Photo Epic: The Prodigy - At Home with Valentina Höll

Oct 6, 2020
by Nathan Hughes  

Small in stature she may be, but Vali Höll packs a punch the fastest women in the world already fear. Born on the short side of the millennium and raised among the deep greens of the Saalbach Valley by bike-enthusiast parents with a ski lodge, Vali seemed preordained for success in the action sports world. Riding motorbikes and taking to the snow not long after her first steps, she signed a 6 year contract with YT at just 13 years old. Racing in the sparsely populated junior women's category at her first World Cup in 2018, Vali was unknown to most, but already decked out in the blue and silver quarters of a Red Bull helmet. Under a weight of expectation that would have crushed many others, she went from strength to strength.

Vali's first win in Croatia, turned into a perfect season, topped off with a gold medal. 2019 saw her again breeze the overall and defend her World Championship title, laying down podium times in the elite category that continued to turn heads. Whether we could see her carry her bright white kit and rainbow stripes into 2021 following her first elite race on her home track is a question the calm and collected competitor would rather you didn't vocalise. Not to be mistaken for being aloof, Vali's quiet demeanour seems to be the making of a wise woman; a true professional set to be at the very tip of the sharp end for years to come. Young talent personified, she is the literal future of the sport.

bigquotesI'm Vali Höll and I'm 18 years old, recently graduated from school, straight out of a mountain town called Saalbach in Austria. And I get to race downhill World Cups.Valentina Höll

bigquotesI don’t really remember how I first got into bikes, but I guess through my parents. When they came back from a trip to Whistler, my dad started building a trail and that was where I started out. My whole family is into biking, even my grandpa. He's 67 and still goes ‘freeriding’. My little brother is not so into biking… let’s say it that way hahaVH

bigquotesMy dad is from Saalbach, my mum from Munich. I grew up in this amazing valley at the Spielberghaus. It’s a cosy ski lodge on the mountain, built by my grandparents. My family hosts guests who are here to bike and ski and enjoy the tasty traditional food.VH

bigquotesWithout my parents I wouldn’t be there where I am. It’s a privilege to have such supportive parents, without pushing me to do well. My dad was always my mechanic, chauffeur, cook and my main arguing partner!VH

bigquotesMy earliest role models were Angie Hohenwarter and Rob J. They were, still are, the stars of the German-speaking biking scene. I learnt so much from Angie, not only how to ride a bike, but also how to present yourself to sponsors and what you can give them to get support back.VH

bigquotesAs for other inspiration, I remember watching the Atherton Project years ago. I couldn’t really understand English that well at the time, but I was such a big fan of Rachel and the cool stuff they got up to.VH

bigquotesI wouldn’t call myself a 'pro rider', but apparently people call others a 'pro' when they start getting money. Red Bull and I were in contact for quite a while; I think we started talking in 2014, when I was 13. I got to take part at camps and get some free Red Bull Organic Cola. When I turned 16 I got the helmet, which was one of my biggest dreams, besides becoming World Champion!VH

bigquotesSRAM was also a long-time supporter from back then and as we didn’t really know anyone on the World Cup scene it was an easy choice because they had the sickest setup. I got my very own mechanic and I could still keep my own sponsors.VH

bigquotesMy first ever World Cup was Losinj in 2018 and it was really tough for me. Obviously wearing the Red Bull helmet is not an easy task, especially if you haven’t really achieved something yet. Nobody knew who I was.VH

bigquotesIt’s crazy that now after finishing school I can do what I always wanted to do; travel around, ride sick trails and hang out with the best people. And I don't have to beg my parents to help me out.VH

bigquotesI love riding Whistler, Schladming and sometime soon I would like to go and check out New Zealand, but there’s more and more awesome riding here in the valley. Saalbach-Leogang-Fieberbrunn is the biggest bike area in AustriaVH

bigquotesI got my first motorbike when I was 3 years old. All my friends were boys, so I really enjoyed to play in the mud all the time. This August I bought a new GasGas which is the best for messing around in the woods by the chalet.VH

bigquotesPeople have always said I have the same cornering style as my mum. I ride lots with her, she is my roadbike buddy and sometimes she tries my workouts too. My mum gets super nervous when she comes to watch the races. I don’t think she enjoys it, but is happy when I’m at the finish. She doesn’t care what result I get as long as I’m in one piece.VH

bigquotesThis summer I've been doing some intervals at the new pumptrack in Leogang as part of my training. Just one minute can hurt really, really bad! And you don’t really wanna crash on one of those laps.VH

bigquotesThis year's World Champs in Leogang will be my first elite race. It makes me really nervous to be honest.VH

bigquotesWhen I read my name in articles as one of the 'favorites' it's really weird. I mean I haven’t raced a World Cup in a whole year. No one knows how my performance is compared to all the others. I’m still a rookie, so I hope I can enjoy Worlds at home and not stress myself out too much just because some people expect something. I just hope I'm able to do my best and be happy with it, and if not, I still have few more years to do better!VH

bigquotesGenerally speaking, I never go into a race with too much self-confidence. There were rare cases in where I said, 'I will win today', but I always set myself realistic goals, which I think is important. Ski racing as a kid helped me with the mindset and also some of the technique like setting up for corners, which is super key on flat grass turns like we have at tracks like Les Gets.VH

bigquotesI'm optimistic what's to come with young racers on the scene. Take the Rookie's Cup. It used to be only Anna Newkirk and me, now they even have a girl's and a boy's category. There are some fast 12 year olds in Austria, I better watch out! I don't remember many women racing for Austria at World Cups since Angie and Petra Bernhard.VH

bigquotesI really admire Caroline Buchanan and also Kathi Kuypers. They're not scared to hit the dirt jumps and try out tricks. Whether it’s a 360 or a backflip. I would like to learn a flip, but I'm too scared right now.VH

bigquotesOnce you reached a level of technique on the bike it's hard to progress a lot, so you have to start working on your fitness, balance, concentration. It's not only important for your bike performance, but also it helps a lot with injury prevention. Knock on wood, I've not had too many bad crashes. I did tear my kidney when I was 13, but since then luckily nothing major.VH

bigquotesI've trained with my fitness coach, Phil, for 4 and half years now. We have a good understanding of each other and he has a lot of experience from a high-level of ski-racing. Now that I don’t have to go to school anymore I can’t wait for the winter to see what we can do in the gym.VH

bigquotesThis year, besides gym work, I also spent more and more hours on the turbo-trainer or the road bike. In the summer I would say I ride a bike 3 times a week, either Enduro or DH. In the winter last year I didn't ride my bike from November to January, then it was just 1 week of riding until March. Hopefully that rate can start to improve now without all the study time.VH

bigquotesRight now we're doing lots of sprints and high-intensity workouts. We've been doing shorter sessions to avoid any fatigue and I can be all rested for the World Champs.VH

bigquotesMy advice for young female riders getting into the sport would be to shred with the boys. They're the ones to try to hang on behind. That’s the only way you will get fast, at least as long as there aren’t more Pro women around.VH

bigquotesYears down the line, I hope I could achieve what I wanted and that kids want to follow my same route. I hope I'll have a family by then with little shredders... Let's call it 20 years...VH

bigquotesI would like to thank my family, the 'SRAM fam' and everyone who's supported me on the way.Vali Höll

Posted In:


  • 109 2
 Wow, she appears to be squatting 120KG (265LB)!!!
  • 269 0
 Thats nothing, I nearly took all the shopping in in one run yesterday!
  • 32 63
flag ruedi (Oct 6, 2020 at 1:24) (Below Threshold)
 Four yellow discs + four green discs: 4x 15kg + 4x10kg equals in 100kg. For all non-metric: 220.46lbs
  • 70 0
 @ruedi: And the bar itself?
  • 7 42
flag Superfli (Oct 6, 2020 at 1:49) (Below Threshold)
 100KG. But still, thats a good effort!
  • 49 1
 @ruedi: she is squatting the bar too, my friend.
  • 43 0
 @ruedi: Plus the bar which is 20kg: 120kg / 264lbs.
  • 2 6
flag mudcycles (Oct 6, 2020 at 1:59) (Below Threshold)
 @threehats: Always thought those bars were 10kg for some reason?
  • 12 0
 @mudcycles: nah most bar are 20KG, you get 15KG and 25KG too, I haven;;t encountered a 10 yet
  • 29 2
 @cubika @vinay true! somewhere the discs have to be attached to it. i'm a weight lifting noob!
  • 2 0
 @cubika: Ahh! Learnt! I dont go to Gyms - all body weight stuff for me Smile
  • 11 11
 @ruedi: The bar weights 20kg

I've never seen a female squat 120 who wasn't an olympic lifter. I'm sure Rachael and Thanee won't even get close to that. Valli is just on another level.
  • 2 2
 @Jaib06: - underrated comment
  • 3 0
 @Superfli: it's a frikkin good effort. I can backsquat a mere 60kg! She's undoubtedly squatting double her bodyweight, if not more.
  • 1 0
 @ruedi: Plus the 20KG bar!
  • 4 0
 And she weighs only 65kg too!
  • 34 1
 @Jaib06: I don't think people give enough credit to how much of a game changer the Tesco Bag For Life was in increasing the amount of weight you can add.

Although i use the Lidl one, even bigger. Plus the amount you have to spend to fill the bag at Lidl is far less. Everone's a winner.
  • 7 1
 @DidNotSendIt: I like to use the 1 ton bags for transporting sand from Travis Perkins for my shopping, you can get A LOT of weight in those bad lads
  • 8 3
 @andrek: There are many, many women who can squat 120kg. Take a look at your local powerlifting scene. None the less, it's still a big weight for a small person.
  • 39 0
 @T4THH: Haha! I think people also forget that pounds can mean currency as well as weight.

Someone might be unimpressed if you tell them you can lift 40 pounds. Until they realise you mean £40 of shopping at Lidl, which on an average shop will include (but is not limited to):

- A week's worth of food shopping for a family of four.
- 24 cans of off-brand lager.
- 3 kettle bells.
- Hammer drill.
- Novelty dog bed.
- Metal rack shelving units.
- Solar powered Buddah garden statue.
  • 1 0
 @Jaib06: impressive
  • 4 0
 @andrek: you can come to my gym and see women squat a lot. Some seem tiny but lift more than that.
  • 2 1
 @andrek: For sure Thanee can’t, as she’s pretty small and thin, but I’d wager that a healthy Rachel could lift that for reps.
  • 3 5
 @andrek: odd, I dont know too many grown adults that can't squat 100kg, male or female. If you actually train a 1.5x body weight squat is not an impressive feat at all. If you can't squat at least your body weight you should hire a coach/trainer.
  • 4 0
 I updated my fantasy team after seeing that pic.
  • 6 1
 @militantmandy: and not many of those women can tear the A$$ out of a downhill corner the way Vali can
  • 12 1
 @RonSauce: Then again this is nearly 2x body weight. That's a good bit.

Either way, this comment section is turning into an impressive display of armchair athlete strength expertise. Right down to the point that we're daring to name numbers. Armchair engineering is soo last week.
  • 8 0
 @vinay: "Bro, do you even postulate?"
  • 6 0
 @Jaib06: hope you get the Redbull helmet soon!
  • 1 1
 @ruedi: plus the bar
  • 5 0
 @lastminutetech: Dead horses have feelings too.
  • 6 0
 Wise men may say that one shall not judge a squat without checking it's depth...
  • 1 0
 @DidNotSendIt: Every little helps as they say
  • 4 1
 @vinay: I understand its close to double her body weight, but for a professional athlete who participates in a leg focused sport im not amazed. She is still strong as hell, im not trying to take anything away from her, I just expect that strength.
  • 2 0
 @RonSauce: Agreed. A 16 year old male should be aiming to be able to squat twice bodyweight after 6-9 months of 2-3/ week strength training. Or maybe 2 seasons of off-season training for mtb-ers. I'm not saying that she isn't legit strong, she's an elite athlete so it kind of goes with the territory. But the (predominantly male) commenters who think it's superhuman or beyond them should have some idea how they can achieve it.
  • 3 1
 @RonSauce: women who don't train for it don't generally run around squatting 100kg, especially not as teenagers. And I know a few dudes who'd struggle with that as well.
  • 3 0
 @Pikasam: I'd struggle, shit I cant even squat my BW (185) after several months of training....
  • 4 0
 @RonSauce: I think these kind of reactions of awe mostly just show how far back in terms of strength training the MTB world tends to be. It's getting better, but I don't think most mountain bikers, specially gravity ones, really understand yet the benefits of strength. And then they see someone actually putting down the effort and people react like it's the second coming.

Just look at Richie Rude, yes, it's a blocky strong dude, but go to your minimally serious CrossFit gym or even track and field club and you'll see dozens of guys like him, lifting the same or way more. This is not in any way diminishing Richie, on the contrary it just shows he's doing the right work.

Track and field it's actually a pretty good example, as even non strength related athletes like sprinters or jumpers have known for ages the value of serious strength training
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: several months is not actual training, im not trying to be a jerk, you're still a beginner.
  • 1 0
 @Arierep: mucho respect for Richie but you certainly dont gotta train like him nor is it required to do well. Look at Sam, pretty normal looking dude, fit, but not "crossfit" kind of athleticism. I think some athletes put too much emphasis on weight #s, body type is going to dictate your gym numbers, sure, but not your chance of setting the fastest lap time.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: for sure still a beginner, but I get lots of flak for being a shitty squatter. A buddy of mine started at same time and is easily 1.5 x BW. I come from many years of sports so am not new to training in general. Picked up Starting Strength which was a kick in the pants for sure...
  • 3 0
 @RonSauce: 2x BW for a female at 18 years old when weight lifting is not the primary sport suggests she is
very strong. Doubt that's her PR, but also doubt she wants or needs to train to max either. A high measure of leg strength could be her competitive advantage, but other racers might not need a 2X BW squat to go fast. Wonder if Rachel can squat 300lbs?

I read some study where the key ingredients to going fast downhill were primarily technique, and hand/grip/arm strength.
  • 3 0
 @twozerosix: 2 x BW squats for an elite female gravity athlete is probably about right, and may be a minimum standard. Someone said here they doubt Tahnee could hit that same metric, but I've seen videos of her do single leg squats to full depth standing on the flat side on a bosu ball, while holding a 5kg plate, so I really doubt she's not capable of hitting that number, or more. I also sincerely doubt Chris Kilmurray would allow one of his athletes to have a strength deficit in such a foundational movement too.

Hand/ grip strength is an interesting one, because it's well correlated with overall strength. So in-and-of itself it may not be a determining factor but what it represents behind the scenes is.
  • 2 0
 @SmashySmashy: good info thx
  • 1 0
 @SmashySmashy: what's about right for a male athlete then? I'm sure some of the top guys like are 2x + but then you have guys like Loris and Greg maybe Luca who I'd guess would struggle with that....but even if they could, dont have nearly the gym pedigree / body type of guys of some of the more muscular dudes but doesnt seem to take away from riding..
  • 1 0
 @RadBartTaylor: That's why the V10 has an extra half inch of travel over most of the competition ;-)
In all seriousness, if you don't think those guys could manage it you should watch a 67kg Nino squat 160 for reps. I've known plenty of guys Greg's size who could squat ATG with 2X bodyweight and they were endurance athletes, not strength specialists.
  • 1 0
 @SmashySmashy: I don't know where you get those numbers. The only place I can find Nuno squatting is on a couple of videos around the web, and to call that a squat you'd be very very generous. More like a very poor quarter squat. That's why I posted that comment above, you'll see plenty of good looking shots of guys standing with a respectable load on the shoulders, that's worthless, what I'd like to see is the hole
  • 1 0
 @Arierep: Quarter squat is very disingenuous- I'd day he reaches parallel, which is enough for someone who doesn't specialize in lifting. Also, I'm a licensed coach, certified in sports performance and training and I was a half-decent athlete myself back in school/ college. I even competed at a World Championship or two. I had a 3-rep max of 160 to parallel at 68 kg (and I was fastidious about reaching that depth too), I could also clean 120kg and run 5 miles in under 30 mins. All at 17 years of age. I started training at 15, and we only did strength training 3/ week for 3-4 months of the year. As someone who's done these things I'm telling you they don't require anything special; Just sensible, consistent work.
  • 2 0
 @SmashySmashy: I'm not pulling my athlete stats cards, as I see little value in them for the discussion and in the end I'd still be just a random anonymous dude on the internet, so forgive me that.

About Nino's squats, a quick search only got me 3 videos of him squatting, both of which showing, at most, quarter squats:

Like I said, only a quick search, so there's like footage that I missed. In any case, I'm open to be corrected if you have more footage of him.

Anyway, nothing wrong with a quarter squat, it might even have a place in one's training, but it is what it is, a quarter squat. By "squat" most people understand a "full squat", which is relevant if we are to compare apples to apples
  • 1 0
 @SmashySmashy: I'm sure there are examples of riders with big gym numbers, I'd guess guys like Nino, Sagan, other compact riders, etc...but look at guys like MVDP, no way hes going to compare to those two previous guys in the gym, not that he needs to. Do we think he can squat 150kg +? Not to mention any of the other top tour or CX guys. Any taller lankier athlete would struggle, body morphology dictates a lot of this 2x BW stuff. Of course gym work is important, but arbitrary Xx of BW is largely meaningless.

I'm 85kg @ 193cm, busted my ass for 6 mo in the offseason with a trainer, got my squat up to 80kg, gained 5 kg came back and was utterly worthless on the bike, took me 3 mo to get back my legs. Now back in the gym, my squat sucks. It's a balance, I'm sure I could get a 2x BW squat of if I gained 10 kg and spent a year doing it...but again, whats the point besides?
  • 1 1
I value my anonymity too. But my experience of training with and observing/ advising dozens of athletes (many of them elite, and some world champions) is relevant and has arguably given me an eye for this kind of thing than most.

I'm not on FB so I didn't watch the 1st video. There's a good distance between the base of the plate and the spotter arm to his left in the background, and he descends until the bar is only 2-3 cm above the arm; My guess is Nino descends 40 - 45 cm, roughly the length of the femur for someone of his height. So his femur would have been close to, if not parallel at the bottom of the squat. There are 3 plates that I can see on the bar, so he was squatting 130kg at least. While standing Nino's naval is roughly in line with the bottom of the mirror he's using. He reaches depth when his chin is at the bottom of the mirror, again a difference of approx 40 - 45cm.

@RadBartTaylor: To an extent, yes. Body morphology and anthropomorphic dimensions do influence an individuals ability to hit prescribed numbers... in the general population. But athletes within a sport and the demands on them are rarely so different from one another that these kind of seemingly broad conclusions can't be drawn. You wouldn't prescribe the same goals as a percentage of BW to a sumo wrestler and a gymnast, but you could do it within groups as a way to set a minimum standard.
I would actually be surprised if MVdP couldn't hit more than 1.5xBW in the gym. You only have to go back 10 years, when mountain bikers at the Olympics were considered off-road roadies to see the ignorance associated with mountain bikers avoiding lifting seriously for performance.

Rowers might be a suitable group of athletes you could compare yourself to. They're typically taller and heavier than you at elite level, but not by much. A table of recommended strength standards was presented some years ago here:
It's generally accepted that these standards are too low for the stated levels, but it's a useful benchmark nonetheless. Happy Training!
  • 2 0
 Just clarifying something that may have got lost along the way. Strength standards are a useful way to assess relative strengths and weaknesses within a group of similarly trained athletes that compete in the same sport. They are not 'required' minimums to competitive at a certain level, they are simply training goals if you do get to that level. If you can already perform a certain movement with the recommended weight, then you get to devote more of your time working on your other weaknesses, relatively speaking, instead of hitting the gym. For example, an elite BMX rider switching to DH is likely to already be able to hit the same numbers as a top DH athlete (which we would know if we maintained accurate strength standards), so their training time would be better spent working on endurance and technique, with maybe some maintenance work in the gym 1-2 times per week.

The 2xBW squat is not a minimum required to become elite, but Vali is seen hitting it here (technically 1.85xBW) and I felt the need to the address some of the responses here. Because as badass as it is, it is a realistic and achievable target for would-be elites (or thosr that just want to push themselves) to set in training to support their development and longevity. It is not a requirement to compete but it will provide a great foundation for all your other training. Assuming sufficient ambition, uninterrupted and dedicated training, and proper periodization and coaching it should be achievable within 2 - 3 seasons for most riders.
  • 2 0
 @SmashySmashy: I was a collegiate rower at a D1 school, being underweight was always an issue for me, about 10kgs. Sounds like you have a lot of experience, but honestly, the advice I've gotten over the years from coaches and my own experiments was to focus gym work in offseason, full range of motion, safe technique, but no need for all put focused efforts or big takes away from the main focus which is pedalling. With that said, most of us who compete only have 3 - 4 mo of focused lifting available, giving up on bike training for focused strength work seems counterproductive...but my mind could be changed. I like how I look and feel with more strength work, but doesnt seem to do me any favors on the bike.

Now with DH and Rowing, 4 to 6ish min efforts, I can see the benefits, but anything requiring W/Kg, I struggle with...
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: I'm not advocating anything different from what you've been told already. I'm not (nor would I ever) say anyone has to give up riding and spend all their time in the gym. But during the off-season, cross-training should be 30-40% of your total training time. That time includes weight training. If you were training 10 hours a week during the off-season (which, as a former D1 rower is half of what you did previously and if you went to the effort/ cost of hiring a PT you're probably doing more already) you could conceivably do 2-3 weight sessions of 60-90 mins, a jog or a swim and the rest of your time (the majority) on the bike building endurance and honing technique. The weight training provides the intensity for this period.

Weight training is valuable for more than just how you look and feel. For starters, it promotes better overall health and helps with injury prevention and recovery. It improves bone density, tendons, ligaments, posture, kinesthetics (body awareness). It increases your ability to produce force (sprinting), perform repeated anaerobic efforts and resist load/ hold a position. All handy for DH I think you'd agree.

Without speculating on the reasons, I find your experience very atypical. Simple principles, correctly applied should produce an 8-10% increase each month up to the level we're discussing.

Consider, a 75kg athlete, with a 50kg squat, adding the minimum weight possible to the bar each week (2×1.25kg plates) would achieve a 2xBW squat in 4 years, assuming 4 months of off-season weight training, a de-load/ rest week every 4 weeks and a 10% loss in max strength over the race season. This is a very conservative example though; Using appropriate progression and workout selection I'd aim for 3-5% increase each week and prescribe maintenance sessions during the competitive season to prevent substantial de-training.

Finally, once someone has reached a good level of strength it's no longer a relative weakness, and they've laid a solid foundation for other, more complex and specific ( read: interesting and fun!) work.
  • 90 2
 As a father who has tried to introduce his daughter to all kinds of outdoor activities it's bittersweet to see something like this because she wants none of it. She wants social media, fake appearance, fake friends, and has no passion - and I'd be lying if I said it doesn't hurt (but that's my ego). .

Truth is - she has her own dreams - and they are none of my business.

But it's hard - as a parent these days - with these kids that have no passion.
  • 36 0
 From one parent to another, I'm sure you've done well and even if she doesn't show interest I'm sure she's at least absorbed some of it. For example, I used to hate working on cars with my dad. He had no patience plus wouldn't explain anything and ultimately he just wanted someone to yell at. Fast forward a few decades and I'm not afraid to work on cars, motorcycles, or anything mechanical really. I still had to self teach a lot, but i wasn't intimidated and knew it was a skill that would serve me well. You just never know what might end up sticking.
  • 13 0
 Yeah, but social media should not be anyone's dream (ok, some people earn a lot of money this way, but I would still argue it is useless for society).
My children can choose what they want, but social media, playing games and watching YT/Cartoon does not count Wink

My 11 year old son was resistand to MTB, but he got into BMX, so I hope one day he will ride with me. My 8 year old doughtier rides MTB and is tough as nails.
  • 5 0
 @lkubica: 100% agree on the social media thing, but it can't be easy for a parent to keep the kid from it or for the kid to not feel pressured into it specifically if they're teenagers. Kids do and follow dumb stuff (i know i did) but solid parenting will outlast those phases.
  • 28 0
 I am so grateful to have spent the last 3 of 4 weeks in Golden and Fernie with my daughter. We rode 19 of those 21 days together. Coincidentally, today is her 20th birthday.

We have been riding together for about 7 years now. I was going to buy her a Druid for her birthday but she told me she would rather keep riding her beaten up 2015 Process.

I have so much to be grateful for in life, but nothing comes close to how lucky I am with my relationship with my daughter.

I suspect that some day she will no longer like hanging out with her dad, but until that happens, she will continue to be my #1 riding buddy.
  • 2 0
 @swellhunter hang in there man. Mine are younger but maybe it’s just like another version of parenting little kids: “calm, patient repetition”.

However I am drawing the line at social media accounts for these kids. They can start using IG when they get their own apartment.
  • 3 0
 Like @matadorCE said, it might take a while. My father put me on a mountain bike in the 1990s but I mostly wanted to play soccer like all the cool kids. Didn't buy a bike for myself until 5 years ago, by which time dad had long ago hung his up. He ended up buying his first MTB since his 1991-ish Stumpjumper this summer and we've ridden together a few times. Only took 20-odd years!
  • 14 0
 I am glad they didn't have social media when I was a teenager. That time in my life was hard enough without the extra pressure, sadness, meanness, and screen time addition that comes from using it. I will try my hardest to keep my kids off of it for as long as I can, or atleast educate them about it. I am sure I won't have much success...
  • 6 0
 @robito: Kids weren't any kinder back then, it just that the whole world wasn't seeing it. At least now you can prove that a kid is being bullied or that a kid is a bully vs back then it was only if you got beat up and someone happened to see it. Social media is designed to be addictive, so keeping kids off it for as long as possible can't be a bad thing.
  • 6 0

I had zero interest in sport, activities or anything really until my mid-twenties - despite my dad and my brother both being big into rugby.

Then a friend of mine took me surfing. I got fit, i got an epic new hobby, a new love of the outdoors, a new taste for excitement and adventure and a completely new outlook on life.

The buzz of riding waves took me to different places around the world to find more waves and led me to new activities to keep the stoke going - climbing, snowboarding (again, to different places around the world) and, of the last few years, mountain biking.

There is no way my dad would have imagined i'd be showing him pictures of me surfing a wave in Bali or on top of a snow-covered mountain in the Alps. Quite frankly, even in my early 20's i wouldn't have believed it myself.

So... i guess, you never know? Hope that helps.
  • 3 0
 @mtnbkrmike: Right in the feels.
  • 3 0
 @swellhunter: try being the father of a daughter with too much passion, it’s a rocky road full of high fives and tears!
  • 3 0
 @matadorCE: I agree with this and, intellectually, I know stuff is sinking in by osmosis - kids are very observant. I am teacher by trade.

I read a good article once that says "even if you think your kid has no passion they still have passion you just can't see it - all kids have things they love to do"

So in many respects I have humbled myself to the fact that just because I cannot observe a "tangible" passion doesn't mean she isn't driven.

She's an amazing girl. Beautiful, witty, hilarious, etc.. But I suppose the root of my comment is I know for a fact how athletic she is. I've seen so many examples of it in her 17 year life so far and there's always going to be part of me that's like "are you kidding me that you don't use this athleticism?"

We also know that having parents that are athletes can be a two way street for kids. They either gravitate to that or despise it.

But like DidNotSendIt says below - ya never know - she's got her whole life ahead of her God Willing and it's my job not to stand in her way.
  • 1 0
 I concur, I've watched my first born get pretty good at snowboarding and then ditch it, unless a holiday is involved...., had the talent,speed and flexibility to do so well at Karate, then bin it off after a couple of years as she hit secondary school....biking, well, if there's a lift involved then she'll come, she'll ride and she'll ride well, any vague hint of having to climb?, nah, face back in phone. What do you do? I was determined to not be that pushy parent, not to go into things 110% with her and make her do stuff because i wanted her to. Maybe i was just too soft. You have these dreams for your kids, you give them the opportunities and the means and they just dont seem to want it, or have the drive to go and get it.

As for Vali, she rocks. So good to see, so good for the sport. That win at Crankworx must have felt so good.
  • 30 1
 what a baller her dad is. Getting his hands on the moto in his leatherpants! Sehr nice!
  • 37 0
 It looks like her parents and her upbringing on two wheels are a huge explanation of what she has become. I take inspiration from seeing a father/daughter in the garage together and a daughter talking about her mothers cornering style. Kudos!
  • 2 0
 @FredrikWestman absolutly agree!
  • 1 0
 Couldn't help but notice the Ossa TR280i in the back there. Had one of those a few years ago, got rid of it just before Ossa went belly up.
  • 1 0
 @NinetySixBikes: Those were cool looking bikes. I didn’t know Ossa was dead, always had a soft spot for them - first trial I ever rode was on an Ossa MAR (I’m old!)
  • 1 0
 @FredrikWestman: she seems to have a very warm and supportive family, and something like that is like a boost on the way up! I wish her all the best because she got talent packed into the mind of a nice person!
  • 2 0
 Her dad still gets to hang up the cyclepassion calendar too.
  • 1 0
 @randalliser: news to me too. Mine was a 250 Phantom GP.
  • 3 0
 For sure, leather pants, retro KTM, trials bikes, rad well used garage and some nice girly posters.....
  • 1 0
 @randalliser: Yes, they were revamped around 2010'ish. They came out with the first 2-stroke trials bike with fuel injection at that time. My buddy was an Ossa dealer back them, but they went out of business a second time 3 - 4 years later. Up to this day, he still gets requests for spare parts from all over the world. I you have one now, better buy a second one for spares. Kinda sad, it was one of the best, planted, flickable bikes I've ever owned. Back on the Montesa 4RT now.
  • 21 0
 Valli is freaking insane, can't wait to see her mix things up in a full season of racing!
  • 11 0
 I remember watching the first jump in first video I ever saw of her and was like, "oh wow this girl is the real deal". As the Crankworks commentary crew was saying, she is amazingly stylish on the bike, and that just translates into speed.
  • 11 1
 We are always thankful to be part of Vali's journey, it has been a blast and looking forward to more years with Valentina! [devil horn emoji]
  • 4 1
 Now tell us about that new helmet she's wearing! ;-)
  • 15 0
 @noplacelikeloam: looks like a session to me.
  • 12 1
 We might see a run of 20 straight World Championships....
  • 11 0
 Great to see some home life shots. We are all human after all.
  • 7 1
 Possibly "super" human in Vali's case.
  • 8 0
 What a great photo fest and interview. Take note people, with BikeMag dying, really take your time to scroll through these and enjoy-take it all in-read the article and enjoy the great images. Well done Nathan! Cheers Vali!
  • 4 2
 Now that I don’t have to go to school anymore I can’t wait for the winter to see what we can do in the gym. If I lived in Saalbach I'd be out skiing instead of in the gym! Still I suppose there is more to life than enjoying youself.
  • 5 0
 More "convential sport" pro athletes are banned from doing anything fun (like skiing and motorbikes). had a school friend who was football academy as a teenager (now plays first division, formerly warmed the bench in the championship), he was banned from cricket incase he broke a toe.
The action sport world may be different, I know both Minaar and Kerr enjoy their MX.
  • 5 0
 Super cool person, give a listen to her Downtime Podcasts. These incredible pictures help visualize what she was describing!
  • 2 0
 Some serious power, focus and technique going on there! That might be why she can push some big bikes the way she does. Looks like she even sizes up so that she can ride the bikes more moto-style, which is pretty darn cool!
And coming from a ski racing background she can probably squat more than 120 kg Smile You don't mess with the squats in ski racing!
  • 3 0
 For sure my favorite female racer on the circuit right now! I love them all but this girl is next level. I can't wait to see how she does next week and the many years to come! Good Luck Vali
  • 2 0
 Dear parents, this is why you throw out the TV, throw out the tablets and go broke on sweet toys with two wheels, skis, tools and outside gear. Kids have little chance with those incredibly well design digital-distractions from real life. They drop big cash designing the stuff tp be addicting to a child's brain and have so for a long time.
  • 4 0
 Can't wait to see her against the rest of the group. I feel like she's finally among peers who can push her properly.
  • 4 0
 Racing with the boys - didnt Rachel say the same thing, or was that Rob and he got told off for saying it ?
  • 3 0
 Both (though it was Claudio co-commenting with Rob). I recall that Rachel did say that back in the days as kids, Dan and Gee always wanted her to come ride BMX with them and obviously later when they set up their own team they continued to ride together. Not necessarily racing but definitely riding. Of course nowadays Dan has left racing and they all have their own specific training (or recovery) program and different homes so probably not as much nowadays. Claudio got told off because... well, Pinkbike.
  • 4 2
 @vinay @AinsleyTrimix : they commentated that she'd got quick *because* she rode with her brothers, rather than because she'd put the time and energy in to get better herself. I think that's what annoyed her. She also didn't actually ride with her brothers when she first started (I used to ride with them and work with Dan in a bike shop way back when), she rode with other friends so in any event Claudio and Rob were wrong.

Vali is right though, you do need to ride with boys at the moment to get that quick. Girls are getting better all the time and having a role model like Vali is only gonna help but we're not quite there yet in being flat out fast.. maybe in places like Whistler it's a different story but the fast girls are few and far between in Europe I think.
  • 3 0
 @gravitysgirl: Alright, I'm not going to argue as you've been much closer to them as I who merely reads interviews. I just quickly skimmed through the interview in Cranked #4 but didn't get further than that they rode more BMX to escape from the situation that their parents split up. But yeah, if Claudio said "because" then yeah sure, that doesn't do justice to the work she put in. That said, there is probably never a single "because". There is so much that contributes to success at different stages of an athletes' career. One thing Gee should be applauded for as a brother is that even though he (and again I'm taking this from magazine interviews) got great sponsorship offers as a successful young male racer, but always refused to go solo. He insisted to stick together in a single team. I wouldn't say Rachel "owes" anything to him in this respect, but I do think that it has helped Rachel in a time when even successful female racers had to do with inadequate support. I recall Tracey Hannah placed 3rd in the 2007 WC overall and Worlds and still couldn't get adequate support to make ends meet and race the 2008 series, which was insane. So in those years, their persistence to stick together and forge their own path did help.

This said, regardless of gender it always helps to ride with people better, faster and stronger than you. For Vali, these may often be guys. But for most of us guys, riding with someone like Vali or Rachel could teach us a thing or two too!
  • 5 0
 Thanks for the article - inspiring to see the human behind the racer.
  • 5 0
 Great artical and fantastic images @nathanhughes
  • 3 1
 Great article and person. I'd feel a little awkward riding a bike called "Young Talent," and although I'm no marketing major, I think the market is ready for the sub brand OT "Old and Talentless."
  • 2 0
 I'm waiting for the model "Old and rich enough to afford this bike which I absolutely cannot use the full capabilities of" Around 2010 my son had a Premium (By Haro) "Sweet 16" 16" freestyle BMX. I The bike had previously been called the "Jailbait". You can actually see it here. This must be the most inappropriate bike model name of all time, so while "Young Talent" is pretty artless, there's definitely worse!.
  • 5 1
 She reminds me of Kim Clijsters --> Seek and destroy
  • 3 0
 So stoked for you, Vali. Y’all got a TON of fans over here!!!!
And congrats on Innsbruck too!
  • 4 0
 Atherton Bikes would be smart to sign her after YT contract runs out.
  • 5 0
 Next year she's free from YT. Going to be a line of sponsors around the block.
  • 1 0
 Atherton already have Johnset who's the same age. No idea how long her contract is for though.
  • 3 1
 Dear Pinkbike crowd, you are disappointing me today. 87 comments in and nobody has mentioned the Boobs - Girl Power art. Man 2020 sucks.
  • 2 0
 Please stay as happy as you seem today while swimming with the sharks of the uci in the future
  • 3 0
 Somebody send me a Red Bull bucket hat.
  • 3 0
 Bikini poster in the workshop is the most stereotypical Dad thing ever.
  • 1 0
 I thought dad's were not allowed to have Sports Illustrated calendars in 2020 anymore?!?
  • 1 0
 Kinda random but since we're on the topic of developing kids love for two wheeled machines... It's such bs that ktm bought gas gas and killed their line of kids motorcycles.
  • 1 0
 They also bought Husqvarna and are making electric bikes for kids now. It's all part of a big plot because apparently parents don't buy motorcycles for their kids anymore.
  • 1 0
 Seeing photo of Vali in the gym, I can see why Racheal is choosing to miss this race. Don't get me wrong, Each has accheived a lot, but... Gulp!
  • 3 0
 good luck this weekend!
  • 2 0
 Clearly, I am not pushing my child hard enough.
  • 2 0
 Doesn't really look like anyone's pushing this girl.
  • 2 0
 So how do we get to come hang out with your dad?
  • 1 0
 This is more like an inspirational story of what kinda dad you strive to become.
  • 1 0
 Its great that an environment like that feeds a spirit to push the limits. Oh and the pin up girl in Dads shop........
  • 2 0
 Rob Warner and Palmer were my idols....
  • 1 0
 There's some really nice pics in there too. That house on the mountain also looks dope.
  • 1 0
 I'm sure my imagination has a better definition for 'kontrollpunkt' than reality. It sounds awesome.
  • 2 0
 120kg squat is nuts!
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 Btw, at this occasion and as I'm surprised to always here it that way from foreigners: we actually say "Lederhose" (singular only in German).
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 @FloImSchnee: We say "pair of trousers" in English; but shirt, hat etc are singular
  • 1 0
 @korev: I know, but Lederhose is German. Wink
  • 5 3
 New TLD half shell?
  • 2 3
 Good eye. Sure looks like it!
  • 1 0
 I heard she'll take your brain to another dimension. Pay close attention.
  • 1 0
 or to outter space to find another race
  • 1 0
 This was trending well i'd bet, great images...then that stumpy launched.
  • 1 0
 Imagine what'd happen if she joined the Specialized team!
  • 1 0
 Her dominance would've been the story of the summer.
  • 1 0
 Kinda like Crankworx Innsbruck?
  • 1 0
 Class act. I hope she kills the elites!
  • 1 0
 Amazing series of images Nathan. So atmospheric!

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