What do you think are the long-term impacts of high level competition? Do you believe it is fair to say that they are more acute for women, as, aside from any obvious biological clock business, it is a particularly sensitive system within the body?
I definitely felt in 2015 that I had some serious ups and downs as far as my health and my ability to train hard. I had a few blood tests to see if there was something that was missing and it was only then, speaking with the other girls on the circuit, that there were quite a few of them that had similar experiences. They had been for blood tests and either their thyroid wasn’t working right or they were low in iron or low in some other thing. You start realizing that maybe we are pushing our bodies to that limit, to almost beyond that. That point of over-training versus not training enough, trying to find that balance. With Enduro being so new and progressing and becoming more challenging every round, where we have all come from different backgrounds and are all trying to find this fitness and are really pushing each other, it may be that we may be pushing too far - beyond the balance point.
Anne Caroline had some issues with her health and had to pull out for the rest of the season, and you think, it’s ACC, she’s the one you would never expect to have an issue like this, that would stop one of the biggest champions of our sport. It was an interesting conversation to have amongst the girls, where many of us are at the age that if you are thinking of having a family, is there something happening with your body that after twenty years of beasting ourselves, so to speak, have we turned the clock up a bit?
One of the great things this year is that there are not back to back EWS races. When I was speaking with Anne it was one of the things she was really having trouble with. It has been an interesting thing to watch and think about. We are doing the same course as the guys, with the same time limits and distances. Maybe we don’t have that same strength and inherent fitness, maybe we are pushing ourselves that little bit extra to keep up with them, and I think it’s just something we as women need to be aware of.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to ride my bike because that’s what I like doing! It’s the thing I like doing the most. I want to continue, I still want to race but my focus will be more on the adventure races like Andes Pacifico and BC Bike Race. I want to take a step back from that super high level of racing that the EWS has become. It’s the pinnacle of the sport, and I’ve loved it, I’d love to continue but I think it’s time to slow down.
There are other things that still excite me in racing that just don’t have that level of intensity and create the strain on my body. I’m looking forward to helping Katie and Casey, to hopefully impart some old-wise-woman-wisdom and help them grow. I’m doing the same with some young riders from home through my development program. I’ve got two girls who are local that come from XC and are wanting to do some more gravity-oriented racing. I’d like to do some more filming and photo projects as well. Basically, I’ve still got a lot on my plate this year but, I think I’ll enjoy it more!
What is your take on the state of enduro racing and the direction it’s heading in?
I think it’s quite exciting really, with what has occurred in three years. It’s crazy, really. The following it’s got, the professionalism, the support from the industry. I think it’s a healthy thing for mountain biking in general, it's found its place and it is still evolving. I think people still don’t quite understand what it is. It’s such a varied format that I think it will always have that air of mystery as to what it is. I do think it will go two ways: one will be the highly professional EWS, the pinnacle of the sport, the peak of performance. Then there will be the more adventure style format, the laid back, ride with your mates type of racing, take in the scenery. More grass roots so to speak, self -sufficient, carry everything, versus the minimalist race format trying to go as fast as possible, cutting back what you carry in your pack. I think those two things will become separate forms of racing that will appeal to different people. I don’t think that is a bad thing. It’s simply the evolution of the sport. There will be the racers who stuff gels in their socks, looking for the fastest lines and those who are there for the journey. I think it’s cool. There’s a place for both. I can’t see it slowing down, I think it’s going to continue to gain momentum.
Do you think the fanny pack will see a resurgence?
I think it could well do. I think racers will do anything to save weight, they’ll sacrifice style over the chance of winning a race. I think we could see all sorts of things coming to save weight.
What’s you take on Women in MTB and Cycling? Good Progress, or a way to go still?
We are definitely still a ways behind the men’s field, the exposure that the men get, the pay that they get, but I think we are in an exciting time in the sport. I think in general we are making gains. We just had the first U23 Women's World Championships in cyclocross. How on earth has that not been able to happen up to now? There are still things that are evolving. I think that in enduro especially, there are going to be more women coming into the competition side of MTB. I think it’s more alluring to women than XC or DH. There’s the camaraderie, the more laid back vibe. It’s more appealing to women. It’s great to see young girls coming from a background of XC or DH wanting to come and give enduro a go. It’s an exciting time to be involved, especially as a female, there are all sorts of opportunities for us.
What in your mind makes the biggest difference for female participation in the sport?
I honestly think if we had more women competing, creating bigger fields, then we would have tighter, more exciting racing. It would create more appreciation of the racing itself, it would gain more respect for what’s happening, and you would feel like a bigger part of the sport. In a field of 200 men and 50 women, it’s always going to be a struggle to get noticed, to get media. I think if we just had more women out there, it would become the norm. We would then attract more, and then it would put an end to the vicious circle we find ourselves in.
What riders do you see as future champions?
We’ve got a few really. We saw Isabeau and Ines both get podiums in the EWS last year, which is that next crop of racers. Then you’ve got Katy and Rae, and the girls who have been fourth through eighth the last few years, all of those girls now have a shot on the podium. Obviously, Cecile is going to be the favorite. She and Anneke are going to have a really good battle. That third spot on the podium is really open game right now, to the one who steps up their racing. I think that’s going to be exciting racing and a key step in building up that women’s field. It’s going to open up for the racer who is hungry. In turn, that’s only going to help the girls in tenth or fifteenth try and move up in the field. It is the start of building a really competitive field and I think this year will be really exciting to watch the sport evolve.
Any advice you would give to future women racers?
I think the main thing for me is not getting hung up or put off by feeling like you are in a man’s world. Just get your head down, work hard, and try not to feel like it’s not fair. Get that out of your head, let your riding do the talking. Get involved, follow the guys, try and keep up. Immerse yourself in the sport and earn respect by the way you carry yourself, the way you ride, and the commitment you put into your riding. Work hard at basic skills, be a kid on a bike, pretend you’re still twelve - go out and do skids and wheelies, those are inherent skills the boys have because that’s how they grew up. Those skills served them really well in their cycling careers. Girls don’t really have that, so work on it, don’t feel scared to mess around on your bike. Even when you’re thirty, it’s still fun.
Are there any other hobbies you want to take up now that you are retired?
Maybe the odd jigsaw? That’s what you do when you’re old, right? I’ve seen what the future holds and I’m going to ride a bike for as long as I can.
What is your favorite pre-race food?
Porridge, definitely porridge. Fruit, nuts, and honey in it. If it is going to be a really big day, I’ll have some eggs.
How many hours do you put in on the bike a week?
In preparation for an EWS, the biggest weeks will be twenty, twenty-five hours. That served me well for big back to back races like Scotland and Ireland with four to five hour practice days, and around thirty hours for the week. If you’re not comfortable with that amount of time, you won’t do well in that situation. Most often, I’m more likely to ride between ten and fifteen hours a week on average with a few big weeks.
Through your entire racing career, what do you consider your top three races in way of feeling?
Winning World Champs Downhill, that one is going to be hard to beat. Winning my first World Cup, Fort William, 2002. That was my first ever World Cup in Great Britain, and I was the first ever British woman to win a World Cup. There were quite a few firsts with that one. It’s hard to pinpoint one specifically in the last three years, but any race that I beat Anne Caro on equal terms, where I feel like we had a pretty good fair and square battle. Perhaps Finale, the final of 2014 when it came down to seconds between us. There have been a few close ones, but any race when we were on equal terms without having issues and I came out on top I feel is one to remember. She (ACC) was always the one who I looked up to at races and was the girl to beat. So any race that I’ve equaled her, really pushed her and given her a race is pretty frigging special.
Was that the biggest battle in EWS racing for you, the mental battle of racing against Anne Caro?
In the end, I don’t think so. In Enduro, it’s so often not down to seconds or fractions of a second like in downhill. It’s more the experience. It’s being on your bike for four days, not knowing the trails. Having some well sketchy moments, ruining yourself. There is so much more to an enduro race than the end result for me. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed, it’s so different from racing downhill against the clock where it’s such an intense two or three minutes. Not knowing where you are through the day, racing to the best of your ability and finding out the result at the end of the day. Knowing that you were racing one of the best in the world and at the end of the day knowing I rode my bike really friggin’ well. Knowing at the end that I was one of the fastest people in the world on my bike right now, that was a really special feeling, but during the race, it wasn’t the driving force.
What has been your favorite part of racing bikes? What has racing given you?”
I think for me there are two things: One is the opportunity to travel, to experience countries, cultures, amazing locations. I grew up on a dairy farm in a small rural part of England, and I would have never had the opportunity otherwise. I would have barely left the county. So there is certainly the travel aspect. Second would be the people I’ve met along the way, the friends I’ve made. The mountain bike community has been amazing. Getting to spend time with people from all over the world, different languages, and cultures- all brought together by bikes. It’s been just incredible. I feel like I have friends from every corner of the world and that’s something you would never get from a normal job. It’s been an experience I am so grateful for.
Cheers, Tracy for what has been a brilliant racing career. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.