?

Hey, everyone! I'm Izabela Yankova and here we are at my first Pinkbike Interview ever after my first season of racing DH World Cups.

Where are you from and where do you live?

I'm from Bulgaria and I live in a small town, at the foot of Stara Planina mountain in north-central Bulgaria.

How did you get into mountain biking?

Since my childhood I loved to ride my BMX or my normal bike every day! It was my favorite thing to do because I was always having a lot of fun with the local boys. One of them bought his first downhill bike and I was dreaming of having a downhill bike, to ride in the mountains, etc. We were so inspired by all the athletes and videos on YouTube.

Then after a few years, I bought my first downhill bike (a Scott Gambler 2009) with my own money, which I was saving from my parents and grandparents of course. I started to get interested about racing in Bulgaria and asked my father if we could go to one of the races. I didn't have any equipment, even a helmet but fortunately my little brother was riding an ATV and I took all the equipment from him. I won the race because I was the only girl there. All the people there were so shocked when I hit my helmet in the bar after jumping the final jump, which was not ready and without landing..hahaha! I don't recommend that! Since then, my father started to invest in me, his time, money and everything else, just because he saw how happy I was. That was the beginning of my journey.

Who do you ride for?

I had the biggest chance in my career to join a new program of my most favorite bike brand Specialized. I'm just extremely happy, lucky and grateful to be supported by these amazing brands and people on a different level.

What bikes are you riding right now?

Right now I'm riding the 2021 Specialized Demo Race and P.3 Dirt jump. I'm waiting for a Stumpjumper and a Road bike.

Izabela Yankova rolling into second place.

Do you have a job outside of mountain biking?

Nope, I don't need a second job and I'm still going to school every day. I can't complain, they will give me more than I wanted for a good start. Money is important but it is not everything...I'm always thinking about everything I already have that money can't buy. The only thing that I want is a comfortable life.

What are your strengths?

I'm always trying to be a better person, to not hurt anyone and to see the positive side on everything. I'm not trying to please everyone, too much effort and for me it's better to live my life as I want and to do what I love.

I'm learning from everything and it's okay for me if I do mistakes, they have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. I love to say what I think but sometimes it's better to stay quiet. I'm a hard worker and since a kid I know that all the sacrifices, struggles, downfalls, hard work, all pay off one day.

What are your weaknesses?

My technique on the bike is still not good. I have a lot to learn and improve, it's not easy but I'm getting better.

Izabela Yankova over the last jump and into the stripes with 10 seconds to spare.

What are some of the issues privateers face that people might not realise?

I don't like to complain. A lot of people are like me, I'm not the only one. I'm just lucky to have that family and this great father. He was everything that 5 people are doing in one team. My small team was trying to help me as much as they can and I know how hard was that for them. I will always be thankful, they are big part of my journey too!

How does the WynTV Privateer prize help your racing?

This prize award helped me a lot to buy a new KTM dirt bike for training. I have 2 very good places near my house and that's very cool!

What has been your worst crash over the years?

My worst crash over the years was during 2020 and it was on a normal bike in the town. I'm not ready to share that nightmare, I wasn't myself then. One of my worst crashes on a Downhill bike was during my first photoshoot with Specialized in the US after the season. Fortunately nothing broken, just a lot of pain, haha. You have to be ready for everything.

Izabela Yankova Kine Haugom Gracey Hemstreet with the gold silver and bronze medals for the Junior Women

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I became a 2021 Junior World Champion and that was the first medal ever for Bulgarian MTB history. I hope that this can motivate a lot of parents and young kids. The saddest thing is that you can't be supported by the federation, that's not gonna happen soon. I would say never, but I have to stay positive.

What is your biggest regret?

I never regret anything that has happened in my life, it can't be changed, undone or forgotten. So I take that as a lesson learned and I move on.

Where’s your favourite place to ride?

Morzine! I love it, this is bike paradise, unreal place!

What’s your favourite non-bike website?


What’s your favourite motto or saying?

"You are what you do, not what you say you'll do"
"Listen more than you talk"
"The sun will rise and we will try again"
"You have to believe in yourself when nobody else will"
"If you're not doin what you love, you're wasting your time"

What makes you happy?

A lot of things but my most favourite's are bikes and mountains. Feeling the sun on my face. Doing something for others. Swimming in the sea/lake. Dancing. The smell of new books. The time spent with my family. The real people. Deep talks. Music, a lot of music. Hard work. Struggles. Good food.

Izabella Yankova shutting down the junior womens show just one more time this time with 5 seconds to spare.

How do you want to be remembered?

I've learned that people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. I just want to show to myself that everything is possible.

What does the future hold?

I don't know what the future holds, this world is crazy as we saw. I'm trying to make the most of every moment.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think it's enough for now. Thank you for that Interview, Pinkbike!

Author Info:
edspratt avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2017
3,048 articles

  • 60 1
 I like this girl. Great attitude!
  • 36 0
 Props to her Dad for the support and clearly had a great part in her positive attitude, work ethic and maturity at such a young age based off her interview answers. The female WC DH racing is definitely getting more exciting each year with all this up and coming talent.
  • 16 0
 Stoked to see her get a ride! Seems like she’s got a great approach to racing and philosophy around living for someone her age.
  • 10 0
 I've been watching her riding on iXS last few years. When I saw how much focus she have in her eyes, I was straight away sure that she is a next big thing in DH. She was acting like a true professional as a child, studying the track, working on her lines, and making it work. Such a complete rider and humble person. Good luck Izi, I am rooting for you!
  • 6 0
 This is really cool for women's racing and Bulgarian mtn biking.

Surprised Pinkbike didn't do a bit more editing since English is not her first language. I understand letting some of her voice come through the interview though, but... Also, what 17 year old has career related regrets? Seems more like a question to ask a veteran of the sport.
  • 8 0
 Its better in her voice and words. She's only 17 and let her send it however she wants!
  • 6 0
 My new favorite rider right there. Go get'em. So happy she got a factory ride. I hope she got a decent contract.... There's no stopping her if she gets to ride behind Loic and the Canadian boy wonder. Shout out to all the parents supporting their kids love for MTB. They certainly ain't shelling out all that time and money in the hopes that they're going to end up making millions as a pro, that's for sure.
  • 15 5
  • 2 9
flag DimitarDimitrov (Jan 13, 2022 at 12:28) (Below Threshold)
 Read it again, think about it then delete the hashtag. We do not have BMX tracks here in Bulgaria just street riders with high skill. Do some research then hate.
  • 3 1
The point: ○
You: *BRAAAP* ☈
  • 8 0
 Not a privateer anymore Smile
  • 4 0
 well done interview ... a mature young lady who will succeed in whatever she pursues with this attitude. The expectations will be much higher but just give it your best and listen to all who want to help
  • 4 0
 Wise beyond her years, no doubt her outlook and mindset fuels those good results, will be so so interesting to watch how it goes on spesh this year, and if she goes onto the same team as Loic, Finn and Gricicle.
  • 1 0
 What she has achieved is incredible! In Bulgaria compared to our median purchasing power it is so damn expensive to have the proper gear let alone travel for races. She is our 1st MTB rider who is really competitive against the global scene - fingers crossed that she stays healthy!
  • 4 0
 Good to see the female riders moving up the ranks!
  • 2 0
 Such a humble and positive person. So great to see that there's so many more good female riders coming up (and getting their well deserved spot in the focus)!
  • 3 0
 Wise beyond her years. Love watching her ride, and excited to see her achievements with spesh
  • 4 0
 Bright future ahead of her!
  • 2 0
 So impressed with your insight and your riding. Such a bright future ahead of you! All you gals are incredible, I'll be cheering!
  • 2 0
 "The sun will rise and we will try again" definitely a twenty one pilots fan Smile
  • 2 0
 Yes Izi!!! Love the way you see this sport and life, can’t wait to see what you have in store next year!
  • 3 0
 Well done, good luck for the future
  • 2 0
 I think in 3 years we will have a great battle between Izabela, Vali and Mille. The future looks good.
  • 1 0
 Wow some of these answers are amazing, especially to 'do you have a job outside of mtb', so humble and such a great attitude, she's definitely going to go places!
  • 1 0
 That young lady and her family effort makes me proud to be Bulgarian. Wish you all the best in your future. And Godspeed
  • 1 0
 Само напред и нагоре, Изи! Успех!
  • 1 0
 Good luck, Izi!
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