Mountain Bike

Kate Courtney, world champion mountain biker, has an Olympic champion mentor: Reggie Miller

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U.S. mountain biker Kate Courtney likened her comeback to win the 2019 World Cup overall title to hitting a three-pointer in overtime of an NBA Finals game.

“A little stressful,” she said, “but, of course, one of the biggest highlights of my career.”

One of Courtney’s riding partners back home can relate: Basketball Hall of Famer (and Olympic gold medalist) Reggie Miller.

Anybody who follows the sharpshooting legend’s social media knows he found a hobby in retirement. Maybe more than that.

“Wannabe MTBer,” his Instagram bio reads. Attempts to reach Miller were unsuccessful, but he shed light in a Q&A with the mountain bike website mbaction.com that’s linked in his Twitter bio.

Miller mountain biked for the first time after moving to Malibu, Calif., in 2000. He was approached in a restaurant by Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford, who took him out on a ride with big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton and Bally Total Fitness founder Don Wildman.

“I was still playing for the Indiana Pacers at the time, so my fitness was good, but those guys left me in the dust,” Miller said, according to the report. “But being on those trails and in those hills got me hooked.”

It wasn’t until the Instagram era that Miller began racing mountain bikes. And that’s how Courtney, a fellow world champion and fellow Californian, believes she connected with him more than one year ago.

“But he also has been at a couple Southern California races,” she said, “and, of course, I knew the name.”

They rode together in Palm Springs in late 2018. They met up again last month at a Golden State Warriors game, where Miller was doing TV commentary for TNT.

Miller’s penchant for the sport is obvious in the Q&A, where he reeled off names of mountain bikers he admired. Miller said he wanted “the focus of a Kate Courtney.”

Courtney attributed her mental strength, the kind that made her a world champion at 22, partially to Miller’s mentoring.

“In the last couple of years as I started to really chase that top step of the podium, I’ve had a lot to learn from Reggie, and he’s been a great positive voice in terms of convincing me I can make it to the top,” she said. “And also, you know, helping you navigate the challenges of staying there.”

Miller may have benefited just as much from Courtney.

“Maybe, but let’s just say Reggie Miller is way better at mountain biking than I’ll ever be at basketball,” she said. “I think people underestimate how hard it would be for someone who’s been the absolute best in the world at something and maybe the greatest of all time in something to try something new that maybe they’re not exceptional at.”

Courtney was raised in Marin County, Calif., where mountain biking’s roots formed in the 1970s. She grew up at the base of Mount Tamalpais (“Mount Tam”), riding a tandem bike with her dad (but often times not pedaling herself) to get blueberry pancakes on Sunday mornings.

She played a variety of sports, but in high school began mountain biking seriously to cross train for cross-country running.

“Never looked back,” she said. “I certainly never ran again and fell in love with mountain biking.”

She competed for the national team while still in high school. Courtney turned professional, signing with Specialized, after two years at Stanford. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human biology before winning that world title in 2018.

She was the youngest rider in the 67-woman field in Switzerland, and in her senior worlds debut. She became the first American to win a world title in 27 years. Her bike was put on display at the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Marin County.

“Kate has arrived and represents a new generation of American mountain bikers,” Scott Schnitzspahn, USA Cycling Vice President of Elite Athletics, said that day.

Any mountain biker is familiar with obstacles. Courtney suffered two concussions as a junior racer. The first one, about eight years ago, was worse and left her with symptoms for months.

Courtney, then 16, finished an impressive 10th in her international debut in a junior race in the Czech Republic. The next weekend, she crashed at the start, fell down a rock garden and DNFed for the first and, she said, so far only time in her career.

“The combination of having this race where I thought, man, I really could do this and having a race where I thought, oh wow, this is a huge challenge, was the perfect spark,” she said.

Courtney was a world U23 silver medalist with 122,000 Instagram followers when she arrived at the 2018 World Championships.

“My motto on the start line was, an underdog is just an underdog,” Courtney said, “until they show their teeth and you realize it’s a wolf.”

She passed passed 2016 World champion Annika Langvad of Denmark on the seventh and final lap in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, and won by 47 seconds in 1:34:55. She looked back several times after crossing the finish line in disbelief.

She earned the rainbow jersey — traditionally given to world champions across cycling disciplines. Courtney donned it on a ride for the first time on the Stelvio, an iconic Giro d’Italia climb.

“I had this kind of amazing moment where it all settled in,” Courtney remembered. “I ate gummy bears and cried and was just so excited to be able to wear this super special symbol that connects me to so many people in cycling.”

Courtney finished fifth in defense at last year’s worlds, but she gained a perhaps more prestigious title: World Cup overall champion for prowess over an entire season of racing. She goes into the Olympic year looking to earn the U.S.’ first gold medal in an event that debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Atlanta also marked Miller’s Olympics with that year’s Dream Team. Perhaps later this year they can again ride the Boo Hoff Trail, this time both as Olympic medalists.

“It’s exciting to see a kind of lifelong sport that unites so many different athletes,” Courtney said when asked about Miller’s mountain biking. “The fact that he doesn’t have an ego about that and it’s like, oh, I want to try this new thing, I want to learn it and does it publicly, is something I respect so much.

“I hope that I can do [that] in my career, although probably not with basketball, because I think it would be horrific for everyone involved.”

MORE: Athletes qualified for 2020 U.S. Olympic team

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Nothing like bikes and great friends to clear your mind. Can’t thank @kateplusfate enough for the unreal ride… We rode the Cove to Boo Hoff and I’ve NEVER seen anyone make it up Boo Hoff without hike a bike, people Kate rode it with ease like the Champ she is. Now me on the other hand, no shame in hiking, it’s a form of exercise 😳😂🤔.. Then we just had to find that damn Cove Lake, little did we know quicksand descents and quicksand gravel, but Ms SparkleWatts just floated over the quicksand, while my 190 pounds kept sinking, BUT WE MADE IT!!! Fantastic conversations with a fantastic person.. Now we have to get @bbcopeland aquatinted to desert life 😎😂😏… #SparkleWatts🌈 #BoombabyMeetsRainbowJersey

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Olympic cycling champion faces army reprimand for bare-bottom White House photo

AP
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BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic cycling champion Nino Schurter faces being reprimanded by the Swiss Army after posting a photo on social media showing his bare bottom with the White House in the background.

The army confirmed details reported in Swiss media that the 33-year-old mountain biker faces a possible warning from his senior officers over the incident this month, though any disciplinary action will not be announced.

The Rio gold medalist and record eight-time world champion is supported in his career by Switzerland’s military.

Schurter was on service duty between races in the United States two weeks ago when he posted a photo on Instagram with three team colleagues all dropping their pants while facing the White House.

The photo, since deleted but viewable here, was tagged to President Donald Trump and included the message “white (peach emoji) for the White House.”

The Swiss Army says it did not want to make a scandal of the incident, and Schurter had apologized to his commanding officer. He told Swiss media taking the photo had been spontaneous and he loved being in the U.S.

Schurter is the current Swiss sportsman of the year, beating tennis great Roger Federer into second place in December in a public vote.

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Nino Schurter, with 8th world title, pads claim to greatest mountain biker in history

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MONT-SAINTE-ANNE, Quebec – Tack one more title onto Nino Schurter’s already cluttered resume.

The Swiss mountain biker and reigning Olympic gold medalist won his eighth world title and fifth straight Saturday afternoon. His 10th world medal also broke a tie for the career record with recently retired mountain biking great Julien Absalon.

Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, who likely would have challenged Schurter for the world title, skipped the event amid a busy racing schedule across multiple disciplines.

Schurter called it “an amazing victory” and said, “I worked hard this year towards that goal and it’s important toward next year. I know I’m still [on] top and I can battle for the gold in Tokyo.”

The 33-year-old has an Olympic medal of every color: he won a surprising bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games as a 22-year-old, then a silver in London before completing the collection in 2016 with gold in Rio.

Schurter noted earlier this week that records within reach continue to motivate him. In addition to passing former rival Absalon’s world medals total this week, he’s one World Cup win shy of Absalon’s 33 victories.

If he makes the podium in Tokyo, he’ll become the first mountain biker to win four Olympic medals (Germany’s Sabine Spitz, who plans to retire at the end of the season, also has three).

Still, Schurter said he’s driven primarily by joy.

“I still love to race and compete, and I think that’s the most important thing, that you enjoy what you do,” he said. “On one side, it’s nice to have all those records, but on the other side, every race [is] actually enough.”

Motivation has never been an issue for Schurter. He’s careful to avoid burnout, strategically mapping out a season-long schedule that might mean fewer races than his competitors. He also spends a few weeks without his bike at the end of each season to vacation with family, though he admits his rest time isn’t spent lazily.

“After three or four days, I’m thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll go for a run,’” he said.

He’s also enjoyed passing the sport on to his daughter, Lisa, who turns 4 in October.

Schurter introduced her to cycling by adding a small seat to his bike frame so she could hold the handlebars. Now, she rides on her own and is learning how to climb from an overly qualified instructor: Schurter attaches a rope to the back of his bike to tow her uphill before they ride down together.

While a few records remain on his radar, Schurter is content with what he’s already accomplished. That means less pressure and more time to enjoy the ride.

“All those goals I really wanted to achieve, I actually achieved,” he said. “So what’s coming is now just extra.”

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