Back many years ago, more than I care to admit, in the fledgling years of mountain biking, there was one place that I was hooked on: Marin County, California. The birthplace of the sport and home of the legendary brand Marin Bikes, the first bikes I rode as I started my own mountain bike racing.
So when I first discovered Kate Courtney, reading all about her incredible achievements and discovering she was brought up in Marin County and that she had rode those epic trails synonymous with mountain biking, it became a goal of mine to try and get the opportunity to interview her. Eventually, the goal was realized, as I sat down with Kate to discuss her career and build-up to the pandemic-postponed Olympics in Tokyo. I came away having made a friend. Kate and I have chatted several times since and I had the privilege to photograph her at the Val di Sole World Championships in 2021.
I recently caught up with Kate again to chat over the Scott Scale RC Contessa – the bike she will ride for some of the 2023 season – and she told me more about her input at the design stage and her excitement for the World Championships in Scotland.
Kate was at altitude at the Sugar Bowl resort in California when we chatted, enjoying winter training, ski touring and downtime with her husband Will and their dog Monte. After a chat about the weather, I began by asking her about the input she, Nino (Schurter) and their Scott-SRAM Racing Team teammates had in the design process and wishlist for the Scale.
"One of the most unique aspects of the Scott SRAM program is the close relationship between their athletes and product development teams. I know that Nino has historically had a lot of input on product development and feedback, which I think has greatly impacted the quality of products that we ride as a team. With the new Scott Scale, my key asks were to have a lighter and stiffer frame which was absolutely accomplished in the 2023 model. It climbs like a dream too, I'm so happy with it."
Having written about the new Scale RC spec a few weeks before, one of the questions that had come to mind was if Kate had a choice of componentry and color ways on her unique and stunning-looking bikes.
"All of our bikes are built with SRAM components which, in my view, are the most innovative on the market. I am especially excited to race the new Eagle BlackBox drivetrain this season. SRAM have pulled out all the stops with this, it's super light and just makes the bike so good.
"The Contessa paint job is one of my favorites ever. I was able to be involved in helping steer the color way for the Contessa collection and I think it is an incredible balance of badass and feminine. They have certainly added some serious sparkle watts to this bike!"
Talking of favorites I asked Kate if she had a preference between the Scale or her full-suspension Spark.
"It is important to have the right tool for the job and the Scale and Spark are suited to different types of race courses and efforts. That said, I would have to pick the Spark as my favorite! This Scale is a blast to ride though, it has a more aggressive look and feel that make it a great choice for the race course."
We turned our attention to the coming season, her return to form and the World Championships in Scotland.
"I have never ridden in Scotland, but I am very excited to be racing there for the World Championships this year. I believe it will be the first time that all cycling disciplines are holding World Championships in the same place which I think will create a very unique and exciting atmosphere! Scotland looks like a very beautiful place and my family will be coming too. I always enjoy being able to share the experience of racing with my family and friends, especially at big races like the World Championships. The support means the world to me and certainly gives me some extra motivation to make them proud.
"After a challenging year, my mantra was to accept and commit, it was a tough season and I learned a lot but struggled at times. But I was proud to put myself back in the top 10 and find consistency, we have a foundation to build on.
"It's all about building momentum and confidence. I've not decided on this year's mantra but I'm excited to commit to the process and push my limits. I like to keep my specific race goals within my performance team – but it is safe to say I am aiming to step up this season. I think there are a lot of learnings and motivation to take forward with me into this season. With the support of Scott-SRAM and a shared vision for the future, I am eager to get back to racing and see what magic we can accomplish together."
In finishing our chat, I asked Kate for a quote. She simply replied, "Work hard, do what you love and believe anything is possible." Wise words indeed. We wish Kate all the best for the 2023 season and we look forward to that certain race in Scotland.