Tahnee Seagrave is the ‘bright young thing’ of women’s World Cup downhill racing. In 2013 she was the Junior World Champion and she also won the overall Junior World Cup title as well. In 2014 she stepped up to the senior class and bagged fifth place overall in the World Cup series and a bronze at the World Championships. Not too shabby.
We’ve hooked up with her this year to write a monthly (kind of) ‘Pro Diary’ for us, documenting the ups and downs of racing… and all the good times in between. Take it away Tahnee…
Photos: Sebastian Schieck, Ben Winder and various random ones!
Fresh out of six weeks of back–to–back racing it’s hard to stay mentally in the game. As if I hadn’t been worrying enough about my fatigue, I might have just broken my highest heart rate record, trying to push my bike bag and two heavy bags on a broken trolley through Liverpool airport. It’s OK people, you just carry on staring…
The last two World Cups have been a huge success for me, but as a racer, it’s natural to never feel completely satisfied with your performance. Hungry for greater things, I headed out to Lenzerheide in Switzerland for round 4. I had only heard a little about the track; that it resembled a bike park, and that it was going to be hot. Nothing to complain about (unusual for a mountain biker, I know…)
I was running the number 3 plate, and for some reason I couldn’t help but put unreasonable pressure on myself. It’s something I haven’t quite got my head round yet; I just seem to put expectations on myself that aren’t needed. It is always quite intimidating coming to a new track with big jumps and tech sections. Us group B riders are just the course sweepers for the A group!
Note to self: do NOT look at other riders in practice (yes, you sketchy flat–out juniors, making everything look harder than it is) and have belief in my own capability of riding a bike.
I’m not really a big fan of dust and to be honest I hadn’t seen any in what felt like decade; however, the more the track got ridden, the better it was. It took me a whole day to get up to speed and feel comfortable with the terrain, but it was so much fun just riding in the sun.
Qualifying day came around and I felt confident. The course was hectic and riders were going down like dominos! Going up for my run I unfortunately saw somebody crash and snap their bars as they hit the really high speed drop towards the end. The rider rag–dolled unconsciously and started having a fit. I’ve never been in a situation where you just watch someone crash and there is absolutely nothing you can do to help. Seeing people crash doesn’t usually affect me, it’s a sport where it’s normal and it’s what you are prepared to do. But it was one of those that just made me think, “What on earth am I doing?” I called my dad in the gondola, not that it would change anything, I just needed someone to remind me what I’m capable of doing. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get it out of my head, which made for a messy run and a crash. I also knew that if I stayed on, I would be in for a good result again.
I’ve never been so happy to see rain that evening, hoping it would wash the dust away, but it turned out it didn’t change a thing, sadly! As the sun rose, the track just got drier and drier, and looser and looser.
Still a bit shaken from the day before, I tried to just shrug it off and knuckle down, but I just couldn’t seem to get in to it. I wasn’t making any mistakes but genuinely holding back and feeling a bit stiff. Or as my dad would say… I was “riding like a girl”.
People ask if I have some kind of ritual pre-race, but that’s just not me. I’ll have a nap if I’m tired, I’ll have an ice cream if it’s hot and I’ll eat if I’m hungry. Obviously the whole warm up stays the same, but that doesn’t start till half hour before the race. This time felt a little different… at the top of the hill I usually have an excitement I can’t contain and a ball of energy ready to be let loose. Instead I felt nervous, and just wanted to get it over and done with. I seemed to have a lack of motivation that was hard to trigger. As soon as I rolled in to the start gate though, the eagerness and determination to do well came charging in. It’s something that will never change, no matter what goes on outside that start gate, my head clears and I’m there for one thing, and one thing only.
Inevitably, sometimes it just doesn’t go to plan. The mental lead up to that one race run is so important that it can’t be taken lightly. I pushed too hard, making one mistake after the other, losing time that simply shouldn’t have been lost. I ended up crashing just a little further down than in my qualifying run, going round a pole and having a bit of a mare. However, there’s one thing I don’t do, and that’s give up. I guess you learn from your own mistakes, if I crash, I’ll still go 110% because you never know where you’ll end up.
Turns out I still bagged myself a few points. I’ve calmed down a lot now, but I’ve never crossed a finish line so frustrated. Angry at myself. Words came out of my mouth no lady should say!
I felt like chucking my bike and screaming, I felt like running away and crying. I’ve crashed before, and have accepted it. But when you are on a roll proving yourself, and finally believe in your own ability, it’s devastating and you just can’t control your emotions. Evidently I didn’t throw a tantrum. I think being a professional athlete is showing that you can accept your mistakes and defeat and grow from them. Be humble about your defeat. I respect the other girls for their performances and it only fuels my determination more. Looking at the Elite Men, a lot of the top guys made the same mistakes. It seemed to have been a common thing on this track.
So much was learnt from this weekend. I’m gutted, but as a growing athlete, you realise that you’ve gotta have the bad days to get the good ones. At the end of the day, I’m stoked to walk away from another brutal track healthy and fired up. ‘Till next time.
Look out for the next instalment just after the Windham World Cup in the second week of August.