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. Here she is with entry number 2…
Photos: Sebastian Schieck and various (Instagram) others!
So it’s been a pretty bumpy road since my last Pro Diary. Peaks and valleys to say the least! This included the British National Champs, where I felt my fittest and most confident, although unfortunately crashed in my race run, which had been so promising after a strong qualifier. As they say, it’s part of the game! Honestly, the outcome of this particular race was fairly emotional, especially following the previous World cup disaster in Lenzerheide. Despite this I brushed it off and only had positive thoughts with me to take in the next two World Cup rounds overseas.
I had a structured mental plan for Mont Saint Anne. There’s a very fine line between going at a race pace that an athlete can handle or just being completely out of control. I haven’t quite found my ground yet, but lucky enough for me impatience doesn’t kill.
My race wasn’t a winning run; being too steady, but it put me back in to a comfortable position on the podium, getting from A to B without crashing, and just over a few seconds off the win. It’s always great to see the girl’s times so tight on a track that is long, technical and physically demanding.
For me, this was a great place to be for going on to Windham. It’s so normal for me to travel to places like this and race bikes that I often forget how fortunate I am. We had a day or two to kill so took our time driving over. A spin with Manon (Carpenter) for a good chat, gossip and a bit of girly time felt so good after travelling with the boys week in week out (no offence…).
There were a few new changes on track, which always makes me feel a little uneasy, but at the same time I was excited to ride it. I’d describe myself as more of a tech rider, not the sort of “hang off the back and hang on for dear life”. I like to have to think about carrying speed, where to push and where to conserve energy.
Windham is flat out, as fast as you can go, for 3 minutes. I don’t mind tracks like this, I just take a different approach to them – taking my time, a bit behind the set pace but building my speed slowly to feel comfortable, and not feel out of control from day 1. I avoid looking at the other girls and comparing myself to them because I know they are pinned from first run and that would only put unwanted and unnecessary doubts in my mind. Each to their own, everyone has a different process to be at their fastest on race day… which is when it counts.
In practice I realised I was braking where I didn’t need to, so the morning before qualifying I took each section where I felt like I wasn’t on pace and just let go a little bit more each run. There were only a few sections, so it was easy to focus on them in the morning. Come qualies I felt ready to push a little more, to my surprise I got fastest through the speed trap and third place. The speed trap was one of the few places I was too scared to not hit the bakes… my morning technique worked. I was chuffed!
Race day and I knew that every girl was there to try and knock down the girl that is on fire at the moment… Rachel Atherton. And honestly my performance wasn’t even close. I rode smoothly and consistently but just couldn’t seem to push myself. It was really irritating, because I seem to have this comfort zone that I can’t quite push beyond. To win one of these things you have to be on the ball and push God damn hard to reach or indeed deserve that top step. An alright run is not gunna get you there. Obviously I’m not grieving over a third place at a World Cup. These girls are on fire and more hungry for the win than ever, but I know I have it in me to push harder, it’s just not so easy to mentally trigger it.
It’s odd, until recently a top three position was an amazing result for me. But I’ve had that now, I’ve climbed past that step on the ladder, and to top my best result would be a World Cup win. Any less and it feels like a step backward, unsatisfactory. Anyone who tells me I’m hard on myself… you’re not wrong, I beat myself up. But I one hundred percent believe that it takes that mental drive to one day become one of the best.
I guess some of us girls are scratching our heads a little – how could we close that sort of gap? I know I’m not slow, I believe in my ability to ride a bike and progress as an athlete. In both elite men’s and elite women’s, the strongest and fittest person won on the day. Hands down. And it’s how it should be. The stronger you are, the more your body can take which naturally leads to you being able to hit lines faster, especially at Windham. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see Rach on form, fit and healthy. It only fuels me more and fires me up to strive for the best.