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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!