Katy Winton on Reflection, Relaxation and Racing

She hails from the mountain bike mecca of Peebles in the Scottish Borders. She takes the EWS scene by storm, and she’s a riot to follow on Instagram. It’s Katy Winton.

After what can only be described as a relentless year of racing in 2018 for the wee lass, with highs and lows of a difficult year, Katy managed to finish the season retaining third place in the world rankings. I was keen to find out how the rollercoaster ride of enduro racing takes its toll on the body and the mind of athletes, and I was fortunate enough to chat with Katy who reflects on her year of riding bikes.

So Katy, now that the dust has settled on 2018 racing, is this a time when you reflect and evaluate the year just gone, or do you get immediately stuck into the planning and training for 2019?

Usually, I take a break immediately after the season is over, no reflection just forget about it all and escape and immerse myself in all the things I’d like to do, but don’t during the season.

I think it’s important to escape it all and do other things to gain perspective before reflecting. A lot of the time when you are in something, your head is in the sand, and you can’t see it properly. I find this with racing too; it’s important to step away reconnect with the bigger picture to then look back with a more open mind, that way I can be honest with myself about where the weaknesses truly were. Once that’s done, the gains can be planned, and the training can commence.

On the subject of reflection, you started and finished the 2018 season in third place. With some stiff competition and some pretty insane venues in 2018, how do you feel about finishing third overall again?

Honestly, I was lucky! The year started really well then went downhill from there.

I was lucky with the unfortunate misfortune of other riders which meant I could hold third until the end of the year, but it’s not the way I wanted to defend third place.

I’m really disappointed with the season as it was so far from what I set out to do. However, from that time away and looking back I am proud that I never gave in despite how hellish it was a lot of the time. You have to be in it to win it, and I was in it until the end and made it happen to hold 3rd still, that is a huge positive. It can only get better from here.

Which 2018 EWS venue did you find the most challenging, and why?

Ooft, that’s a hard one, but La Thuile because the tracks there were so savage even to try and ride down, never mind race down. I was gutted about that because they have such good riding there!

Spain was absolutely savage for me because I was beyond burnt out – not that I could admit that to myself as I was committed to smashing it. But, giving everything and having no top end and no fight left to give was one of the hardest things to face and ride through. I was so broken, and so far from even feeling like myself, it was horrible!

Photo: Endura

Did you face any particular challenges this year, mentally or physically?

Of course, I’m disappointed when it’s not enough, but that’s what keeps you working hard! The biggest challenge was all the changes we had with new mechanics and new suspension. It was all a little last minute as big changes like this means it takes time for everything to come together and for us to get settled with new team dynamics and bike set up. I found it really hard, and it was a massive learning curve for me as a human and bike rider. I’m glad it’s over and looking forward to a more settled year for us next year.

On social media, many professional athletes look like they ride bikes all day, every day. Do you think it’s important to take a break from the bike sometimes and indulge in other pleasures?

100%, this year more than ever I needed away from my bike. I think it’s important because life is a balance; when you have it right, riding your bike all the time is great, and it’s the same with anything else. When the balance is off, it’s important to take a step back and find that again. I usually like to get involved in other activities like running, hiking, going to the gym for fun with my mate, being social for a change… just normal human stuff!

How much of your off-season is for family, friends and fun, and how much of it is training and preparation for 2019?

Usually, I have a couple of weeks off then get back to being active, all while being a normal human, seeing friends and family. Then, I start training again.

This year I had to listen to my body, and it just needed to stop. All the crashing, plus being completely burnt out by the end of the year, left me in a heap. So, it was time to chill.

A lot of people feel anxious about getting back into training, but I’ve been here before, and when you reach breaking point it’s important to take more time than you think for you to start training again ready to give 100% because you want to.

A happy athlete is a fast athlete, and the body will make the adaptions needed when it is okay to. If there is too much cortisol (the stress hormone) flying around, then you’re wasting your time. But it’s hard, influences around you might have other ideas, that you need to get back to it, but it’s important to listen to your body and trust the processes no matter what people are telling you.

Photo: Endura

Is there any part of your training you plan to switch-up going into 2019?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you!

The EWS has some new venues on the roster this year with the likes of Canazei Italy, Les Orres France, Zermatt, and California. Which one are you looking forward to the most, and why?

Probably Zermatt, that place is quite magical. I love the mountains, and they are particularly spectacular around there. As well as Canazei, the Dolomites are absolutely breathtaking!

What are you most looking forward to about racing this year?

Mostly doing a better job than this year, haha! I love New Zealand and Tasmania, they were so fun the last time we were there. I’m hoping to do some road trips too, and spend some time enjoying the places we’re going to, rather than just in and out!