Many associate Scottish summers with grey mist, biting winds and a capacity to bring all but the hardiest souls to the edge. Those who know the land lying at 56.4907° N, 4.2026° W understand that this is not the case, but they understand that winters are a different beast altogether.
The highlands may be blessed with snow, but the Scottish Borders don’t often see the white stuff. Instead the winters are cold – often with a wind chill factor that is noticeable, grey and to use a phrase coined by the locals “Dreich”. If you’re going to stay in the borders over winter, get your waterproofs out, your heated gloves on and be prepared to knuckle down.
Where once the months between November and January were the domain of hardy hill farmers keeping their flocks alive there is now a new band often seen out amongst the sitka spruce, peat and heather of the Borders in mid winter. The area has a raft of “new school” professional mountain bikers – all determined, all striving for success and all with self belief.
In truth, for a professional rider it would be easy to head for California, Australia or New Zealand in early November but there is something about the tough environment of the Borders that builds confidence and it’s not just the domain of grizzled men with sheepdogs by their sides, or the many top male riders we see in the area.
Indeed, there is a new breed of competitor coming out of the borders and Katy Winton is spear heading the charge – where once Emma Guy and Lee Craigie were the leading Scottish lights, it is now a diminutive 23 year old with a hidden fire behind her eyes.
Katy took the route less walked to get to Enduro – she was a XC racer on the British Talent Squad since her days as a youth rider. Yet XC just wasn’t quite right, and Katy was struggling to see any future in bikes and it had all become very, very serious.