Exactly How Kate Courtney Dominated The ABSA Cape Epic
Meet Kate Courtney, a 22-year-old professional cyclist that is taking this previously male-dominated sport by storm. Not only does she have many elite wins to her name (most recently the ABSA Cape Epic with Annika Langvad) but she managed to complete her degree while smashing these races! With a massive racing career still ahead of her, this fearless female is definitely going places.
Getting Into Cycling
“I grew up competing in a wide variety of sports,” Kate begins. “Ski racing, cross country running, soccer, horseback riding…” As a young girl, she’d often go mountain biking with her dad. “At the time, mountain biking was just a fun way to spend time with my dad and, more importantly, get to and from blueberry pancakes,” she says. But in her freshman year of high school, Kate was introduced to the world of competitive cycling. “I joined my high school mountain bike team as part of the NorCal League and began racing,” the California native says. “I quickly fell in love with the sport and never looked back.”
Kate recently took part in ABSA Cape Epic, a gruelling 700km of untamed terrain to be covered in eight days of racing. She had never raced a marathon distance stage race before. It was also Kate’s first time racing with a partner. She teamed up with Annika Langvad, World Cup Champion in both XCO (cross-country) and marathon. Most would be more than a little daunted by this prospect, but Kate was full of excitement and energy. “Partnering with Annika was such a huge opportunity for me to learn from the best,” says Kate. “Annika is a very humble rider, generous in sharing her knowledge and she’s a true team player.” Kate and Annika went on to take the win, absolutely dominating the race. “Most people thought I was a little crazy but my inner circle supported me and helped me get there,” she says.
Face Your Fears
Such an extreme sport comes with a few fearful situations. We’re talking rock gardens, jumps, drops, and gnarly terrain. “Fear is a sign you are getting outside of your comfort zone,” says Kate. “For me, mountain biking has been an incredible way to conquer fears and continue to expand that comfort zone.” You’ll never get anywhere if you stay in that safe space for too long. “It isn’t about being fearless,” she adds, “but about letting your confidence, strength and passion burn brighter than any fear you might have.”
Kate says that prep work is key when it comes to overcoming her fears. “Whether it’s a technical drop or even just a big race, knowing I have done everything I can to be prepared for the challenge makes me excited to see what might be possible, rather than fear it might not work,” she says.
Competing As A Woman
Historically, cycling is a male-dominated sport but times are changing. In fact, it’s actually a great time to be an elite female in the racing world.
“At the moment, the women’s fields are incredibly competitive and the racing is really exciting to watch,” says Kate. “In mountain biking specifically, women race the same course as the men and have equal prize money at the biggest events.” And that’s the way it should be. “It sends the message that our races are valued and supported,” she adds.
Train Like Kate
Training for such intense races doesn’t only happen on the bike. Kate does a bunch of moves off the saddle, like box jumps, pull-ups and a variety of core exercises with TRX cables.
But rest and recovery are important too. “My ideal rest day involves a lot of sleeping,” says Kate. “Waking up a bit later, doing a short spin and eating lunch before my afternoon nap.”
You Can Do It Too
I asked Kate for some advice for beginner MTB riders. Her response? “Grab some friends and get out the door!” It’s fun, and once you’re out conquering new challenges, a whole new world opens up.
“I find that beginner riders often worry so much about their ability level and looking silly – but once they are out, the magic of the cycling community takes hold and they can just enjoy the ride,” says Kate. “Sometimes the hardest part is just getting out the door!”