Introducing Kate Courtney
by Levi Leipheimer
The list of charities that Levi’s GranFondo supports is a long one, and it covers a wide spectrum. We support an array of organizations from rural elementary schools to volunteer fire departments, human service organizations like the Forget Me Not Farm to cancer causes like Pablove and the Dempsey Center, and just two years ago Levi’s GranFondo became the largest sponsor in the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League’s (NCHSL) history.
NCHSL alumni, Pan American and U23 XC National Champion Kate Courtney made her way up the ranks to quickly become one of the most talented athletes on the planet. Just recently she returned from an impressive top 10 performance at MTB Worlds in Andorra.
We are excited to announce that Kate will be coming to Santa Rosa and has graciously agreed to be our honored guest and lead us all out on October 3rd while wearing race bib #1. I took the time to catch up with Kate this week to ask her some questions so you all can get to know her better. Here’s our conversation:
Kate, after finishing MTB Worlds in Andorra. Photo: Michal Cerveny
LL: Tell us the story about how you started Mt Biking and how the NorCal League played a part in that?
KC: My first exposure to mountain biking was at around age seven when I started spending Sunday mornings riding on the back of a tandem with my dad on Mount Tam. It wasn’t until high school, however, that I discovered mountain bike racing even existed. I originally joined my high school mountain bike team at Branson as a way to cross train in the spring for cross country running. As soon as I competed in my first NorCal league race that spring, I was hooked. Not only did I love racing, but I was inspired by the extremely high level of women’s racing in the league. At the time, the best girls in the varsity category were the best in the country and I aspired to race with them. Shortly after that first race I joined the Whole Athlete Specialized team and began racing on the national level. Throughout high school, I continued to race in the NorCal league in a very competitive varsity field that really challenged me and helped me develop as a racer.
LL: When did you first believe you could compete with the best women in the world? What is that process like? Was there a big breakthrough moment or was it smaller, step by step?
KC: The process for me has been gradual but punctuated with exciting breakthroughs. There are a few specific moments that stand out as times I began to feel new confidence and commitment in trying to race at the front of the field. In my first season racing on the world cup circuit, I was humbled by the level of racing and technical skill required to compete with the best in Europe. It wasn’t until my first World Cup win in Windham that year that I started to believe I could compete with the best in the world. That race gave me the confidence to set high goals and work towards them. There are always doubts and setbacks, but these breakthroughs keep me moving forward. Just this year, I have had another breakthrough season and have yet again raised my goals as I look towards 2016 and beyond.
LL: What would you tell your younger self when you first started in the sport?
KC: I would tell my younger self that what you put into cycling every day in your training will pay off and that it is so much more exciting and fun to race on the international level than I could have ever imagined. Particularly in high school, balancing the long days of training and traveling with school can be very challenging, but the sacrifices I have made for cycling are always more than worth it.
LL: You’ve traveled all over the World and ridden in some amazing places. Where’s your favorite place to ride?
KC: My cycling career has definitely taken me to some incredible places, including the nine different countries I got to race in this season. This year my favorite trails were found during a few days of riding in Lenzerheide, Switzerland where we rode gondolas up and descended over 10,000 feet of sweet single track in one day. Despite how much I love visiting and riding in these new places, my favorite place to ride will always be near my home in Marin. I grew up riding the beautiful trails and roads there and would still rather ride here with my dad than anywhere in the world.
LL: I’m going to impose upon you because I saw a video of you rapping. Will you write a unique rap to sing to everyone at the start of the GranFondo?
KC: If Lea ends up coming to the fondo, we can talk about doing a rap. She is still figuring out her schedule and if she will be able to make it.
Kate Courtney will wear race bib #1 and lead Levi’s GranFondo out of Santa Rosa on October 3rd, 2015
all photos: Michal Cerveny
Howdy intrepid riders of the 2015 Levi’s GranFondo,
Jonathan and John here, honchos of the GranFondo’s on-bike Marshal program. If you’ve ridden with us, you’ve no doubt noticed the 150 or so riders in bright garb riding alongside you during the event. We’re the local folks who’ve got a vested, hometown interest in seeing Levi’s GranFondo stay safe, fun, and well-executed. We’re a big part of the eyes and ears of the GranFondo team on course and we’re here to help make sure riders can concentrate on riding instead of worrying about any number of things other events would leave to chance. We figured it was time to introduce ourselves, clarify our role, and, where we can, give you all some idea of what to expect on October 3, 2015.
Our first responsibility, just like the GranFondo, is to rider safety. We’re a critical part of that safety team, in that we’re there to offer support and encouragement, advice, and yes, sometimes pointed orders. We know these roads, we know their hazards and obstacles, and, most importantly, we’re very aware of the behaviors and tendencies of individual riders in large groups.
We are often the first on-scene at incidents and sometimes the last to leave after a rider is treated. We report back to the event organizers and responders with information about what we see and any intel we find along the way. Oftentimes, the information we carry back to HQ prevents these incidents long before they happen.
While this may make us sound like overstuffed hall monitors, it’s important to remember that we’re here to serve you, the rider. We’re part of the team that’s making sure you not only have the best day out on two wheels, but also the safest day out. Just like you, we get excited about the GranFondo every year and we love being a part of the good it promotes in our community and for cycling at large.
Expect to see more from us in the coming months. We’re looking forward to arming you with enough information that you’ll be riding like a local come October.
Jonathan and John
Levi’s Granfondo Marshals