With just over three weeks to go until the first round of the 2014 UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the riders are definitely raring to go. After a long off-season, with training and lots of prep, it won’t be long before they are back on the big rigs and smashing down some mountains!
If you don’t know the name, Manon Carpenter, you most definitely should. After making her World Cup début in Maribor back in 2010, balancing school and riding, she made a lasting impression on the industry. After picking up sponsorship with Madison Saracen in 2011, Manon focused her efforts on training and came away with both the 2011 Junior World Championship and World Cup title. The twenty-year-old has come a long way in the past four years, competing against some of the most talented riders on the circuit. Despite breaking her collarbone in 2012, she came away sixth overall in the World Cup and bronze at World Championships. Following her injury in 2012, Manon came back strong and undeniably showed she is a podium contender. She got top three at every round, aside from Val di Sole, securing her a third overall in the 2013 World Cup rankings, and is rearing to win in 2014!
From small beginnings in South Wales, from the Dragon Downhill to the World Cup circuit, Manon shares her hopes for the future, talks about how she got where she is today, and also gives some great advice on what to do if you’re thinking of trying mountain biking for yourself!
Who are you?
Unsuspecting adrenaline junkie from South Wales, usually happiest when on a bike plastered in mud!
Do you think that growing up, riding in Wales has helped your riding?
Yeah, definitely. We’re surrounded by mountains and great places to ride, and having a race series like Dragon Downhill back in the day had a huge influence on my riding.
Who, if anyone inspires you?
I think any women who are pushing boundaries in their own sports be it in action sports or not are impressive. I love seeing girls doing awesome things, whether it’s on bikes, snowboards, rock climbing or surf – anything! It makes me want to have a go too.
I know it’s brought up a lot and you deserve recognition for your own merits, but if it wasn’t for your dad being so involved with the sport, and his encouragement, could you imagine yourself being where you are today?
No I don’t think so. Mainly because if it wasn’t for him running the Dragons there wouldn’t have been such a good MTB scene in South Wales so it probably wouldn’t have caught my attention as much. There also wouldn’t be half the tracks around that there are today. Then he was the one who encouraged me to have a go at Nationals, Internationals and finally World Cups. If it wasn’t for my Dad I would never have had the confidence to think that I was good enough to try!
You got third overall last season, what are your reflections on 2013, and what do you want to achieve this year?
In many ways 2013 was a fantastic year for me as I was regularly on the podium at World Cups, in 2nd place no less. However it was also frustrating for me as I was chasing after 1st place all year and never got it, then I crashed at World Champs which was frustrating as well – I know South Africa is a good track for me. This year I want to improve upon last year, I want to win!
How did it feel going into World Cups at a young age, how did you prepare for your first race?
Haha, well as I’ve just mentioned I didn’t have much confidence in myself. I was stressing, like what if we went all the way to Austria and I didn’t qualify? My training just consisted of riding as much as I could, I’d always done sports in school as well. Maribor was my first World Cup and it was so muddy and gnarly, I was just trying to get down the track to be honest. I was bricking it at the top, as well as freezing – you couldn’t even see the first corner for the mist! – so when I qualified 11th it was a massive surprise.
Outside of racing what do you like to get up to?
During the winter I’m pretty busy with training but I love getting out on the motorbike when I can. And then at the end of the season I like to go on a few adventures, do a bit of travelling for fun. When I’m not riding I love to be by the sea, beach time is always good!
Unfortunately you’ve been injured a few times, what advice would you give to those who are going through the same, and nervous about getting back on the bike?
It is hard sometimes to build confidence again after an injury but I think the main thing is to accept that it’s going to take time, which is hard when you injure yourself during the season. It takes a little while for your body to get strong again as well, so I’d recommend just taking it easy until you feel confident to push yourself again.
What advice would you give to women who want to get into mountain biking, and perhaps try racing in future?
To get into mountain biking I think it’s important to find the right place to start. I’ve heard a lot of people throwing themselves in the deep end and having bad experiences, crashing, losing confidence etc. For some people it’s fine but others maybe need a gentler introduction to mountain biking. There are a lot of trail centres around nowadays so it’s easy to start simple and work your way up to harder routes. As for racing, again I’d say start with less daunting races and build your confidence. The Forest of Dean mini downhill series, for example, seems to be the perfect place to start with a friendly environment and tracks that aren’t too gnarly.
One thing I would say however is make sure you have been riding a lot beforehand, turning up to a race feeling confident on your bike will make a huge difference.
Obviously everyone gets nervous from time to time, have you found anything that helps you relax?
I actually have a power nap before most races. There’s usually a lot of waiting around between practise and race runs and it can mess with your head if you start thinking about things too much so I just go to sleep! Having a structured routine helps as well so you know what you are going to do right up until the start line, so there is less opportunity for race nerves to creep in.
Getting picked up by Madison Saracen was a fantastic thing for both you, and the team, how have the past few years been and what do you have planned for 2014?
Yeah I still think to myself how lucky it was that they noticed me back in 2010. It’s really cool that I’ve been with the team since it began and every year the whole set up improves. We have new team mates on the team this year, Matt Simmonds and Japanese rider, Kazuki Shimizu, so that should be really fun. We’ve had a few team camps already this year and the next trip abroad will be to the first two World Cups… I’m looking forward to it all kicking off!
For you, what are the best and worst things about being a professional MTB rider?
The best thing is the feeling you get after a good race, you feel so strong and confident in yourself, empowering came to mind the last time I felt it. Getting to travel all over the world and call it your job isn’t bad either!
The worst things are definitely Bulgarian squats… I hate them!
What changes would you like to see for female riders in the next few years?
Above all I want to see more riders, more women riding for fun and more women racing. More women means a bigger market, more talent and more competition, making the racing more exciting and giving us a bigger influence within the industry. So grab a bike and have a go!
What are your must have riding essentials?
Mule bars! I’m addicted to Mango Tango bars, they’re so good. I get hungry really quick and I’m definitely guilty of getting grumpy if I’m not kept well fed! This winter I got my hands of a pair of Madison’s waterproof shorts as well which were a godsend on wet XC rides – I’d never realised how much of a difference they make. Keeping warm and dry makes riding in Wales so much more enjoyable.
Photos from Laurence Crossman-Emms
Sarah Muir joins FMD Racing
“Having guided the team for 3 years now, Team Manager Tony has seen what it takes to bring young riders to the top of an ever-increasing group of talented individuals. He has learnt that raw talent alone is not enough to get them to where they want to be. Recruiting quality personnel to join the team will maximise the rider’s opportunity to reach their goals.
Supporting Tony this year is Sarah Muir – as Assistant Manager. Sarah will be sharing the tasks of looking after the FMD athletes and assisting with marketing activities for the team. She is a Business Grad, WC party girl and creator of Diva Descent – Female specific DH Races, Holidays and Coaching Camps. Sarah brings a passion for both bikes and business to the team and we can’t believe our luck that she’s involved .”
2014 Northwest Series Round 1
|Pos||Bib||Name||Sponsors||Run 1||Run 2||Best run||Diff|
|1||149||Georgina MACKENZIE||1:39.57 (1)||1:50.75 (1)||1:39.57||–|
|2||130||Tea JENSEN||bikers boutique / Leslie Bike Shop||2:30.88 (2)||2:22.06 (2)||2:22.06||42.49s|
|Pos||Bib||Name||Sponsors||Run 1||Run 2||Best run||Diff|
|1||133||Alwen WILLIAMS||Antur Stiniog||1:36.13 (2)||1:35.13 (1)||1:35.13||–|
|2||132||Becci SKELTON||1:35.29 (1)||1:35.21 (2)||1:35.21||0.08s|
|3||126||Llinos BROWN||1:39.59 (3)||1:40.97 (4)||1:39.59||4.46s|
|4||148||Cath TILFORD||TRG||1:40.13 (4)||1:40.93 (3)||1:40.13||5.00s|
|5||131||Laura RICHER||1:48.21 (5)||1:56.34 (6)||1:48.21||13.08s|
|6||177||Lisa BOLTON||1:56.67 (6)||1:52.15 (5)||1:52.15||17.02s|
|7||176||Claire CALLAND||1:58.57 (7)||2:04.08 (7)||1:58.57||23.44s|
|8||178||Julie CHEETHAM||2:15.66 (8)||2:31.35 (8)||2:15.66||40.53s|
Because our Women’s Wednesday is the rad, Manon Carpenter, it only seems right that we have a video of her in action! Check out this edit from Liam Murphy Films.