Photo Credit: Callum Wood

Australian downhill mountain biker, Tracey Hannah, grew up riding bikes. At the age of four she competed in her first BMX competition and by 14 she was racing elite downhill MTB events. In 2017, she narrowly missed out on realising her dream to become Downhill World Champion when a spill in Cairns knocked her unconscious. Incredibly, she still took third place.

Here, the Polygon UR team rider chats about her love of speed, crashing in Cairns, and how a childhood spent on bikes kick-started her love of mountain biking.

Photo Credit: Callum Wood

You raced your first bike event when you were four. Growing up, were you always riding?
We had a really amazing childhood in the sense that our parents were very lenient when it came to being outside, getting dirty and going on adventures. I think our outdoor upbringing was the pathway into our chosen disciplines in biking. We used to spend most our time outdoors and our parents used to take us to the local BMX track for fun.

What was a typical weekend like when you were growing up?
Weekends and weekdays weren’t much different, we lived on a farm so we had a four-wheeler motorbike and Dad bought me a car to drive around the farm when I was nine. We always had pushbikes and we spent until dark in the yard racing around on those.

Did you try cross country and other mountain bike disciplines before you stuck with downhill?
When I was young all you could get were XC bikes so it was definitely a starting point but I was useless at XC (cross-country mountain bike) racing. I never really got motivated to push myself to vomiting point, I hated uphills and the flats were to slow for me.

Photo Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull

I read that you love speed – is this why you fell in love with downhill?
I’ve always been into fast things – cars, boats, jetskis. I think I was always going to love something like downhill that had a thrill and where you spent most of your life outdoors.

What goes through your head at the top of a run? Do you get nervous?
I definitely get nervous on race day, but when I get to the top and start warming-up I feel great. It takes a lot of mental energy to go through a race week but I’ve learnt over the years how to circulate my fear and anxiety into good race energy. It’s definitely a process.

What kind of terrain/course do you enjoy racing the best?
I love a course that has big jumps and really high-speed intense sections. I get frustrated trying to manoeuvre around slow, technical, wet woods sections, so I love a fast, wide-open course like Cairns or Lourdes.

You retired briefly in 2008 because there wasn’t the support in women’s racing. Do you feel things have moved on enough in women’s downhill now?
It’s a lot different now. It is easier to be supported if you’re one of the top riders, however, it is near impossible if you aren’t. I think there is a huge gap between men and women in racing and the fact that they keep cutting the quota for the live TV and qualifying makes it even more difficult for woman to compete. So no, it hasn’t moved forward enough at all. Even though women’s racing is popular, the industry is still living in the 60’s forgetting that it’s quite exciting to see us compete at a high level on the same courses as the men.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

You’ve experienced a fair amount of crashes. Have you ever been scared to get back on the bike?
Yeah for sure, that’s fear and we go through it every day with most things. Fear is a constant in our lives and you can see that when people don’t follow their dreams or live their passions – the number one thing stopping them is fear; of failure or pain. I have learnt through injury what fear means to me and I have learnt how to overcome the fear that comes with crashes and injuries. I love riding and racing and it’s my passion, so every day I commit to working hard towards being able to live out my passions.

You work with a mental strength coach – have you found this has helped you?
If you work with a professional it helps a lot; they have studied a field that [previously] I really knew nothing about. Just like I work with a coach for my physical ability, it’s good to work with a mental coach for my mental training.

During last year’s downhill World Champs in Cairns you took a huge spill which knocked you out, yet you still finished an incredible 3rd place. Was it bittersweet coming third yet being so close to your dream?
Bittersweet isn’t even close, it was heart-breaking! I still have no words for what happened on that day, I just know that no race will ever be as hard as that one.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

How does it feel to ride alongside your brother, Mick, for Polygon UR?
It’s awesome to be riding for such a family-orientated bike brand like Polygon UR. The team has pushed us to become the best that we can. Riding with Michael on the circuit has helped a lot with my results and my technical decisions at races.

Do you do any training off the bike?
I train in the gym and sometimes do some jogging for cross-training. Because the race season is so long and you spend so much time on your bike, it’s good to mix it up.

Which is more important: fitness, strength or technical ability on the bike?
It depends on where you’re at. It’s hard to train strength, fitness and technical all at once so whatever your weakness is, that’s what you need to focus on.

Photo Credit: Callum Wood

During the downhill mountain bike race season what does a typical week look like?
Well, race season is hectic so Monday – Sunday looks like this:

Monday, Tuesday – Travel. Wednesday – Rest. Then the event will start on Thursday and you race Sunday so the schedule is hectic. You tend to lose a bit of fitness during the season due to the busy schedule.

You’ve competed all over the world. Where are your favourite places to mountain bike?
I love riding in Whistler (Canada) and Queenstown the most. They have the most variety and the easiest access to runs.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

You’re supported by High5 Nutrition. Which of their products do you use?
Usually due to nerves on race weekend I find it hard to eat, so I tend to go for the High5 Energy Bars and Protein Shakes to keep up my energy. I find that High5 settles the stomach and I don’t feel so nauseous after eating them. Before a race I’ll usually take some High5 Energy Source mix-up in my bottle to drink at the top of the run. Other things I have daily are High5 Zeros for replenishing my electrolytes, and [because] it’s something different to water.

You said that 2017, although your best season, was your hardest season physically and mentally. Could you elaborate?
The 2017 season was all about Worlds (the 2017 Mountain Bike World Championship in Cairns). Trying to balance saving myself and not getting injured while holding onto the overall jersey proved extremely difficult for me – a situation I’d never been in before as I wasn’t expecting to have such a great season leading into Worlds. I guess I had a plan and nothing went to plan so it was a huge learning curve for me.

Photo Credit: Callum Wood

What are your favourite items of kit for racing and training?
Snacks, I have to have snacks, ask anyone haha… Water and fresh gloves. They’re my must-haves.

Who are you sponsored by at the moment?
I ride for the Polygon UR team.

After a successful 2017, have you set any goals for the coming season?
I want to carry on from 2017 and use what I’ve learnt physically and mentally to go into 2018 ready to start competing for the World Cup Overall. That will be my goal next season.

Photo Credit: Callum Wood

To keep up with Tracey’s training and downhill mountain bike racing, follow her social media channels:,, and via Tracey’s website,

You can follow the Polygon UR racing team via  For more information on High5 Nutrition visit