Video: Kate Courtney On Improving her Technical Skills to World Cup Standard

Aug 28, 2019
by SCOTT Sports  

bigquotesWhen I get to race day, I know that we have looked at everything and that I am confident in the choice I am making. I think with technical riding, confidence, strength and power makes the biggest difference.Kate Courtney

Full send

Sometimes in order to go forward you need to go back. What has that meant for Kate Courtney this season? Mastering even the simplest essentials like cornering and technique so that no matter what gets thrown at her on the race track, she is able to punch back with confidence and strength. Full Send dives into the technical progress Kate has focused on this season on the Scott-SRAM team and under the wing of Thomas Frischkneckt.

Technical skill

Coming from the USA and transitioning to mountain biking at the Elite level meant playing a game of catch up against the technically adept Europeans who are used to demanding tracks in varying conditions. Working with Thomas Frischknecht has been an opportunity for Kate to focus on mastering technical features and skills like cornering to squeeze every second out of the race track.

bigquotesWhen I get to race day, I know that we have looked at everything and that I am confident in the choice I am making. I think with technical riding, confidence, strength and power makes the biggest difference.Kate Courtney

Line Choice

Whether on the World Cup track or out at your local trail network, line choice is everything. That is why one of the most important parts of Kate and Thomas’s work together is pre-riding the race track and discussing line options. Together they can go back and forth on the best options so Kate can have full confidence come race day on the choices she is making on track.

No room for error

At the top, there is no room for error, no matter the conditions. That’s why leading up to and during the season, Kate’s training focuses on putting herself into multiple different situations. This means time in the gym working on conventional exercises like leg strength and explosive power, but also through ‘fun’ exercise like the balance board that help you strengthen yourself in ways you can’t by riding your bike. All this work translates into confidence, power and strength to punch back no matter what the conditions on track throw at you lap after lap.

bigquotesShe stands out for being a fast learner, someone who always wants to do things better.Thomas Frischknecht, SCOTT-SRAM Team Director

Push and pull

Young talent meets age-old wisdom. This coach and rider collaboration of walking the track and working out which lines to take and how to make the course work for Kate is what gives her the confidence come race day. The process of going back and forth, creatively looking at the track and getting to know every option is one Kate enjoys most with Frischi.

Watch more episodes of the Rising series here.

Video: Rained Upon Media
Photos: Rained Upon Media


  • 36 1
 All this media stuff is sweet as hell, but - WOOF - it must be exhausting to be world champ and be pulled 10 different ways to do. As a clown on a bike all I can do is admire the commitment.
  • 13 2
 Truth. I'm always in awe of these gym sessions too, these athletes are basically aliens! Not only are the exercises gnarly, but the 'cognitive recovery' (balance board while throwing/catching stuff, etc) looks super taxing. GMBN did a video where their presenters tried to hit the gym with Nino and it 100% broke them haha. Pretty cool video if you haven't seen it.
  • 2 0
 @bkm303: OMG, that sounds rad, about the GMBN boys. I'll have to look for that! Thanks for the tip. All elite athletes are insane... Frown
  • 11 26
flag WAKIdesigns (Aug 28, 2019 at 9:42) (Below Threshold)
 @bkm303: except there is no proof this balancing does anything. Of anything it keeps post count up among insta influencers, none of whom is showed doing a deadlift with bodyweight worth of weights, pathetic snatches at best. I also googled cognitive memory and chuckled...
  • 3 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I mean, this isn't anything new. Athletes from various disciplines do these types of exercises as well as traditional weight lifting.
  • 7 11
flag WAKIdesigns (Aug 28, 2019 at 11:17) (Below Threshold)
 @DangerDavez: many also use taping which is proven to be BS. It’s just that there are quite many gym fail videos involving such exercises and it just seems risky, both coach and athlete would feel rather stupid if the athlete sprained their ankle or broke a wrist during a bloody gym session. But perhaps it is an invaluable exercise to train Reaction speed, coordination balance and deep muscles.
  • 7 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I'm just using the term from the Nino video ("cognitive recovery"). I can't vouch for its efficacy but it makes perfect sense for XC racing - all your "rest" comes on the downhills, where you still need to maintain focus, coordination, and fast reactions. The balance board stuff is often misapplied (it makes no sense to lift while balancing, for example), but IMO it makes total sense in between exercises to allow heart rate to fall while still forcing you to react and use motor skills... which is exactly how Nino et al are using it - not as actual exercises, but as something to do in between hard efforts.

From experience, XC race descents provide *some* recovery but are still pretty taxing, and it's really tough to react quickly when you're that ragged. Throwing/catching/balancing between exercises in the gym is probably a great way to simulate that.
  • 4 1
 @WAKIdesigns: ok, here comes a swedish guy saying all these athletes, trainers and physio therapists are fools and wasting time... Well, he must know
  • 2 7
flag WAKIdesigns (Aug 28, 2019 at 13:17) (Below Threshold)
 @bentwheelz: yeah, I jus meant that this is weird, and off course nutcases like you immediately jump into a conclusion that I have a better plan. Because that is such an awesome thing to do online, find someone and be a dick to him. Hah you know sht and I ill make you smell it, form my comfortable position of not needing to prove anything. Good luck with that... on some lower level trolls Gunther Smile
  • 1 0
 I’ve gotta ask, are those proper 45-pound plates she’s flipping?! If she is, I think I might have to crawl into a hole and die.
  • 2 0
 @DRomy: they might be the fully plastic plates which would make it more like 20 lbs... I hope?
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Or cupping. Wich is also proven to be BS. So yes, all these athletes, trainers and physio therapists can sometimes make wrong decisions and waste time. Sometimes.
  • 3 1
 @Ricolaburle: I just had a friend argue with me that taping helps because her doctor prescribed it to her. It stabilizies her knee and keeps inflammation down. Can you fricking imagine... Rach is taped from head to toes.

It is undeniable that althetes of different physiology, using different training strategies come to very similar results. Emily Battys form on deadlift and squat is better than Kates. And so what. Which leaves us wondering... what is it that a coach really does. As one coach told me once: when working with althetes you first of all make sure you don't hurt them in the gym because that would be pathetic.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Alas, I can imagine...Quackery is finding is way in sport as well as in the rest of the society... And also high performance sport tends to follow last trends before we have any proof it might works.

You're so right with the different training strategies !
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: a lot of what coaches do is provide the athlete with confidence in their training/diet/etc and keep them mentally on track. No athlete is going to perform well if they're unfocused and second-guessing their training, changing the plan mid-course, etc. Hopefully the actual training regime is based in sound science and the coach is bringing some knowledge of the current state of training research, but just the act of taking decisions/worries off the athlete's plate, addressing their concerns, etc makes a big difference.

Ah the stretchy wonder tape... I can't even count the number of people I've seen with ludicrous (but colorful) tape jobs at local sprint triathlons, distance runs, etc. I'm convinced 99% of the time it's just a statement - "Look at me, running through the pain! Be impressed with me, but don't expect too much!". Imagine believing that a piece of tape scrunching up your skin does anything to your joints and muscles underneath... I could see the stuff working as a sort of made-to-order compression sleeve if it was actually wrapped all the way around a limb/joint, but no, it's always just a 8" piece stuck on your forearm or whatever.

Then again, we know the placebo effect is real and powerful IRL... if it *seems* to help, maybe sometimes it actually does.
  • 11 0
 Cool video. Before I did a few races, I had no clue how much harder techy features are when you're redlining. The same stuff that would be fun for me during a normal ride becomes scary and unmanageable during a race. So I think it's easy look at videos of XC courses (even today's harder ones) and chuckle at the dirt roadies, but I suspect the actual level of challenge is far higher than it appears. Anyhow, respect to Kate.
  • 7 0
 Amen, I think everyone should try an XC race at some point. It's definitely an eye-opener. I raced the Windham WC course a few years ago and while I cruised right through the main rock garden in practice, on race day after topping out the big climb all the rocks looked the same and I had trouble finding my line... not to mention there were other riders crashing in front of me / trying to pass me, and my arms felt super weak. I cleaned it on each lap, but only because my dropper post bought me some forgiveness.

Then you see the pros do it in the replay and it looks like they're just sailing over some mellow rocks lol.
  • 3 0
 Not sure how anyone could look at that course and chuckle at the dirt roadies. No, it's not that chute from last weekend's EWS, but it looks fun and challenging. And something tells me that while they are not racing the EWS, most of these elites would make that chute far faster than most of us.
  • 3 0
 @Phillyenduro you aren’t kidding about redlining either - Emily Batty says that her average hr during a race is 190bpm, like 95% of max, in the new Red Bull XC video.
  • 14 1
 Hoping these videos inspire our 4yr old daughter for a lifetime of enjoyment behind bars.
  • 8 0
 Same here. Please throw in some Paw Patrol next time to seal the deal!
  • 2 2
 @pbmo are we not doing PHRASING anymore?
  • 12 5
 One of the worlds greatest athletes. Commitment shows. Kate should be on Wheaties!
  • 1 0
 She's in a niche sport with quite a skewed gender participation and has won a total of one World Champs and zero overall World Cup titles... I don't think she can quite be ranked alongside Simone Biles, Lionel Messi or Roger Federer yet bud
  • 1 0
 @harriieee: Yet Simon Biles, the only American in your list, is in a niche sport with skewed gender participation. Who the hell are Messi or Federer? I haven't seen them on bikes.
  • 1 0
 @Geochemistry: "One of the world's greatest athletes" isn't sport-specific. Gymnastics skews female and Biles is in the female category, so I'd count her, and the main thing is that she has had a period of total dominance where she has been undisputedly in a class of her own. Another option would be Serena Williams.
  • 9 3
 Kate's skills are badass and she already handles tech stuff better than many XC riders. I could see her destroying fields in Enduro in the coming years.
  • 5 2
 Ran into Kate & a few other gals on the US team a few years back here at Galbraith Mtn. They were here to work on their technical skills with Shaums March for a week. I guess it helped, Kate won the Champs that year & Shaums was out of his mind!
  • 2 0
 Shaums March is a gentleman and a scholar. Always rooted for him when he raced DH etc back in the NORBA era!
  • 2 0
 While watching the section of the video where she is dissecting line choice with Frischy (which all pros do I realize), I couldn’t help but think back to Val Di Sole (or was it Les Gets?) where there was a high A-line through a challenging root section and then a lower B-line. KC was obviously in the hurt locker by lap 3 but kept going to the A-line in later laps and getting hung up and losing spots because of it. She was so wedded to her pre-race strategy that she couldn’t adapt when her brain was willing but her body was not.
  • 4 0
 That was very interesting and informative. Great watch.
  • 5 2
 All the Bellinghamsters are rooting for you Kate! Go get 'em up in Canada - ride like the wind!
  • 4 0
 I see plate flipping being added to everyone's gym routine.
  • 3 0
 Uber Athlete..Uber Coach!
  • 1 2
 "When I get to race day, I know that we have looked at everything and that I am confident in the choice I am making. I think with technical riding, confidence, strength and power makes the biggest difference".

Again, just to be sure...
  • 2 0
 The Scott team definitely launched her to next level. Mentoring, training, and coaching made a world of difference.
  • 2 0
 Nino style training, its works.
  • 2 2
 Kate's gonna start the race Sunday wearin' those stripes and she's gonna finish the race keepin' 'em. GATA Kate.
  • 3 0
 Well, no, she’s going to be wearing a normal USA skinsuit...
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