Katy Winton on the ups and downs of the pro rider hustle, getting vulnerable, and charging forward

Riding a bike for a job may seem like a dream to some. Pro mountain bikers get paid to travel around the world to ride and race, honing their craft on infamous tracks and visiting bucket list-worthy destinations. But the reality is not always so rosy, even for those at the top of their game. Recently, Katy Winton shared a very personal vlog about her journey, having gone from a sponsored rider with one of the top teams out there, to without a contract with an uncertain road ahead. We caught up with her to dive into what she’s learned through it all, and get some insight into what’s next on track and in life.

Crankworx: First of all, what’s the response been like to the vlog you put out about your search for sponsorship?

Katy Winton: Wow, it’s been insane. I’ve been blown away by the response, I was really nervous about putting it out there but the kindness and support that has come back has been really moving. It’s a story that’s so true for so many riders, but outside the industry you just don’t hear about. It feels good to speak honestly about the other side that’s part of being a pro. 

CWX: What has the response done for your confidence…as a pro rider, and as a human…seeing how people responded to your honesty and vulnerability?

KW: I think it’s been a relief more than anything that I could be myself and speak honestly about the difficulties and be supported. I’d been suffering in silence for so long, so it felt good to be able to be honest about it. There is a lot of anger and frustration in the world right now and the outpouring of support has given me reassurance that there is a lot of kindness still in the world, and that people do appreciate reality, truth and honesty. As humans we crave connection and this year we’ve not had a lot of that due to the pandemic. To be able to connect with so many people on a much deeper level is the kind of content I want to create, to bring everyone along for the ride for the highs and the lows. Thanks everyone!!

CWX: I think you really gave us a unique insight into the stressors that are part of life as a pro. What are your coping mechanisms (positive, negative, or both, ha ha) when those mental stressors get real loud and start trying to take up real estate in your brain?

KW: Well, I was SO stressed so it’s been a huge challenge and a massive learning curve. Lockdown and winter made things really difficult as it cancelled out a lot of my usual coping mechanisms like socialising, getting out for rides or walks with friends or just doing something nice like going out for dinner. Even just getting to the top of a hill for an escape wasn’t happening due to weather, darkness and workload on and off the bike. I also wasn’t making these things a priority either as I was so focused on sorting 2021. However, I’ve had to realise that doing ‘chill’ activities IS part of working hard and is actually a crucial part of sustaining a high quality workload. If I want to keep up what I’m doing to the highest level I have to make time to just sit and breathe and actually look around and appreciate what’s around me; to do yoga, paint, call a friend or just tune out and watch Netflix. It’s hard to do when you have a pressing issue to fix but as soon as I realised it was a key component to the process all of a sudden you find a balance that means better work done and a happier human.

CWX: I saw that you have your Crankworx prize cheque hanging in your bike storage – stoked to see it has a piece of primo real estate on your wall! Tell me about that moment…taking third place at EWS Whistler in 2017…what was the feeling like of standing on that podium, arguably one of the biggest EWS races of the year, in Whistler, this mecca for all things mountain bikes.

KW: Aw man, that was a dream come true! The year before I’d gone to the “winners dinner” with Casey as her +1 and I was like ‘this is amazing to be here and experience this because I might not get there again…’ I never imagined the very next year I’d be there because of my own achievements! It was so special because my brother and sister-in-law were there and my Canadian Family I befriended were there too. Whistler is and always will be one of my absolute favourite places to race and ride my bike!

CWX: You left us on a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of your vlog…any teasers on what’s to come next?

KW: There is actually a clue in the previous video for those viewers with eagle eyes!! 

CWX: So since we don’t know what’s ahead for you this season, in terms of sponsorship and where that will take you…what are you goals for the season ahead, whether on, around or off the bike?

KW: My goal is to be back on that EWS podium and fighting for wins. But most importantly to just revel in the delights of riding a bike I love, as fast as I can, supported by a rad bunch of brands and people. I am so filled up with positive energy with what I’ve pulled together and the people around me that good times are just going to roll! 🙂

Catch up on the first episode of “Keeping up with Katy – From All to Nothing” and stay tuned for Episode 2 in the coming week. Plus, word on the street is that Winton will be competing at Crankworx Innsbruck this June, so get ready to watch her throw down in the Crankworx Innsbruck Downhill presented by Raiffaisen Club.