Interview: Katy Winton Opens Up About The Struggle to Find Sponsors

Apr 15, 2021 at 11:48
by Sarah Moore  

Two weeks ago, Katy Winton shared some of the struggles she went through this off-season in Episode 1 of Keeping up with Katy. Today, she dropped Episode 2.

Despite her EWS podium appearances, third places in the EWS overall standings in 2017 and 2018, and two top-five results in 2020, Winton found herself without a sponsor late in contract negotiation season. In our interview with her, she talks about her 2021 program and opens up about some of the things she learned this past year in hopes that other athletes can avoid the challenges she faced.

Who are your sponsors for the 2021 season?

Katy Winton: Moxie XI, SRAM, RockShox, Zipp, Nukeproof and Backcountry Research. With Troy Lee Designs, Crankbrothers and Michelin on board too... The list keeps growing though!



What is Moxie XI?

Katy Winton: Moxie XI is a badge of honour, we all have hardships, (this year more than ever!!) and Moxie XI stands for the courage and strength it takes to carry on and keep going - even if, and this is so important, even if that’s taking a break and coming back tomorrow. It’s a dogged persistence towards what we want. We all have our own Moxie XI in us and this is a way to notice celebrate that.

I came up with the concept in December when I was considering going outside the industry to get funding. I needed a “why” that was more than just me racing my bike. I wanted something that embodied everything I’ve learned and am still learning from competing at the highest level in sport - these lessons I’ve shared through talks at schools as they are so relevant to life, not just bike racing.

I firmly believe everyone has it within themselves to ‘achieve’ - whatever your definition of that is. By using racing and honestly sharing the journey, I hope to showcase everything Moxie XI stands for and inspire people to: find the courage within them to go for it on and off the bike, to have the self compassion to do what is truly right for them regardless of outside opinion, to persist in the face of adversity, and most of all that bike riding is GREAT.


It sounded like you didn't have a sponsor lined up until pretty late in 2020. Do you want to take us through what happened?

Katy Winton: Part of the process of being a professional mountain biker is that when your contract's up, you need to start talking about what’s next with your current team and start searching for other options in case your current contract doesn’t get renewed. I basically made the mistake of being too optimistic that I would get re-signed and then didn't end up getting re-signed... and had no backup plan. I was in a really difficult situation, through my own doing. I literally missed out on so many teams by a day. One team had signed their final rider the day before I spoke to them. Then budgets were all already assigned and this just went on and on. A big part of signing with a brand is being in the right place at the right time for opportunities. I was in the wrong place, wrong time.

I knew it wasn't going to be an easy move forward and I didn't have a lot of choice. I needed to think really carefully about my next move because I've had a difficult couple of years so I need to establish myself at the top again. That means I want to make sure I've got the equipment and the setup I need to perform. That was really important to me. The other thing that was really important for me was to make sure that I got fair pay, for myself and the job I do, but also for everyone that will come after me. Because if I devalue myself, I actually devalue everybody else that's doing the same job. It makes for some difficult decisions, but I kept chipping away, holding my ground. I had one team that made sense to me because it was like, "Okay, I might have to take a bit of a pay cut because it’s so late in the year, but I can get some decent bonuses if I perform. It's a proven set-up with everything I need to perform taken care of so I know I can still do well and prove my worth, and move forward from there."

bigquotesThe other thing that was really important for me was to make sure that I got fair pay, for myself and the job I do, but also for everyone that will come after me. Because if I devalue myself, I actually devalue everybody else that's doing the same job.

But they pulled out in January, just unable to find budget, and so I was kind of left with a couple of brands that could potentially work. But I just wasn't really getting responses. There was one brand that came back with low money, and I was like, if the product was really good to outweigh the pay cut then this is something I would do. But I wasn't 100% on the bike. I had spoken to my boyfriend, Joe Nation, who's also a racer, and he was like, "Worst case scenario," this was in November. "Worst case scenario, you sell the bikes you own, get a bike sponsor, and just fund it yourself." I was like, "Okay. I could do that."

The whole time I had SRAM in my corner being like, "We will support you. You just find a bike." So that was amazing for me to have them searching for options and fighting in my corner as well. To know I had their support and they had my back was absolutely massive.

But until I found a bike brand, I couldn’t move forward. After many follow up emails and no firm commitment from the brands I was still pushing for and bikes selling out like hot cakes I had to make a move to make sure I had actually had a bike to race on! So I stopped fighting. I knew the bike I wanted. Geometry wise, it's going to fit me, it's going to allow me to mullet it. So I'm going to be comfy on it. I'm quite small, and it's got everything I need. I just committed. And luckily, one phone call to Nukeproof, and they were just amazing, more than accommodating. They were so kind, supportive and understanding I knew I’d found a brand that was all about what I value too and had rad bikes! I spoke to them on the Tuesday and I had frames in my house by Friday. With them already having a strong relationship with SRAM it was the perfect fit and everything else fell into place after that.

But basically the short answer to the question is, I screwed up then had to make a lot of very difficult decisions. It's not just about joining any random team. I want to ensure I can perform at the highest level, and I need to make sure that the setup, the environment, the people that I'm working with and working for, are going to enhance that. I wanted a no excuses set up!


We don't really see the contract negotiations that go on between riders and brands, we just get the big shiny announcement at the end of the negotiations. How stressful is it as a rider? And what kind of advantage do you have, when you have that stability within a multi-year contract with a brand? What has it taken out of you in this off season? Were you still able to train, did you have sleepless nights? What was this like for your physical health, mental health, having to deal with all this, this year?

Katy Winton: I can't even begin to tell you. I lost a lot of weight. I couldn't start training for quite a while because I was under so much stress. We are lucky that the season doesn't start until June, so I knew there wasn’t a rush to get started. And actually if I had been training, I would have burnt out straight away because it would be too much stress. I was asking serious questions, am I going to be able to race again? Is this actually going to be able to happen? Is this what I want? I'm under so much stress now, how many more years can I cope with having such an unpredictable job? Is it worth it? Because it's so hard. And in the middle of January, things got really bad because I’m in this highly stressful situation and Scotland is in lockdown, so I've not got my normal coping mechanisms around me.

I couldn’t go and see my friends and do fun things with other people, there wasn’t much to look forward to. You're very isolated. The weather was terrible, it was so dark, snowy and icy. I was training indoors on a trainer and it was just relentless. I think everybody understands uncertainty now, we all really know what that's like with this pandemic. I was just sitting there waiting, because at any point any brand that came back to me and actually said, "We will support and pay you fairly," could have changed my life. That's what it it was like. I held out for so long but there are only so many follow up emails you can send... so in the end, I had to change my own life and make the decision to part-invest in my own project. But yeah, so much stress.

bigquotesI was asking serious questions, am I going to be able to race again? Is this actually going to be able to happen? Is this what I want? I'm under so much stress now, do I want to keep pushing for this? Is it worth it? Because it's so hard.

Do you think that riders need to have multiple options lined up at the end of every contract year, as a just in case scenario? Is that kind of what you would do differently?

Katy Winton: Yeah, absolutely. If you're on a team, you need to be prepared and you need to be ready. Even just having conversations with people, so you get an idea of teams’ plans and them yours. So if an opportunity is coming around they know that you're a potential option. A big thing for me was a lot of people thought I would never leave Trek. So they didn’t think to approached me to find out if it was an option or not. You can't expect people to come to you though, you also need to put yourself out there.

So, that's the biggest lesson I've learned is you need to really make sure everybody knows when there is an opportunity to work with you. I think for riders as well, push for having those conversation timelines decided. So you know you’re going to discuss with your team in, say June, about the following year, whether they're going to re-sign you or not. Personally, I wasn’t assertive, but you have to be!

bigquotesWe're really good at racing bikes and being the best athlete we can be, but being a business person, now that's a completely different. So it’s a good idea, especially if it doesn’t come naturally, to make a concerted effort to actually learn about and work on it. Otherwise you're going to be in situations like this. I've learned so much in this last six months, but it's definitely a side that, as an athlete, I would recommend to any rider in this industry, or aspiring to be in it, to look into negotiation, marketing and all of the business skills.

Katy Winton slowly working her way back to full fitness after injury sidelined her in the middle of the season
In her five years with Trek Factory Racing, Katy Winton became a regular top-5 contender in the EWS and finished third overall in the EWS standings in 2017 and 2018.

Yeah, because even when you're an athlete and you're with one brand, it never hurts to have another brand's offer, just to have an idea of what you could be worth to another brand, right?

Katy Winton: Yeah, for sure. I think the worth thing's really hard as an athlete because none of us are contractually allowed to talk about what we're paid. So straight off the bat we’re already in a difficult situation because you're stabbing in the dark to certain extent. Luckily I knew roughly, and I've had back up for this, so I knew what I was asking for was completely reasonable. That was good reassurance.

But it was a real challenge creating budgets for my own program because you’re not just doing salary. You’re looking at expenses too, you’re pricing for brands based on whether they’re title sponsor or whether they want just frames or frames and clothing. It was a huge learning curve.

I did get told when I was talking to another brand about salary, "Okay, looking at this. Well, you don't get overpaid." I was like, "Okay, cool. What does that mean? Does that mean I was getting heavily underpaid or?" I think that makes it a lot harder for athletes as well.

IThe worth question I think is just so interesting. And I think it really defines being a professional athlete or not, whether you're making a living wage. And I just wonder how many athletes are actually making a living wage in the Enduro?

Katy Winton: It's definitely interesting. I have no idea! It's really hard to quantify and/or measure objectively how much, say a top racer with no social media, versus big social media with okay results. Everybody brings different things to the table, and that's all worth different amounts.

So there's not a set, if you're top five you're on this, or if you're a top 10, you are less. It is really difficult because everybody is actually worth slightly different. It's a really hard topic. I don't know the answers, it's just part of starting the conversation of how we can work together to make this a bit fairer.

bigquotesIt's really hard to quantify and/or measure objectively how much, say a top racer with no social media, versus big social media with okay results. Everybody brings different things to the table, and that's all worth different amounts.

It sounded when we were chatting earlier that you really focused on the other things you can bring to the table, like your new behind-the-scenes YouTube channel. Basically, it sounds like you're having to work a lot harder as an athlete all around racing as well.

Katy Winton: Yeah, definitely. I think more and more these days we're expected to have a good social media presence regardless of results. Racing alone and the exposure that comes with that doesn’t seem to be enough any more, you need to be strong in content creation too. Which is hard, to be striving for the top takes every ounce of energy if you really want to perform at the sharp end. To be creating quality content all the time on top of that is a big ask and a really difficult balance to strike. But it’s so important, especially this year, when there's so much uncertainty around racing, you need to get creative and make sure you provide the value to the brands that you've signed with.

Absolutely. And so for your YouTube channel, are you going to be offering these throughout the season? What's your plan with this, and how are you going to fit that into your program?

Katy Winton: The plan is to give some insight and a truthful look behind the scenes at the journey I’m on. I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants though! I had this "Keeping up with Katy" idea in my mind from November, or as soon as I started negotiations. How it was going to all unfold and how it was going to happen, I wasn't entirely sure, but I was just going to commit to making a series. I really didn't want to just pump out constant content, I couldn’t commit to that. It needed to have more of a focus just for my workload, because my priority is still racing.

I've not got time to be doing random videos all the time. I wanted to create a series that people really wanted to tune into to find out what happens next and feel and be part of my journey. Putting something more condensed and sort of spread out throughout the year was something I could commit to and do for my sponsor. It’s a lot of work, luckily knew how to do basic editing, but you have to tell the story right, you have to make all your YouTube artwork and everything. I actually love it though.

So you did enjoy it?

Katy Winton: Yeah, I definitely enjoyed it. I love creating from creating the video to the art work was really fun. Plus, it’s just telling stories, isn’t it?

But your goal for the season is to be the best racer you possibly can. The media comes second to that for you?

Katy Winton: Yeah, 100%.

It's more of a necessity that you've created this channel?

Katy Winton: Yeah. I couldn’t rely on race results when racing wasn’t guaranteed. So I saw it as a vehicle for me to create something different, increase my profile and value, and build an audience and following so big that I wouldn't be in this situation again.

When you show up to the Enduro World Series races this year, you'll be arranging all of your own travel. Will you have a mechanic? What's your setup at races going to look like compared to the past couple of years?

Katy Winton: I'll be organizing everything, but I'll have support from SRAM at the races. So they'll provide me some tent space and stuff. And I'm also going to be traveling with my boyfriend, Joe Nation, he's an EWS racer as well. We're a really good team, so I'm confident that the pair of us can do it well together. Although we've not got our own mechanic and everything else, between us, I feel like we've got a solid setup.

That's kind of what you were doing before you were on the Trek Factory Team?

Katy Winton: Yep!

One of your first years racing with Trek, you had Casey Brown who was also doing the EWS races. A lot of teams kind of have their one female rider but you were lucky enough to be a part of a team with two strong female medal contenders. How's the experience different being the one female rider on a team, versus being a privateer, and then also having a female teammate?

Katy Winton: Having Casey on the team was so rad. She's an absolutely awesome human, full stop. But as a teammate, it was just awesome to have someone to actually ride with. We rode on the tracks together, we discussed lines together. I could follow her and then she could follow me. And at that point in time, I was still building confidence with drops and jumps and stuff, and she's obviously rad at that. So she was a massive help and support for me through that. And then also, in 2017 when I was right up there on the podium and there were some difficult times, she was right there just like, "Come on, Winton. You've got this."

I think having another woman on the team was really, really awesome. And it was actually a really cool move from Trek in 2016, when the factory team was just me and Casey at the first races we went to. It's two women heading out your Enduro team. That's rad. And I've been the only girl on the team, but the thing is all through my life, I've been mostly the only girl in situations, like when I was in cross country, etc. I was mostly just the only girl. So I am personally quite comfortable in that environment as well, and I've experienced all, and it's all been positive.

bigquotesI think having another woman on the team was really, really awesome. And it was actually a really cool move from Trek in 2016, when the factory team was just me and Casey at the first races we went to. It's two women heading out your Enduro team. That's rad.


You're one of the fastest women in the world, but you were also on a team with some of the fastest men in the world! Did they see some of the same lines that you did in practice and did you help each other with the line-choosing process?

Katy Winton: Yes. When we walk tracks, we look at the lines and mostly agree on them. It’s a full collaboration, of course there are some lines that are different. So from walking to riding to watching GoPros we’d discuss. Sometimes I’d miss some and others they’d miss ones I’d seen. Of all my guy teammates over the years it’s been a really positive and supportive crew where we can all learn from each other.

Ruaridh was out cheering on teammate Katy Winton.
Ruaridh Cunningham celebrates Katy's third place in Chile in 2018.

What about outside of the teams that you've been on? Who are some of your mentors who have helped you this season? Marketing yourself, YouTube, you've done a lot of new things in this past year. Who were some of the people that you looked to, to help you through a kind of difficult off season?

Katy Winton: There have been so many people helping me this off season, from Tracy Moseley getting me set up with contacts straight away and coming up with ideas. Tracy and Ruaridh Cunningham were both people with experience that I turned to as sounding boards. My boyfriend was a huge support even from NZ making time to be there for me in the time difference as well as my friend Emma, who was with me the whole way and kept me going through the darkest days! My family as well of course, it took a village.

A huge huge support though was John Dawson from SRAM. We started talking in December and he assured me of SRAM’s support. He then started hammering from his side, talking to potential teams that they sponsor to try and find a space anywhere for me. It was amazing to have someone in the industry really fighting for me. As well as knowing a massive brand like SRAM had my back and wouldn’t stand to see a top MTBer go without support. With so many denials it’s hard not to question your worth and place in the sport so I was, and still am, extremely grateful to everyone at SRAM group for standing by me and making this happen.

Trek Enduro Women
Tracey Moseley and Katy Winton in 2016.

You had such a great season in 2017 and then in 2018 you also finished third overall, but it was maybe a bit of a struggle after you got a concussion beginning of the season. How does injury play into being a professional athlete? And how do you manage that on the team negotiation side of things, is that ever built into a contract that you'll be supported or? How do you manage the risk of racing at Enduro at a high level?

Katy Winton: Yeah, every team/brand is slightly different. When talking to Dawson about SRAM, he was discussing with me that they understand the risks, that injury in racing and training is part of the game you’ll still be supported... But, basically don’t break yourself riding a horse, skateboard, etc.

I think it gets tricky if you haven’t proven yourself before you get injured, you’re still an unknown. If you’ve had past results then teams/brand know you can be there and can get back to it once recovered, depending on the injury. I think for me, I had a couple of difficult years and then didn't really get to prove myself last year. So it plays into your future negotiation. Although your current contract will still support you when injured, it will affect your power to negotiate for a good deal beyond that.

Cecile Ravanel Isabeau Courdurier Katy Winton on top in the overall series in a repeat of last season.
Taking third in the overall alongside Cecile Ravanel and Isabeau Courdurier in 2018.

Do you still have any symptoms from your concussion? Do you have to manage that on a day-to-day basis?

Katy Winton: No, I'm really good now. It was actually February last year I was racing at Cable Bay Enduro in New Zealand that was the first time that I was at a race, and I felt awesome. I was like, "I'm back, I'm here, I'm present. I'm not worried about crashing on my head or anything like that. My body's working with my brain, everything is working and complete." And it was kind of a little bit emotional because I was just like, "Oh, we're done with that now. We've moved on. We're okay again." Because for so long I was so worried about crashing on my head, that it would take me back. So yeah, there's no symptoms or anything now, I'm feeling really good.

When Katy Winton flatted and couldn t get her FTD out she had a long haul back to the pits from stage three. It left her spent and stressed knowing she was minutes away from missing her last start time of the day.
Katy Winton's 2019 season was disrupted with a bad concussion but she came back strong in 2020 with two top-5 finishes.

You did have a really good season last year though, even though it was a bit of a short season, you had some strong results. Is that not good enough?

Katy Winton: Yeah. I mean, I was absolutely on fire at the start of the year, absolutely on fire. So I was really, really disappointed when that got postponed. It felt like I had a lot more that I could have done. There were a lot of people in that position. I had an off season, where everything had gone right and all the puzzle pieces were in place. It's very hard to do that, and I did it. I was like, let's go!

Yeah. And it's kind of difficult to just pick it up where you left off a couple months later.

Katy Winton: Yeah, and on a new bike with limited time on it before jumping into racing. After being so at home on the previous bike, it took a lot longer than anticipated to adjust.

I guess that's not something to be discounted either is, if you're changing teams every couple of years, you have to get used to new equipment. And that's also something that some riders are maybe better at doing than other riders.

Katy Winton: Yeah, absolutely. Especially if you move into a new team, you're moving into not just a different bike and components and tires, but everything. It's a different group of people, a different team manager, a different way of working. You're coming in with different riders, there's a different dynamic. The environment at the race can be different, and it can be in a positive way or sometimes it can be in a negative way, but you don't really know until you're in it. And that's part of the risk. So yeah, in making that decision, there's a lot more to it than just like, "Oh, I'm just going to sign for another team."

What do you think the most difficult tasks coming up for you in this season are going to be?

Katy Winton: That's a really good question. The most difficult task is going to be managing my time properly to do the media and all the admin that comes with running your own program, which is a lot, and still training really well and resting and recovering. That's the biggest thing. You can still train and do this stuff, but it's your recovery that takes the hit. So I think the biggest challenge will be getting the best recovery I can. I think that's one of the biggest challenges I've faced.

What are you looking forward to?

Katy Winton: Racing on a bike that I love. And having people around me that are great and support me 100%, and have stood by me through this difficult time. I can't wait for that.


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Author Info:
sarahmoore avatar

Member since Mar 30, 2011
1,286 articles

  • 118 7
 Unpopular opinion: racing is entirely a self serving activity...which isn't necessarily a bad thing..but riding a bike fast doesn't mean somebody else should pay you to do so. From a business by itself is a useless skill unless the exposure sells bikes. This became even more apparent during COVID. A lot of companies realized that without racing...many paid athletes didn't add any other value.

  • 13 1
 you make a serious point... also, I am surprised that anyone has it forced on them not to discuss compensation... that alone holds compensation down... sneaky companies!... the riders should share with each other this info at a minimum... otherwise it is too hard to understand where there is value and how a rider can create it for themselves...
  • 26 0
 I would add that always having some plan B lined-up, being stressed by not finding a contract and having some other connections "just in case" is pretty much good practice for absolutely anyone in the world that needs to work to pay their bills ... It really feels like rider are so disconnected from reality. It is their job to ride but it is a job nonetheless and if you can't sell yourself well enough and offer more to your future employer than the other applicants then you don't get the gig you want, as simple as that. People should stop thinking that because being paid to ride is more glamour it is any different than being an employee, fact is they are just the same than Bob in IT or Sam in customer service. Just a different skillset.
  • 23 0
 This is the life of work. You have a job on a contract. The contract ends. They offer you another contract or not. If not, you get another job. If you can’t find another job in your preferred field or at your preferred level of remuneration, you have to do something else. It’s happened to a lot of people including myself. It’s just part of life.
It would be great if everyone could get the job they want at the money they want but sadly they can’t.
Props to Katy for getting it in the end. Let’s face it, riding bikes for a living is a dream for most, and even those that make it must know it’s got a time stamp on it.
  • 13 0
 A Perspective...

"The other thing that was really important for me was to make sure that I got fair pay, for myself and the job I do, but also for everyone that will come after me. Because if I devalue myself, I actually devalue everybody else that's doing the same job."

This is a REALLY tough thing to do, because you somehow have to be able to at least get a handle on what value you actually accrue to your sponsors.

As @Grunk points out, racing is useless to any company unless you are helping to build that nebulous concept labelled "brand equity" that then results in new and returning customers.

And here is the crux; according to research from the Marketing Accountability Standards Board:

"60% of major marketers report they do not have a standardized sponsorship measurement process, 40% don’t even try to measure and only a third adequately budget for the market research needed to evaluate the financial return on sponsorship."

I have been running a small company for 20 years and anyone running their own business understands that you have to constantly keep re-evaluating what value your company adds to its clients otherwise you will not have any,

For racers, it is doubly hard to do that because, according to research, a significant percentage of sponsors don't really know how to, or just plain don't, measure your value anyway.

And it doesn't take a degree in mathematics to predict what that means in times of economic uncertainty.
  • 3 0
 maybe racing is a dying sector, I mean some people care who is fastest others want to see someone exploring the wilderness , race meets used to have a partial fun element which seemed to turn into all business but for some it had a bit of a product development element to it, unlike track cycling marginal gains on bicycles are for the majority a pointless excercise? are bikes are now so good you can take any bike these days and do a pretty good job of having a blast on it wherever you are , its become such a massive sport with niche everything , you have to wonder if that sponsorship exposure for segments wont be the next thing that gets pigeonholed
  • 6 0
 @orientdave: you could add that racing is only relevant if you win, all others are loosers basically and nobody remembers loosers. So for a sponsored athlete to be really usefull for a company you need to be able to win. This is why the athletes that can make a decent living out of riding but don't win (Brendog or Wyn for instance) must be really good in the field of content creation and branding. Now if you take the top Enduro racers there is roughly 4/5 guys that can win a race and those probably get good paychecks. Now if you look at girls racing, when Cecile was racing everybody knew who would win, now that she is gone Isabeau took the place. Problem is, the winning margins are still big so basically there isn't much doubt left about who would win, unless crash or mechanical. So as a brand, why would you invest in girls racing enduro when you know they most likely won't have a chance over the season. In that case you better work hard on your social media game and content creation.
  • 9 3
 @Grunk I kind of agree with you and I've been pushing this idea for some time. Indeed when world goes under "culture" and sophisticated forms of entertainment (like racing) are first to disappear. However I believe that lots of occupations are deep inside self serving activities. In fact I pity souls who would approach their work as a sacrifice on daily basis. Makes you resentful rather fast. Biking on it's own isn't exactly a necessity even if you look at it from health perspective as a physical activity. Running, body weight workouts, all work very well from health perspective, without need to maintain a complaicated machine like a MTB.

What I would say to add to your good point though is that all forms of sport competition these days quickly develop into an unhealthy activity, where outcomes become more and more dependent on genetics as the level goes up. even an athlete with prime genetics will struggle to do anything else but train, it is hard for them to conjure a plan B after career is over and then you are constantly under the risk of getthing injured and loose income. In a way, most sports these days are extreme sports. Very few people think about it, but Redbull Rampage isn't exactly putting you at any higher risk than road cycling, even on individual level. If you are a roadie, even an XCer, you ride load s on road being exposed to being kiled by a car. Then we have doping. It's not black and white, folks dope because level is insanely high.

To sum up, I see no point in pushing my kids into being professional athletes. I do not see being a pro athlete as a dream job. Not by a tiniest bit. Especially since we have a Bora Hans Grohe roadie in our family and see how "the dream job" looks like. High health risks and it feels meaningful when you are near the top and have many fans. Just like being a singer. While we all know what happens to folks after the fame goes down for singers, fashion models and actors, we rarely see what happens to athletes... and it ain't better, they just don't have this much money to buy coke. For good and bad.

Wow, level of intellectual discussion on PB went up after I left...
  • 2 1
 @Balgaroth: Yeah, It's a lot about the size of reference pool. If you have 80 folks and 30-40 guys come consistently in top 20 throughout the season, the folks ending up consistently in top 10 will have good living out of it, with top 3 getting really good living. But this is not the case in womens field especially as you say in case of dominating racers like Tracy, Anne Caro, Cecile or Rachel. Mind you I am not speaking from moralistic perspective seeking some form of equity. I also doubt that winning male youngsters in top 10 get a lot of money. Sam Hill or Robin Wallner come from a bit older age when top wages were still a bit different. Minnaar built up his brand in different times, he had time to develop plan B too. Gwin is possibly the last one of these. I look at current folks in top 10 DH and of course not knowing th paychecks, I can only assume Loic may be the only well paid top "youngster".
  • 3 0
 @orientdave: I think Nukeproof offers a good example of the value of sponsorship if it is done right. They have elevated themselves from a fairly cheap and cheerful brand whose main aim seemed to be writing "Nukeproof" as many times as possible on their products. Now, they've become much more boutique and the prices have scaled up as a result. I think you could draw a fairly definitive line between the success of their race team and the relative reinvention of their brand image.
  • 1 0
 @AlanMck: Nailed it
  • 1 0
 @Balgaroth: Yes, if winning is the purpose of the sponsorship, there is little point sponsoring any woman except the dominant woman of that season. That’s the reality of this sport at the moment.
I have seen a lot more women out cycling since moving back to the UK than there were in the 90s though, so maybe in 20-30 years we will see some depth of field in the women’s. When that happens, the cash and contracts will follow.
I think whatever field you work in it’s important that you never lose sight of the fact that no one owes you a living. You must constantly strive to be the best you that you can be. Never count your chickens.
  • 2 0
 @justwaki: Wow, level of intellectual discussion on PB went up after I left..........

we can fix that very easily
  • 1 0
 @AlanMck: they had some pretty good experienced guys in product development improving the breed also remember,
  • 2 0
 @Compositepro: mah there are some fiery political discussions about California going on in attempted robbery article as we speak. I stay away...
  • 2 0
 @jaame: if anything I have the feeling that racing sponsoring is even more irrelevant to reach women than it is for men. How many girls rider are focused on performance and nothing else compared to guys ? And compared to lifestyle, good times outdoors and such. Hard data would be interesting but across many sports I could notice that the majority of women are there to enjoy themselves and have a good time rather than beat their friends and get KOM or plastic medals. So it would only make sense to also reach to this demographic using something else than racing. Since communication budget aren't infinite in most companies you have to make the most reasonable choices for best ROI.
  • 6 1
 @Balgaroth: Spot on. Personally I am interested to know the figures from Pinkbike. What proportion of members are women? How many women are reading these articles? I would also like to know, industry wide, how any bikes are sold each year and how many of those are the women's models, and how many of the unisex models are sold to women or for women. I kind of get the feeling that organisations are catering to a market that simply isn't there, or is at least too small to be a major factor in business decisions of bike companies.

I'm not a hater but I am a realist and I only speak for myself. I'm not particularly motivated to purchase based on the results of pros. I'm more motivated by looks, reviews, and price. I do pay attention to who is riding what... in the men's. If a woman is winning on something it doesn't matter to me at all. That same woman who is demolishing the field of six would probably do same on a 2002 Orange Patriot. I do look at what Sam Hill is riding. In this case, I would be interested to know who cares what Katy Winton is riding, and what results she has got on said bike, and then if that's women or men who care. And from that, are any of those people who care going to purchase a bike based on that information?

I sell toilets, and the day I lose my job selling toilets because either people don't need toilets or they don't like my toilets and/or sales technique is the day I get a job doing something else. This is not the only thing I can do, and I am not the only person selling toilets. I'm not the best toilet salesman in the world and anyway, most toilets sell themselves because people want toilets. In that sense, I'm not really selling toilets - rather, people are buying toilets.

The same could be applied to the situation of pro mountain bikers who get dropped. They can get another contract or change jobs. I guess there will be more of that happening because the covid and lockdown fiasco has taught us that no racing does not equal no bike sales. The industry is booming in a year when racing was cancelled. Being top-3 in a sport no one cares about does not guarantee you a pro contract.
  • 3 0
 @Balgaroth: funny you say that. My daughter loves watching women ride and do cool things, like Vero Sandler or Jill Kintner. Or Sky Brown. But she doesn’t care about racing at all.

Now my son... dad who is fastest in the world, who can do most backflips, who crashed hardest. Coming to dirt jumps: Dad which one of these guys is best?

Says a thing or two
  • 1 0
 @Compositepro: yea of course, but it has to go alongside an improved perception of your brand in my opinion.
  • 2 0
 Hans Rey is the model of how to keep your sponsors happy. He would always have a scrap book with every picture in every magazine including ads as well as all the articles about his tour from local press to show his sponsors at the end of the season. There’s a reason why he was employed by GT longer than any employee.

Katy maybe on to her version of Hans’s scrapbook with these videos. In biking, only a few top athletes can get away with just being athletes. Most have to be a master of the business side to keep employment.

Here’s a link to Inside the Line podcast with Hans Rey:,1872
  • 4 0
 @jaame: Let me drag my eyes out of the back of my head and address some of the points you've made some strong assumptions about. Our experiences form the way we think about the world, ad it's possible you have limited experience with female riders - so let me share an alternate experience - one that does care about who is sponsoring women, the woman that are fast/stylish/making edits etc.

I'll agree that if you could pull those numbers, dudes are likely outnumbering the women. But, do we really expect women to show up in droves to a party for the guys? Or do we work on building a community (content, sponsorships, jobs, etc) for women to bring them in? Considering there's a lot of us, it might be worth it to bring us in. My money is as good as some dudes and I'm not riding old bikes.

So let's assume women aren't reading Pinkbike as much as dudes are. Is that because we women just aren't interested in the recent edits, some new company's head tube angle, or whatever else? Or is it because nearly all the content on here is produced by men, for men, and features men. I would argue the second. If I see an article or video that features a female rider or was produced by a women, I click on it. That gives me.. not many clicks. More than it used to be, but still not many. Perhaps then, if there was more of this content, more women would be scrolling Pinkbike, no?

Furthermore, as a woman, I find walking into some bike shops intimidating, let alone the comment section on Pinkbike. Just because women aren't commenting, doesn't mean we're not here.

Of course, this is only my perspective, but I'm involved in women's group rides and a number of buy and sell groups, some of which are ladies only. My flawed memory would guess I've seen a similar number of posts from guys and girls looking for bikes this year. The difference though, is that often the women's posts come from the women's only groups, arguably a more welcoming environment. And, are women actually interested in riding their bikes? The problem with women's rides isn't find people to show up - it's finding enough space for all the interest. We have to limit numbers and beginner rides are massive because so many women want to learn how to mountain bike.

Whew, I may have gotten a bit ranty there. But. I am a woman who likes to race, cares about racing and firmly believes the women's field will catch up . If there's me, there's more, and I only started mountain biking 5 years ago. However, the women's field catches up IF companies and brands and media make an effort to support the very few women who are competing/racing/writing/filming. I can watch a rad new video made by some dude three times a day on Pinkbike, and maybe 3x a year from a woman on the same platform. Do we build the community, and hope the women will come? Or do we just expect the women to show up in numbers and maybe think about building them a small tent at that point next to the castle that is the men's mtb world.
  • 60 4
 This was interesting. In some way I’m stoked. Nukeproof was lacking in female presence and this makes them very formidable in the overall. At the same time… I’ve seen some amazing young females in the US struggle with sponsorship. Flipping to DH. There was a young lady that would send really large random gaps in camp and then win on Sunday. She struggled with sponsors. Basically, she didn’t look that great in a bikini. I don’t see her at the races anymore. When the Syndicate says there isn’t a “good fit,” well in all honesty, that’s why there isn’t a Santa Cruz in my garage. I don’t pull punches. Everyone just needs to step up.
  • 11 2
 Great article about 2 kickass kiwi athletes
And using sex to sell action sports
  • 1 0
 To be fair, Santa Cruz signed Vero Sandler and supports/ supported Nina Hoffman. But there's more to it than just being a shredder to get signed. Maybe it honestly wasn't a good fit?
  • 30 9
 This season is going to be especially hard for me seeing I havent secured a sponsor for socks...
  • 6 36
flag Bryce511 (Apr 18, 2021 at 16:37) (Below Threshold)
 You clearly do not race or understand all the pieces that have to come together to be competitive at her level.
  • 2 1
 I'm still looking for a chamois sponsor
  • 34 1
 @Bryce511: you clearly do not understand a lighthearted joke
  • 1 2
 I'm still looking for an underwear sponsor
  • 3 4
 Everyone understands it’s a joke (that’s been told many times) but there is some seriousness with this article, it must be incredibly hard to race at the best of times even with a sponsor @Rocksanddrops:
  • 6 0
 I have everything I need except for a handlebar sponsor, so I will be forced to ride my bike with no handlebars, with no handlebars, with no handlebars...
  • 20 2
 Beyond stoked for Katy! Easily one of the best in female EWS; all of her sponsors are incredibly lucky to have such a talent, both on and off the bike, riding for them.
  • 16 4
 Great to see these brands value
Rather than just worthless social media clicks and likes that may elevate brand awareness but (in my opinion) do little to increase brand equity(if not decrease it)
Congrats Katy
  • 5 6
 @gcrider: worthless social media clicks expose people to products you sell. For instance I value Remy Metallier above MANY people who are faster on the bike, and can even pull sicker moves. A person doing skills clinics, organizing trail building days, even for self serving purposes, gives the brand that gives him discount on a bike a lot of value. i don't even know what folks from Slice of British Pie are riding. No matter how much I follow them... I also know it makes zero difference for them what they would be riding. Then you have all those midpack Euro roadies, XC and XC Marathon racers who will just blow the logos into your eyes on every damn occasion VS folks like Sam Blenkinsop or Reece Wallace... I love Sam, I repsect Reeces WChamp jersey but I would never hire any of them to promote my products. It's about how you do it, no point to generalize.

If there's anybody I despise in social media game it's bloody repost accounts stealing original content within all rules of the copyright law.
  • 2 0
 I agree!! When they are showing and or selling a product. Like Wynn Masters doing jump videos made me go to mtbhopper. And check them out.

So there is value in that for everyone.
And even lower quality content like Eddy Masters “hour of power” when you know there is going to be marketing gold content which will represent your brand fantastically

Which redbull should I drink before my workout post are good for redbull in that they show the product. Measure the follower engagement so redbull know how many people are following the influencers and hopefully the follower to internalize I like original redbull. Which surprise suspise gave me thoughts of buying redbull which I quickly self vetoed .

But this dress or that dress (when you dont sell dresses) may give engagement indicators to the bike brand or red bull but its not selling mtbs.

But what I dont get Is people that dont seem to sell or represent there brand. My 9yr old nephew loves mtb vids from a certain Mr religious traveller. I wouldn’t want my brand associated with that content and how many 9yr olds buy ebikes.

  • 2 1
 @gcrider: I agreeeee! Big Grin
  • 16 5
 Wild the #3 athlete in her sport struggled finding a sponsor.

Imagine that happening to a male EWS racer.

Also wild considering all of the lip service brands have been providing for female riders.
  • 7 7
 For real! I feel like this would never happen to a top 3 male rider... still lots of room for improvement/growth towards equity in the industry.
  • 11 4
 @Bikerguy13: It's almost like companies are making these decisions on a rational monetary basis
  • 6 2
 The fact that the #3 female EWS racer struggles to find a sponsor for the next season, says something about the current state of affairs the EWS is in.
  • 2 0
 @twopoint6khz: you just don’t get it do you. Bike company will never sell more women’s bikes if there aren’t women interested in the sport. How do you get more women interested in the sport? Increase the visibility and representation of female riders
  • 2 2
 @schofell84 Imagine what's happening to a American male EWS racer!
  • 2 0
 @MX298: They've got sponsors to ride their bikes competitively?

not sure diminishing females struggles for equity has much to do with what you're trying to state.
  • 9 0
 Stoked for Katie to have a program all put together! Props to @SramMedia for their support when other brands fell away.
  • 7 2
 Such a sad situation to see a good rider and, human, have so much trouble getting support. She made the best of a bad situation and it is all in her honor. Probably the reason she is racing at that level. Nerver giving up until she gets what she needs! Truly inspiring!
  • 2 0
 I gets lots of sponsorship requests (mostly on the XC side) and I always offer the same thing - buy a bike at full pop, then I'll pay you $200 for every customer who comes to me and mentions you/your race results/your social media accounts.

Nobody ever takes me up on it, so I'm assuming they know their value isn't very high and are just hoping for some free stuff. I remember being a bottom of the barrel pro and trying to get free stuff too. I got a lot of it, but I doubt I sold a single bike for any of my various sponsors over the years.

Katy seems like a nice lady and I'm sure she'd blow my doors off in a race. But if I sponsored her, would I actually sell any more bikes? I sort of doubt it (this would go for an EWS male, too, for what it's worth - outside of the PB crowd, most serious mountain bikers couldn't name a single EWS racer, XC racer, etc, outside of elderly legends like Ned or Tomac).

Tri organizers did it right and made the sport so popular with participants that it's become a lifestyle thing and there are multiple avenues for pros to make a living (ie coaching, sponsorships, prize money generated by entry fees, etc). Mountain bike racing isn't any more fun to watch than triathalon, and an EWS race doesn't have 5000 amateurs racing alongside the pros, so I'm not sure why we keep pretending just being fast is something that makes you worthy of getting paid.

  • 1 0
 This is also representative of a lot of people who lost their livelihoods due to COVID and have had trouble finding work. I get that a lot of sponsors are likely gun shy about sponsoring athletes that were not already vetted and negotiated starting last fall. Just like a lot of companies have either gone under or have downscaled their ops.

Very happy that Katy landed deals with a set of great sponsors. Respect to all. Gives hope that the good times are not that far off (knocks on wood).
  • 4 0
 Can we get a bike check? My gf is about her size and it's not easy finding the right size bike.
  • 1 0
 yeah.. but it would only help if you plan to get a bike to your gf next year. I have ordered my Giga a couple of months ago.... delivery(hopefully) in July.
  • 2 0
 @eugenux: Yeah it's for next year. Good luck getting your mate!
  • 4 3
 Maybe, the problem for finding sponsors is also dued to the lack of suspens in Women races.
You already know that Isabeau will be 1st, and that 99% of the times, the same bike will be on the box at the end of the race unlike for men, where you know there is a hard battle, and the bike plays a role in this.
  • 2 2
 I think it's more the lack of decent coverage, partially due to the race format. And we all know that exposure is what it's all about.
  • 1 0
 @NinetySixBikes: Im with you on the lack of coverage for EWS being a huge issue. I just can't why sponsors would pour money into athletes in an event that ends up with so little coverage (a ~6minute race video and still photos). Even for the male riders outside the top 3-5 they all have to do something outside of racing to promote themselves/their sponsors.
  • 1 0
 I prey the industry does not use the riders to save money after all the past 2 years they have exploded financially. The only problem they might have is not having enough stock and that can hurt a big shop. Here in Toronto Gears Racing Institute closed the Leaside location as they can not get enough bikes to supply 5 branches. I am surprised more have not closed due to service issues as well. Invest in the riders and the brand will flourish.
  • 1 0
 The lady riders are just as important and exciting to the mountain biking world as the guys are, these big bike brands need to step it up, this is one of the best mountain bikers on the planet, I know somebody will give her a ride, maybe Nukeproof, makes since!
  • 3 1
 All the best to Katy, such a nail-biter to see who she was going to ride with! Can't wait for the EWS season to start picking up! Best of luck Katy & team.
  • 4 0
 Congrats Katy! Thank you so much for sharing your story!
  • 1 0
 I knew TREK couldn’t keep all their riders... that team is stacked across the spectrum. Reece Wilson probably got the budget, with his unexpected WC win and his champion’s clause kicking in.
  • 1 0
 Go Katy!

I've not watched racing for years. Possibly I'm not the target audience now as I get older though?

For me it's more about route tips/new trails/holiday ideas/recovery and nice pics nowadays.
  • 1 0
 I think you have what it takes Katy. Way to hang in there and work your butt off for the life that you want to live. Much respect and I'm pulling for you this year girl!!
  • 1 0
 Good for her! I do wonder who all these shit companies are that people don’t want to ride for, mostly to avoid their product! Hahaha
  • 1 2
 amazing for her and congratulations, we need more female presence in MTB, end of story

but why is they an article directly below that outlines the long list of sponsors she is announcing? seems a bit off in terms of timing folks
  • 2 1
 Brands sell 15000 dollar.bikes now and still can't sponsor a top athletes. I was interested in the nukeproof giga after reading this I'm definately buying nukeproof now.
  • 2 0
 Good luck getting hold of one....
  • 2 0
 @murfio: they're in stock here in australia
  • 1 0
 @Riwajc: Lucky buggers
  • 3 2
 Anyone facing the choice of buying a new bike this season can push nukeproof a few places up the list, and move trek a few places lower... Hope she has an awesome season!
  • 6 0
 ...and then just get back to buying whatever is in stock
  • 5 4
 This is going to be a pretty Mega year for Katy. Giga-stoked, you could say...
  • 1 0
 Super happy for Katy. One of the best personalities and performers in the sport. Let’s get this season going!
  • 1 0
 Kudos for putting in the work! Better than just expecting a no and going off riding instead. What a legend
  • 1 0
 Love this! Stoked to see Katy rip it up this season
  • 1 0
 I’ll give ya a Moxie.....
  • 1 0
 Stoked she got a frame sponsor and more stoked to watch some racing!
  • 2 0
 Katy is such a fighter.
  • 1 0
 Good luck to Katy this year! We're cheering for you!!!
  • 1 0
 Should've lent her the Grim Donut.
  • 1 0
 Kudos to sram
  • 1 0
 Goodspeed, Katy!

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