Photo: Dave Mackison
Downhill mountain bike racer Tahnée Seagrave grew up in Morzine watching the pro riders hang out at her parents’ chalet. Little did she know she’d end up joining the MTB scene professionally one day too. Fast-forward to last year, and the Red Bull rider took three World Cup wins, signing off 2017 as second in the overall rankings.
With the 2018 season underway, including a World Cup win at Fort William and a disappointing DQ last weekend, the almost-23-year-old (it’s her birthday on Friday) is fired up. Here, Tahnée answers my questions on everything from fear and training to her goals for this year.
Your childhood was spent in Morzine growing-up around pro riders. How much did this shape your love of riding and desire to compete?
I’ve been competitive for as long as I can remember and have competed in most sports I picked up, but being around pro riders gave me an idea of what it would be like before I was a pro myself. I loved everything about their lifestyle, but never thought it would one day be mine.
What was life like in Morzine and how much were you riding as a kid?
I remember Mum and Dad would take us out [cycling] on the family blue runs in Les Gets in the summer, from about the age of 9. We loved it, but we also loved skiing and snowboarding in the winter. I wasn’t always on my bike, it was just a hobby that naturally progressed. It wasn’t like ‘I want to be a pro mountain biker so I’m going to dedicate my life to it’ like I see a lot of youngsters and parents do nowadays. I was just this kid that loved any outdoor activity and hanging out with friends. It wasn’t until a lot later on that I narrowed it down to DH (downhill MTB) and that was what I wanted to do.
You had a super-successful season in 2017 and came second overall. Do you put this down to a more relaxed approach or just another year of experience?
There’s no magic formula to winning and it’s not always the same. It definitely helped being a lot more relaxed but I was on a roll and I was in a happy place. Experience is one of the main elements of racing. Most youngsters are just as fast as the more mature generation, but it’s being smart and finding the line between where you can ride on the limit and not crash. Something that becomes easier as the years go on.
Where do you train near your home in Wales, and how often do you train with your brother (successful MTB rider) Kaos?
Mostly in the gym and at Revolution Bike Park. Kaos and I ride and train loads together, always have done and probably always will.
How much of downhill racing is mental?
It’s definitely over half, and the mental side is much more demanding than the physical. It tires you out and drains you emotionally. People forget that your body is just a tool for your mind, and that there are times to push it, and there are times to rest it. Both as important as each other. So whoever is strongest up there, over all platforms, will come out on top.
What goes through your head at the top of a run?
I wouldn’t be able to say. I’m in my own little zone up there and it’s not something I can recreate or go back to when not in that environment. I always get nervous, but it’s part of my routine now, and [I] would be worrying if I wasn’t. It’s easy to stay focused if you’ve done everything you can leading up to that moment and if you feel ready.
How has women’s Downhill changed since you first started racing?
In my opinion it’s changed lots and I haven’t even been around on the circuit for that long. When I was racing as a junior I was alone and put in with the elites. Now they have their own category and you see different faces winning all the time. It’s cool. Social media may be a devil at times but it has opened up so many doors for some riders and it’s a platform where people can share some of the awesome stuff they do, and young girls can look up to.
What advice would you give to young girls or women who fancy giving MTB or downhill a go?
Follow your heart. It’s easier said than done and we are often influenced at a young age. But always stick to your gut feeling and know what you’re worth.
What kind of course do you enjoy racing the best?
I like steep loamy stuff but in contrast to that I also like fast, dusty berms and big jumps!
You were vocal last year about the new wood section at Fort William. Does terrain like this have a big effect on how you mentally and physically approach a race?
No. At the end of the day we have to race what is put in front of us. I am an athlete and have to approach things with a positive attitude no matter what. I like hard sections, I thrive off difficulty. But there’s a difference between what’s rideable and what’s race-able.
Has there ever been a point after a spill that you were scared to get back on the bike?
I’m never scared of getting back on my bike, although I do get scared of certain features that will remind me of the pain, or if there’s a possibility of getting injured again. But I’m always excited to get back on my bike.
How physically demanding is downhill?
I think it’s a lot more physical than people believe. The tracks aren’t ever really that long but it’s real high intensity and works every muscle in your body at max power for about 4 minutes. We need everything. There are so many variables in Downhill that everything needs to be covered!
How important is strength training for your riding?
Again, so important. Mostly for injury prevention as we’re putting ourselves at high risk every time we ride, but we also need strength to able to hold us up when we’re tired and riding on the limit, and to be able to ride at our optimum for the amount of time required.
During the race season what does your training look like?
It’s not as heavy now as in the off-season because we are mostly racing or on the road. It’s less gym work and more riding!
Do you focus on any one area in particular during the off season?
Every off season is different, and depends what injuries you are nursing. I don’t think any pro Downhiller ends a season completely fit. It’s a good time to take care of your body and show it some love. I spent a lot of time rehabbing my shoulders from small injuries and my ankle that I’d torn the ligaments in during the race season. And then a lot of strength work and riding.
Did any of the older riders help support or mentor you earlier on in your career?
Yes, Vanessa Quinn was a big inspiration when I was growing up and she took me under her wing along with Nigel Page. After that, locals and friends from Morzine built me into the rider and character I am today.
Is it true that when you were 15 you told Rachel Atherton you’d beat her some day?
Yes, haha. I said it jokingly, I looked up to her a lot and she was already dominating at the time. She was a huge inspiration and I wanted to be just like her, but even better. She would just say “I know.” with a smile. Little did we know what the future held…
You’ve competed all over the world. Where are your favourite places to mountain bike?
It’s crazy that I’ve raced all over the world but as they say there’s no place like home. I love coming back to Wales but I absolutely fell in love again with where it all started: Pleney, Morzine. I went back there last summer after not having been for a few years. There are still so many places I’d like to go!
What are your favourite items of kit for racing and training?
I love my Fox kit, so lucky to have a sponsor that I loved as a kid. I also take a lot of pride in my custom Red Bull helmet that is very unique and special to me.
Who are you sponsored by at the moment?
Transition Bike Company, Fox Racing, Red Bull, Five Ten, Oakley are my main personal ones. Then we have Muc-Off, Fox Shox, Ergon, Schwalbe, DT Swiss, Shimano, PRO, MarshGuard & CrankBrothers on the team side of things. We really are honoured to have these guys support us, and most of them have been there since we started the team.
After a successful 2017, have you set any goals for this year?
Just to improve where I can, whenever I can 🙂