Interview: Tracy Moseley
Posted September 3 2009
Words and Photography Luke Webber
The first British woman to win a downhill World Cup, Tracy Moseley has become the cornerstone of UK downhilling. The consistency to Rachel Atherton's flamboyance, it's easy to forget the back-to-back national champion took the opening World Cup of 2009 in South Africa on a similar course to which the riders will face this weekend in Canberra. Luke Webber discovers that's the reason you'll tune in for the live coverage this weekend.
Two years ago Tracy Moseley said never again. On the finish line of the 2007 World Championships, on her home course of Fort William - a course which has become her own - a year of preparation went to waste. A mechanical, a position off of the podium and another year to miss the only accolade left to complete the triple crown of British Champion, World Cup Winner and World Champion.
Therefore it comes as a surprise to hear that just as in 2007, Tracy is back to that same focus, with the same goal - despite saying never again. As I meet with Moseley two weeks before the 2009 World Championships, she's already well into that plan, performing intervals and visiting the local jump spot for the first time in nearly two years. And the reason for this risk is simple, as Tracy candidly explains.
"Having spent a long time in sport the Worlds is the only reason I am still racing. I think if I won the Worlds now I would be able to leave the sport knowing I had done everything. Looking at the next couple of years there are tracks that don't suit me so much. That's why this year is so important.
Tracy celebrates the win in Fort William...just one year too late
"After Fort William I'd never been so disappointed - I made that promise to myself; never again. But I think this year has given me the perfect opportunity to go back and focus on the biggest single race in downhill mountain biking because the track suits my riding. I won there last year and I believe I can do it again. I have made a decision to do well at the Worlds. I am confident that it suits me and there's no reason why I can't win - it's just a case of getting my act together. Although the World Cups so far haven't been great for me in 2009 I have proved that when it is a flatter course where pedalling is vital I can do well. I won the first World Cup in South Africa in that style so I still have it."
And getting that act together has been something that has plagued Moseley throughout this year. After the perfect start a combination of crashes, mistakes and bad luck has seen Tracy's challenge fade. Meanwhile, Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier has won every race without contest, as her countrywomen Emmeline Ragot, Celine Gros and Floriane Pugin record the remaining top positions. And that has done little for Tracy's morale, meaning preparations for the Worlds have to be perfect.
"When it comes down to one race run it comes down to the mental strength rather than riding ability most of the time. It's been hard after winning the World Cup in 2006. 2007/8 were not fantastic but they were solid. This year was a new start on a new team a new bike and I enjoyed that, especially winning the first big race. It was like I was back where I wanted to be. But to go from there to crashing in two World Cups and not even finishing on the podium it was pretty damn tough. The one thing I have to remember is that I am still riding fast - in practice I am proving that to myself and it is a case of just getting back to that form in a race run. It was only a few months ago that I was the number one in the world with that first World Cup win - you don't become rubbish on the bike in a matter of weeks. I had turned a significant corner in Canada qualifying first and was hoping that was going to result in a win but again I made too many mistakes. But all it takes is one result to turn it into the best year ever."
The significant question then would be exactly how you go about rescuing a season that can be paralleled to formula one's Lewis Hamilton's year. The biggest help in this situation could be something that in previous times has been a struggle; the change of scene from representing a factory sponsor to representing your country - something Tracy has had a little time to reflect on.
"Usually I think it's really hard that we race with GB only one time every year - it is like a two week special contract. I have always said I think it's a shame that we've not had the success of fulfilling our potential as a nation and I often feel that at Worlds we are put into a totally random environment that we're not used to and I'd love to have the opportunity to do more training camps as a team. But this year everyone knows everyone else and with a smaller team all there for the same result we have a better chance.
"Personally I know that worlds is a separate game - you stay with the GB team which is a totally different atmosphere. I absolutely love representing my country even just picking up my kit I was getting excited. It is still as much of a thrill today even after many World Championship races. I still get a draw from the crowds there and I can separate the race from everything else I have done in 2009.
"And because of that it's important to have a big mental plan is to consider everything that hasn't worked over the past five months, all the things that have worked, looking back into the past successes and just giving it some thought and putting a plan in place so that nothing springs up that causes me to deviate from my plan. I think that's the one thing I have to remember for Worlds is that I don't deviate from my focus so that there are no surprises when I arrive and when I race. In a way it's a simple thing to achieve but something that takes a bit of planning."
And that final stage of planning - picking out the team kit - has taken on another layer of interest this year with the banning of skinsuits and other, similar tight fitting garments. A staunch advocate of the attire, Tracy obviously had a negative impression of the ruling - but also recognised that the wording of the document was so vague that considerable interpretation would play a part.
"I think that it (the rule) is even more unfair than someone being able to wear a skinsuit. Before it was a case of wearing one or not. If you were stupid enough to not wear one that was your own choice. Now we are in the dangerous position of having to ask how tight is too tight? I want to see the sport progress. I've put some thought into the issue, I'm prepared to push the boundaries and see where they are because there wasn't enough thought put into the rule when it was made. I think the way the skinsuit rule has been written is open for interpretation and I think it could make a massive difference depending on the way the rule is read."
To find out just how far Tracy is willing to push that boundary and if she can become World Champion there's only one place to be. Click here and bookmark the live broadcast pages, get some strong coffee and tune in for the race early doors, Sunday.