Tracy Moseley is a legend in mountain biking. Taking downhill MTB racing by storm, she dominated the scene for more than a decade, winning countless titles including World Downhill Champion in 2010, before switching to enduro mountain bike racing. Despite demanding a totally different skillset and fitness, Tracy took an incredible 15 World Enduro wins and three consecutive World Enduro Champion titles.
Having taken her foot off the gas a smidge in semi-retirement, I catch up with her to talk mountain bike training, downhill racing and her experiences in enduro.
You grew up on a farm in Malvern. How instrumental was your childhood in developing your love of mountain biking?
It was a huge part of learning to ride a bike, having adventures, being outdoors and having the space to play. I used to make little courses and trails sections with my brother and ride slaloms and steep trails in the woods and fields.
From there how did the downhill MTB racing come about?
My brother, Ed, who is 2 years older than me, started venturing a bit further afield from the farm on his bike and started riding on the local Malvern Hills with some other local lads. They soon all started going to cross country MTB races in the area. I used to go along but I was a bit lazy and hated riding uphill and just wanted to do the fun bit, racing back down, so downhill racing appealed to me straight away!
You had huge success in downhill MTB racing. What did you love about it?
I loved the speed, the detail of trying to find the best line and the best set-up and equipment to make up those extra seconds to get the fastest time… it was always exciting and a bit scary!
What kind of fitness do you need for downhill racing – or is it more about technical ability?
It’s a mix of technical skill and fitness, because you can be the most skilled rider, technically, but if you have no fitness you won’t get through a weekend of practice without getting tired. Then when you’re tired, it’s impossible to use your skills to the highest level – so you always need to work on both all of the time!
Did you ever have any nasty spills during your downhill MTB career?
Yeah I had a few, but not as many as most people expect…. a dislocated shoulder was the worst and the one that took the longest to recover from.
Ouch! Was downhill MTB very male dominated or was there a fair balance of girls/women?
In terms of numbers competing it’s a hugely male-dominated sport at the races, but in terms of people out riding mountain bikes these days at the weekends, there’s a much better balance.
Why did your switch from downhill to enduro mountain biking come about?
I had finally achieved my goal in Downhill to become World Champion in 2010, and I was ready for a new challenge and the opportunity to ride my bike more and in different locations. I had to work a lot on my endurance and fitness to be able to ride my bike for 5 hours a day, for a few days in a row, and to race for over 1-hour of timed descents rather than 5 minutes! I loved the challenge and all the learning that went with it.
Can you explain a little about what enduro is and what it involves?
Enduro is a multi-stage mountain bike race, where you have linking (non-timed) sections that you have to pedal to, to get you to your timed stages. Often races can be 1–2 days and over those 2 days you can cover 40-50km a day with 4/5 timed stages each day. It’s a great mix of downhill skill, speed, fitness and endurance.
You were a 3-time world champion in enduro before semi-retiring. What did you enjoy about it?
I loved the variety of terrain and the amazing locations we got to race at. I loved the preparation and planning, as there’s always something that must be compromised to get the ultimate set-up, so always thinking about fitness, practice and bike set-up choices. Then making good choices and keeping focus throughout long, tough races.
Is there a career highlight that stands out as a personal favourite?
It’s really hard to pinpoint just one, as there have been so many and all very different – I think my Downhill World Title in 2010 was an incredible moment as I’d been dreaming of that moment for over 12 years. Getting to wear the rainbow jersey for 12 months was just amazing!
Then winning three World Enduro titles back-to-back was also an amazing personal highlight for me; to be able to transform myself into an enduro racer and to maintain that high level and have three perfect seasons. That, I don’t think will be ever forgotten for me. I was proud of myself and everyone who helped me achieve all of that success.
You’re now a mentor and a mountain bike coach – tell us about T-MO coaching?
Yeah, I’m enjoying taking a step back from fulltime racing and love being able to use some of my years of experience to help younger riders. Whether it be just giving them an opportunity to have a go at a discipline that they may never have tried or riding with them and sharing some lines and preparation insight, it’s just fun seeing young kids having fun on bikes!
I’ve supported a few riders on T-MO racing team over the last 4 years with the help of Trek UK and bikes on loan. I’ve also set up T-MO coaching and have done our first kids’ camp this year, so hopefully in time this is something that will continue to grow, too.
What are your tips for better mountain bike skills downhill?
Make sure you build up your riding gradually and start off with blue trails, fire roads and work up to the more technical trails as your skills build. Invest in some coaching and good bike set-up knowledge, and work on your core skills. If you can, start off on a hardtail MTB with flat pedals and a dropper seat post so you first learn the basics on a bike that won’t allow you to go to fast before upgrading to a full-suspension bike with clip-in pedals!
You shouldn’t be crashing every time you ride your bike, so if you are, take a step back and get some advice!
Do you think we can do more to promote mountain biking as a sport to women and girls?
We can always be doing more to encourage more participation in MTB for everyone, but often for women and young girls it doesn’t seem that accessible or appealing, so its important to have good role models and show that girls can have as much fun and as much opportunity as guys…. We need to encourage more young teenage girls to stick at sport and maintain a healthy lifestyle and show that mountain biking can be one of those options. It doesn’t always have to be crazy scary downhill stuff, just riding at trail centres and along the canal can still be an amazing way to stay fit and healthy and see more of our beautiful world.
Earlier this year you rode the Andes Pacifico enduro – and won! What was that experience like?
It was amazing! 5 days of riding your bike in the Andes with an amazing mountain backdrop, condors flying overhead and the most amazing food, hospitality… spending time with other like-minded people from all over the world….a super-cool event and adventure!
Photo Credit: Sam Needham
What’s a typical training week look like now that you’re no longer racing professionally?
It’s very different now to the days when training was my number one priority every day! These days I still try and get out and ride 4/5 times a week but there’s not any structure to my rides; it’s just for fun or with friends, and the occasional effort up a hill if I feel good! I also have more variation now, with a few runs if time is short and I’m also taking time to work on the rehab of my body to make sure post-bike racing I won’t have too many aches and pains. SO… making time for yoga, pilates and stretching is still an important part of my days!
Did you do much strength training during your MTB career?
I did spend a lot more time in the gym working on my upper body strength, mainly during the years I raced downhill, but then when I switched to enduro all my training was on the bike other than pilates and yoga. I’m now returning to some gym work to help realign and balance my body for life beyond professional racing!
You’ve competed all over the world. Where are your favourite places to mountain bike?
I still love to ride at home on the Malvern Hills or the Forest of Dean if the weather is good, but one of my favourite places to ride is in the mountains and especially in the Swiss Alps with good friends from Bike Verbier.
Photo Credit: Nick Muzik
What’s in store for the rest of the year?
I have a busy year ahead with a few races in there. I’ll be at the TWeedlove Bike Festival in June, in Peebles, Scotland. I’m commentating at two rounds of the Enduro World Series. Doing a few talks and rides for Trek, my main sponsor, at various locations around the world and I’ll be doing some coaching and riding with the British Cycling XC team at various events over summer too.
Do you subscribe to the n+1 rule of bike ownership?
There is no rule, every discipline of cycling needs a specific bike so there’s always an excuse for another one! I’ve got a Trek Slash for racing Enduro, a Trek Top Fuel for cross-county and a Trek Fuel EX for fun trail riding!
What are your favourite pieces of kit for rides, races and training?
A good, comfortable helmet (I wear Sweet Protection) and my Osprey pack for carrying all my food along with me. I never go hungry on a day out on my bike!
Are you sponsored by anyone at the moment?
Yes, I have an amazing group of sponsors who I have worked with for many years now – Trek Bicycles for my bikes, Bontrager for tyres and wheels, Maloja for clothing, G-Form for protection, Sweet Protection helmets, Osprey for my backpacks and luggage, Deity for my bars, stems and grips, Fox do my suspension, Shimano for gears and brakes, RRP for my mudguards, Oakley for my sunglasses and goggles, and Boobydoo for my sports bras.