WSR Interview with International Mountain Biking Star Manon Carpenter
When did you first know that Mountain Biking was going to be your sport, what age?
I guess now, or when I first became professional I realised mountain biking was something I would be able to spend a good part of my life doing. I never really thought of it as ‘my sport’ when I was younger, it was just one of the things I did in my free time! I don’t know, I’ve always ridden bikes and it’s always felt like I’ve naturally fallen into doing what I do, I’ve been quite lucky that way.
It’s an unusual sport to take up; did you ever think it would be a sport you would go onto compete internationally at?
I used to just ride for fun, it was something I’d always done with my Dad and we have a lot of friends from the biking community so for years it was just what we did on weekends. Then I started competing in races, again just for fun going away with my Dad who also raced and having some great adventures at the same time. I never really looked ahead to competing internationally, or thought I would be able to, but one thing lead to another and before I knew it I was racing my first World Cup!
What are the best things about taking up mountain biking?
Spending time in the mountains, the adventures you’ll inevitably end up on and the excitement and confidence you feel when you push yourself that little bit further. The places your bike can take you to are amazing and overcoming an obstacle or a track you were initally scared of is the best feeling!
How many hours a week do you spend training/gym etc.
It varies so much. During off-season I’ll have quite a regimented schedule with gym and road ride three times a week, with sprint and skills sessions slotted in around that then during the season I’ll spend more time on my race bike. Strength and stamina play a big part in race performance but ultimately you have to be the best bike rider you can be, so finding the balance between skills and conditioning is important.
What funding do you receive to help with your training?
I’m very lucky to have such great support from my trade team, Madison Saracen, who make it possible for me to train full-time and live as a professional athlete. Welsh Cycling have also been very helpful by providing funding from Sport Wales to cover some training costs.
Like many women in the UK they have to juggle many things on top of their sport, do you have a job outside your sport, and if so how do you manage to juggle the two?
I do have a lot of respect for athletes who juggle training alongside studies and work. I am fortunate to be able to focus 100% on my racing.
How old were you when GB called you up to the international team?
Explain the feeling when you received your GB Tracksuit/competition gear for the first time?
I was first chosen to represent GB at the World Championships in Canada as a Junior in 2010. I was very excited and knew I had a good shot at the title but a crash at the final World Cup in America just one week before took me out of contention. I was gutted not to be able to race my first World Champs, and had to sit at home with a broken humerous instead.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement?
2014 was my most successful year to date. I won the World Cup Series and the World Championships in the same year, and I was very happy with the way I managed to stay focussed throughout the whole year.
Do you have any time span on how long you would like to be in the sport?
No time span, I’m still young and don’t feel like I have to think too far in the future at the moment. There are athletes still racing competitively in their late thirties so I don’t feel as though I am in any rush!
How do you relax outside your sport?
I do like to have some down time by myself, with my mum or a few friends to refresh my head if anything. It can get quite hectic during the season. Walks with the dogs, cafe stops and trips to the beach all help to unwind.
If you could choose any other sport to compete in what would it be?
I really like snowboarding! I’m not sure about slope style but something that involves speed would be cool. As much as I hold myself back sometimes, I love an adrenaline buzz.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life in and around MB?
It has to be my Dad. He first got me into mountain biking and we had so many good times when we rode and travelled to races together. Sometimes we clash as we know each other so well but I have learnt a lot from him, through advice or mistakes! I’m very lucky to have great parents.
Like many women’s sports in the UK and around the World funding and help is poor, what would you like to see happen in the years ahead in a general term?
I would like to see more women and girls making the most of opportunities made available to them. I think there is a good movement at the moment to try and get more women into sport and this is very encouraging. I see more girls out on bikes all the time and there a quite a few local projects that I know of encouraging this. More women taking part in sport will mean we will have a much stronger voice. Equal participation would be amazing.
Finally for any young people thinking of taking up MB as a sport what would be your words of advice?
Have fun on your bike, find local clubs or trails where you will meet likeminded people and enjoy it! It’s a great sport to be part of, and will take you to some great places if you are up for the challenge.
Manon Carpenter rides for the Madison Saracen Factory Race team and wears Madison Clothing whether she is out for a casual ride in her home of south Wales or competing in world championship competitions. For more info, visit www.madison.cc
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photos Janos Schmidt