Katy Curd is a name you should definitely know if you’re on the 4X scene, she has been on the World Cup scene for years, and was noticed from the moment she stepped into the sport. She began racing downhill in 2007, picking up sponsorship from Giant. In the beginning her focus was predominately downhill – but Katy has always mixed it up by racing both 4X and downhill.
In 2010 she picked up support from her current sponsor, Rose Bikes, and although her focus has been on 4X for the past few years, at the end of 2013 she announced she would be coming back to downhill. Knowing this year would be her last chance to win the rainbow jersey in 4X she was determined to make it happen.
We caught up with Katy to talk about her move back to downhill, her World Championship win and how things have changed in the sport.
What inspired the move back to downhill after racing 4x for the past few years?
I started off racing downhill in 2007 but had always just turned up at the races and literally rode down the hill. After spending the last few years racing 4X professionally and reaching all my goals I want to push myself and train 100% for downhill to try get myself to the top in this sport not only in the UK but World Cup level too.
How was the transition from 4x back to DH?
It’s hard, it’s been a real learning curve, everyone is pushing the level so much harder and faster now a days, you really have to be doing everything 100% right down to training, eating and resting if you want to be on top. I feel like I have the skills riding downhill but I have so much to learn and need to get myself a lot fitter and stronger to be in with a chance of catching these top girls. I’m still learning every ride and every race but I’m enjoying every bit of it.
How does the training differ for each discipline?
For the 4X training I was training twice a day, a lot of gym work and power aspects, we needed to be fit but only to last for 40 second sprints just over and over again so the base of training involved around power and bmx track skills. For downhill I knew I need to get a lot fitter so I have been working with Andy Wadsworth doing more endurance based training over the winter building up that base fitness on the road bike and turbo trainer and moving in to season we increased the amount of downhill training days and xc days to build on that skill element. I have found the training hugely different but for me that’s better as it keeps things fresh and interesting and keeps me motivated.
After competing and training in downhill over the winter, how did you feel to be potentially racing your last 4x worlds?
It was a weird one for me this year, after spending the last 3 years just training and focusing on that one race and with last year feeling like it really was the year for me I found it quite hard to get over. This year with the switch over to downhill it gave me something new to focus on, I always knew I was going to race the Worlds again but it wasn’t my top priority anymore. To be honest I have been so focused racing and training for downhill I hadn’t really thought about 4X Worlds until I got there. When I arrived it all came flooding back to me how much it would mean to try win that jersey, I knew this was my last chance so couldn’t leave anything behind, I gave that race 100% and to come home with the rainbows in my last 4X race is a pretty cool feeling!
How have things changed in women’s DH since you last raced?
Things have moved on massively, the standard of the girls racing is incredible now, they are pushing so hard. With Rach and Manon being so close to each other every race the bar just keeps getting raised as well. Everything has got so much more professional now as well, it actually opened my eyes a little just seeing how much goes in to getting prepped all for that one race run. No-one really sees behind the scenes just what goes on, all the tweaking to suspension, bikes, lines, advice with every team, it’s pretty eye opening when you stand back and see it all. It makes it so hard not being on a professional team now a days.
You were unlucky in Fort William and punctured along with the other British women, just how tough is the track?
It’s one of the most physical tracks out there, just the combination of how brutal it is combined with the length of the track really pushes you to the limit every run. Punctures are pretty common on that track as racing proved, it’s so brutal it’s just one of those things that is hard to avoid. I know myself I’m not yet strong enough or fit enough to be in contention for a podium there so a top ten was my aim but the experience of racing at world cup level again was great and I will come back next year ready for it.
Do you think you’ll race 4x again now you’ve become World Champion, is that it for you and 4x?
I really do love racing 4X and it so sad to see it fading away and it’s too hard to compete in both events all in one weekend. I might race one national event back in the UK just so I can wear my beautiful jersey but other than that, that is me done with 4X as sad as I feel about it but I’m looking forward to giving everything now to downhill.
How important is it to get a good lead out the gate to take the win in 4x?
I think it varies on different tracks, some tracks it’s a massive advantage like Leogang but others like Fort William it doesn’t matter too much. It’s always an advantage if you are out in front from the word go as it means you only have to keep strong on those inside lines blocking the others, where as if you’re behind sometimes you have to pull some inventive moves to try and make a pass but on most tracks this can be done!
Why do you think you are one of the only women to jump the pro lines in racing?
Either brave or stupid, probably the latter! Ha, no I grew up building and riding dirt jumps and being that typical kid playing on a bike, always building something, riding it and making it bigger. Pushing yourself most days but when you’re a young you just don’t think about the consequences. I was always injured when I was younger but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It taught me so much and now I can look at most things and decide if I can do it or not and more importantly if it is worth it.
Where do you think 4x is heading, is it growing or are people more interested in the DH and Enduro scene?
I would love to say it was growing and I really don’t want to say a bad word about the sport, I really do love 4X. It is sadly decreasing in numbers as more and more people are getting pushed towards other disciplines. 4X doesn’t get the coverage it deserves any more, meaning riders cannot give back to their sponsors as much as they can if they are riding downhill and enduro. 4X is a great sport and I hope it does continue for many years.
You’ve mentioned before that you feel 4x isn’t getting the coverage it deserves, why do you think this is?
In my eyes I think when 4X was dropped from the UCI it lost a lot of top riders and big names. After these guys left the sport the media left too. The coverage and media was never there to give recognition to the guys then at the top. With no media coverage you have no athletes to look up to the participation drops and then you get back to the media thinking it’s not worth covering, I think it’s a big vicious circle.
Every sport needs those athletes to look up to, look at downhill in the UK, we have 2 of the biggest inspirational riders out there Steve Peat and Tracy Moseley, and they both got coverage everywhere and rightly deserved, and now look at the level of the riders in the UK. I think if there was some decent coverage of 4X including credit to the guys at the top of the sport it will drag in more interest not only from riders but from the media too.
How did you get involved in the Flyup 417 project, and what can people expect when it’s open?
I have known Simon for a while after using the Fly-up service down at the Forest of Dean, my fella, Jake has also know Simon since he started up the Fly-up business so when Si and Ange mentioned about the project I wanted to help him out as much as possible. Simon has some big ideas and is the kind of person that does whatever it takes to make it happen. When Simon finally bought the place and we went to see it I was amazed at the opportunity the place has. Simon has helped me out since day one and I am forever grateful of this so when I saw the amount of work that had to be done to get his dream project going I was more than happy to step in and get involved.
The place will be incredible, the indoor barns are the first things being built, we are trying to make them as fun and challenging as possible but just the thought of having somewhere to ride in the winter and evenings on dirt is pretty huge in its self! The downhill tracks are going to include everything for every level of rider from blue trails to national standard race tracks. The 4X tracks and dual slalom track again I think will be ace, just to have a drag lift for these I think will mean they get a lot more use than other tracks. The plans for the dirt jump field are going big, Simon keeps looking at the famous gorge road in New Zealand and wanting it 3 times the size! Everything like the air bag, cafe, shop etc will just be icing on the cake to what an incredible venue it will be.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
I am using this year as a learning curve, I know switching over to downhill for my first season I couldn’t set my goals too high and to be honest I had no idea how I would get on at the races. Now I know a little more I want to be aiming for top ten every round and the thought of a podium would really make my year. I would love to get picked for the GB World Champs team for downhill too, so meeting that criteria is my aim for the next world cup rounds.
Photos: Laurence Crossman-Emms