Interview: Carter Woods on Winning the Albstadt & Nove Mesto U23 XC Races in His Second Year in the Category

May 31, 2021
by Sarah Moore  
Carter Woods becomes the first Canadian to win a UCI event since Miranda Miller back in 2017 albeit that was World Champs . Huge day for the Rig.
In Albstadt, Carter Woods becomes the first Canadian to win a UCI event since Miranda Miller won Worlds back in 2017.

Carter Woods is only in his second year in the U23 category, but has already racked up two U23 World Cup wins this season. The Norco Factory Team rider grew up in Cumberland, British Columbia, racing BMX and then Enduro, before deciding that cross-country was the discipline that appealed most to him.

I caught up with him in Andorra, where he was training ahead of the next World Cup in Leogang, to find out more about what his expectations were heading into this season, how he felt heading into Nove Mesto with the pressure of the number one plate, why he doesn't ride a dropper post, and more.

Where did you grow up and how did you get into mountain biking?

Carter Woods: I grew up in Cumberland, BC. When I was very young my parents signed me up for BMX. It was close to my house and many of the neighborhood families were involved. From there as soon as we were capable of riding the trails, my friends and I would spend hours playing in the forest with our bikes. Eventually there was a local couple who started a small mountain bike team and took us to local races on the weekends. It was so much fun and it just evolved from there. 

How long have you been competing, first in Enduro and then now in cross-country racing?

Carter Woods: I started competing BMX when I was very young and it was just for fun as the track was just around the corner from my house. I do remember loving the starts. It wasn’t until in my teens that I started mountain bike racing. I loved it so much. I started with local XC and Enduro races and then started with the BC Enduro Series when I was around 14 years old and then switched over to Canada Cups and the XC side of things. Enduro racing was a super fun way to spend my weekends out riding with friends. I'm still not totally sure how it evolved to XC, but I haven't looked back since. I still enjoy Enduro and downhill riding in my downtime for sure.

Are you a full-time racer right now or are you also at school or working another job?

Carter Woods: I'm full-on racer right now, yeah.

How long have you been pursuing it as a full-time career?

Carter Woods: Last year was my first year on Norco Factory Team. This was a significant time for me and when I realized I was going to pursue it as a full-time career. The support allowed me to focus and feel confident in my decision. That was a big eye-opener and change for me. That's when I decided to invest my time and energy into it.

What's it like being on that team?

Carter Woods: It's super fun and I am so grateful. We are a very close group. We've known each for many years and everyone is so supportive. There is definitely a feeling of family within the group. When travelling and racing away from home it makes all of the difference having them around.

And you're all training in Europe right now in between World Cup races right?

Carter Woods: Yeah, we are. We're currently in Europe. The DH team just got here, so we're a pretty big group right now. It’s pretty fun.

Were you training in Cumberland all winter?

Carter Woods: Yeah, in between Cumberland and Victoria. Typically, we would go somewhere warm like California. But with the pandemic we couldn't. It ended up being a pretty fun winter just getting to do the little things that we don't normally get to do. We could go surfing in Tofino and get lots of skiing in as well at our local mountain resort. 

What did your training weeks look like in the winter?

Carter Woods: The whole team was out there this winter, so that was super fun. We'd get on all the rain gear and just go out for some epic gravel rides and find new adventures every weekend.

Is that your favorite kind of training?

Carter Woods: Yeah, for sure. I definitely enjoy just heading out for long rides and exploring new places, especially with my teammates. It's a good way to pass the time and get some solid hours on the bike.

Your top U23 Men - 1st Carter Woods 2nd David List and 3rd Simone Avondetto
Your top U23 Men in Albstadt. 1st Carter Woods, 2nd David List, and 3rd Simone Avondetto

Looking at your success in Albstadt and Nove Mesto, what were your expectations coming into this season?

Carter Woods: Last year was my first year of racing under 23. I did one World Cup and World Championships. I got ninth in Nove Mesto last year and then 15th at Worlds, so I knew I was going to be in the top half of the group. I had a solid winter of training which made me feel confident as well. 

Your top 3 u23 men 1st Carter Woods 2nd Riley Amos 3rd Alexandre Balmer
Your top U23 Men in the Nove Mesto World Cup. 1st Carter Woods, 2nd Riley Amos, 3rd Alexandre Balmer

We see U23 riders sometimes moving up to the Elite category early. Is that something that you would consider?

Carter Woods: Yeah, for sure. It's something to be talked about, and it has been talked about with my manager and coach. It's something to look forward to in the future. Right now I am just focusing on the rest of this season. We'll see where that takes me.

Starting the race in Nove Mesto after winning the Albstadt World Cup the previous weekend, did you feel like there was more pressure on you?

Carter Woods: No, I think I do pretty well under pressure. It's definitely a little bit different mentally just having the number one plate. I think I was third or fourth row start in Albstadt, so there's always that stress of knowing you have to make your way up to the front. That stress was sort of gone for Nove Mesto just because you're starting right there. You can just think about your effort a little bit simpler and not having to do that big effort at the start. It's a big, big hill.

Yeah, because even from the front of the field, it's still not 100% sure that you're going to get into the single track first. What's it like being on that start line for people who have never experienced it?

Carter Woods: It's pretty crazy, especially the weather in Nove Mesto. It was so rainy, and the track was so wet. There were people hydroplaning. There was just water spraying everywhere. It's pretty hard to see, and you're just pedaling as hard as you can. It's pretty crazy, especially up at the front there. Once the race settles in and you hit that first single track, it's a relief for sure.

Albstadt and Nove Mesto were two pretty different tracks. Which one did you prefer?

Carter Woods: I prefer Nove Mesto just because it feels that little bit closer to the type of mountain biking that I am used to. I was riding my dually, so it's a little bit more fun to ride. It feels more like home for sure.

Carter Woods rode patiently with the lead group waiting for the right moment to unleash fury on the last lap.
On the hardtail in Albstadt.

What about bike differences between Albstadt and Nove Mesto? We did a Bike Check on your Revolver FS after Nove Mesto, but what did you change between those two races?

Carter Woods: I had a hardtail in Albstadt. It's a pretty tame course. I find it a little bit bumpy, but you can get away with a hardtail. I think having that hardtail for that last climb where I could just smash all my power into the pedals was pretty important. I run pretty low pressure in my fork on the hardtail just to try and alleviate some of those bumps. Then in Nove Mesto, I added a tire insert in the back, and I like to run pretty high pressure in my suspension just to get out of the holes and the roots quickly.

You didn't run a dropper post in either race. What's behind that decision?

Carter Woods: I haven't found a need for the dropper post yet when racing. I haven't found a course yet that requires me to really change my position a whole lot to get down a feature or something like that. I find I can get used to riding on the high seat for the most part. I've been doing it for a couple years now, and it's just one less thing to think about.

Coming from Enduro, you would have been used to riding with a dropper post. Did it take a bit of time to get used to it without?

Carter Woods: Totally. I'll remember the summer I rode my first bike without a dropper. I think I was in Squamish. I was riding with a whole bunch of friends, and they had droppers. I was out of control without being able to get behind that seat.

Was there anything else that you changed between Albstadt and Nove Mesto? What chainring do you ride on?

Carter Woods: In Albstadt, I went for a 34 tooth chainring. I put on a smaller one just because I found riding around most of the course, the chain sits nicer when I wasn't in my easiest gear. It's a better chainline for when you're climbing up steep hills. Then in Nove Mesto, I always ran a 36. I tend to ride a 36 at every race besides Albstadt.

I don't know if you saw the State of the Sport Survey, but one of the questions we asked was whether cross-country racers were happy with how technical the courses were and it seemed like most people were pretty happy with how technical the cross-country courses are. What are your thoughts on how technical the courses are?

Carter Woods: I'm definitely a fan of technical courses. It makes it exciting to get out on the course and ride. It's a fun feeling when you are focused and the course brings you a sense of adventure. I also really enjoy natural features. I'm not a huge fan of the manmade sections, but sometimes you need to build some stuff to make it technical. The more technical course, the better for sure.

Carter Woods has tapped into the power band and the throttle is stuck wide open. He welcomed the conditions and ran away with the race from the get-go. He was almost a full two minutes up by the time he crossed the line.
The conditions for the Nove Mesto World Cup as ones Carter Woods is familiar with since he calls Vancouver Island home.

I feel like on the Nove Mesto live feed, it was hard to tell how technical that climb was, but obviously all the Elite riders were running it must have been extremely difficult. How difficult were those climbs?

Carter Woods: Yeah, that rain or just the conditions... It was an interesting one because after I rode the first start loop I started to realize how slippery it was. I knew no one really had any idea how muddy it had gotten overnight, so it was a pretty big eye-opener. I made a decision right from the start that I was going to run this one section because I knew it was going to be much faster and much easier to hop off and run it.

That's sort of where on the second lap I attacked through the feed zone and got a little bit of a gap, maybe five seconds or so. I came into the Dual Choice climb and got off, I just ran up it. I think by the time I got through the Start/Finish, I had maybe 25, 30 seconds up. I couldn't see them, so I just kept the power down and rode my own race. It worked out really well.

Is somebody on the side of the course telling you exactly how far ahead you are in each of the races?

Carter Woods: Yeah, I had staff in each feed zone with wheels and that sort of stuff. I also had someone at different points on the course to give me the splits. It's nice just to know if I need to push harder or if I don't have to be stressed.

You won Albstadt by 6 seconds and then Nove Mesto was almost two minutes. What's going on in your head during the race when it's a close race like Albstadt where I imagine, until the very last lap, you didn't know you were going to win versus Nove Mesto, where you probably had an idea that unless you crashed going downhill or something, you had it in your pocket?

Carter Woods: In Albstadt, I didn't really know many of the riders in the field. I needed to get a feel for everything, so I left it to the last lap. I had a pretty good idea that I could have a strong last climb. But it is definitely stressful leaving it until you come through that feed zone at the bottom, and you look up the hill, and you just know it's going to be a painful couple of minutes. Then Nove Mesto, my strategy was to get away early on and then just ride super steady for the rest of the race.

I guess getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, but when you race U23, do those points go towards the elite category? When you move up to elites, does it help that you have done well as a U23?

Carter Woods: Yes, the points are on a yearly chart, so points I'm getting in U23 will... if I was to move up at the end of the year, they would put me in a good spot for sure.

What are some of the things that you like best about being a professional cross-country mountain bike racer?

Carter Woods: I love being outside and putting effort into what I am working on. Being able to work in the outdoors is great. I enjoy the daily training and working through the week on completing my plan. If I have a four or five-hour-long mountain bike ride I get to ride a ton of trails. I also enjoy being able to travel to many countries and experience them while training and racing. It is a cool opportunity. 

What about some of the hardest things?

Carter Woods: Hardest things are those days where you're very tired, and the last thing you want to go to is go do intervals up a climb and you know what it is going to feel like. I just think about the why and know that not all days are going to feel great. Getting out on those days can be tough, but when you have good group around you it's not as hard.

What about what's your favorite place in the world to ride?

Carter Woods: BC, for sure. Just about anywhere in BC. I've ridden in a lot of different towns and mountains and every time I come home, I'm so excited that these amazing places are so close to home. My home in Cumberland is my favorite place. I know it so well, and it's great.

Have you had any bike crashes over the years?

Carter Woods: Yeah, I definitely had some in Enduro and playing around on my bike. I broke my collarbone, my arm in the Rossland Enduro at Red Mountain. I also had a good crash in Revelstoke. I managed to get a few injuries skiing as well. I've limited them for sure in the last few years. I've been trying to not push the limit too much.

So you also ski and surf? It seems like you have a lot of hobbies off of the bike.

Carter Woods: Growing up on the island, you can pretty much do anything adventurous outdoors. Over the years I've gotten to do what I feel many super cool things. I usually fill my off season with things I love that I am unable to do while away racing.

Who are some of your favorite riders?

Carter Woods: I like van der Poel, how he can experience all aspects of cycling and his ability to be successful in multiple disciplines. I enjoy watching him race and his focus. I think that's something I aspire to do for sure.

Canadian National Champ Carter Woods started strong but would fall back just missing the podium.
Carter Woods finishing 4th in the Junior category at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Championships in 2019.

If you weren't a professional mountain biker, what do you think you would be doing?

Carter Woods: Oh, man. That's a tough question. I have always loved athletics so maybe something in that field. I often wonder where this path will take me, and I am learning so much along the way. 

What are your goals for the rest of the season and then the next couple years?

Carter Woods: My overall goal for this season is to win the World Cup overall title. I am also motivated to perform my best at World Champs. That is a big goal for me. Moving forward my goal is to keep things consistent and continue to love what I do.

Author Info:
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Member since Mar 30, 2011
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Must Read This Week

  • 15 0
 Maybe some day RedBull will include U23 in their XCO coverage.

Until then there any other, even partial coverage available online somewhere?
  • 7 0
 @Killerclam You and me both.
I'd be happy with a good 30 minute Highlights Show to start with.
Better than nothing.
  • 4 0
 Most of the filming equipment is already set up... they should stream it as a test, even if that means lower quality. Many people would watch for sure
  • 10 0
 Great job, Carter! And go Team Norco!
  • 4 0
 he looks bigger and stronger than most of his peers. this can only help him as he advances. would love to see him in the EWS down the road. good luck Carter and keep up the positive vibes, we look forward to seeing you again on the trails in Dodge when you're home.
  • 2 0
 Looking bigger and stronger than your peers isn't necessarily a path to success in world cup XCO. There have been some taller guys who have done well such as Jaroslav Kulhavy and to a lesser extent Geoff Kabush, for a couple of examples. However, at the same time Woods was eating up the U23s in Nove Mesto, little Thomas Pidcock at around 56-57kg was crushing the elite field. The point being that good riders are just good riders, irrespective of size.
  • 1 0
 @Ginsu2000: 100% agree, I'd say it's typically the opposite, small skinny kids grow as big as they have to to do well.
MvDP is an example....
  • 1 0
 @Ginsu2000: true, but i'm hoping he ends up on the EWS eventually once he burns out of XCO. size and strength are a distinct advantage there.
  • 2 0
 @jamesbrant: I'm with you on strength for enduro, but just to cherry-pick a couple of examples, according to the internet Jesse Melamed is 5'7" 150lbs, and Martin Maes is a string bean compared to Jesse at 5'11" and the same 150lbs. I'm sure they are both in fantastic condition in the ways required for enduro, but these are not burly guys, yet they are at or near the top of the enduro scene.
  • 1 0
 @jamesbrant: not really, it's dominated by pretty normal dudes....

DH has/had some bigger more athletic guys like Gwin, Peat, Atherton, Minaar, Bruni....but then you have guys like Shaw, Hart, Hill and Vergier who look like most fit guys I ride with.
  • 3 0
 Great article Sarah. Loved the interview including asking Carter about his seat dropper, his thoughts about the technical portions of xc racing. I'm glued to following Carter's career, so excited seeing him take the win both races.
  • 6 0
 The Great White Hope!
  • 3 0
 Dude is a ripper. Good luck!
  • 4 0

  • 3 0
 Cheering for you Carter!
  • 1 0
 Ride On Carter! Great to see a Canadian on the podium riding a Canadian bike!
  • 1 0
 Just a local hero. See you on the trails in Cumberland!

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