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One can be forgiven if they’re not familiar with American mountain-bike pro Haley Batten. After all, she’s still a teenager, and she hasn’t scored a major international result — not yet, anyhow. But a close look at her results, and her trajectory, reveals that it’s only a matter of time for the Utah native.
At just 19, Batten is already a five-time U.S. mountain-bike national champion. She’s midway into her third season with the Clif Pro Team, formerly known as the Luna Pro Team — the longest-running, most successful women’s mountain-bike team in history. Her teammates include two-time world champion Catharine Pendrel, two-time worlds medalist Lea Davison, and five-time Olympian Katerina Nash.
The youngest member on the Clif Pro Team, Batten has represented the U.S. at the last three world championships and was recently named as a member of USA Cycling’s U.S. National Team program. Simply put, she has the support of the world’s best women’s mountain-bike team as well as her national federation.
Batten’s 2018 season has been promising. Among her results in the elite category are sixth-place finishes at the Subaru Sea Otter Classic and Fontana XCT; she also placed ninth at the U23 World Cup in Albstadt, Germany. In addition to a full World Cup schedule, she’s focused on a second U23 national title at Snowshoe, West Virginia, in July.
1. How did you discover mountain biking?
Mountain biking was always a big source of adventure and joy for my family. I learned how to ride when I was about four, and we would use our bikes to commute, explore, and enjoy the outdoors. My family would bring my brother and me to places like Moab and St. George [in Utah], and Fruita, Winter Park, and Steamboat [in Colorado] with other families and friends. Having other kids my age to go on group rides with made biking that much more enjoyable and exciting. My dad was doing local races near our home in Park City, and when I was eight, my brother and I started to join in the action. By 12, I was totally hooked on mountain-bike riding and racing, and I have been ever since.
2. After winning four junior titles, how hard has the transition been to U23 and elite racing?
I was both thrilled and nervous taking the jump into U23 and elite racing. During the transition, it’s hard to predict how you will perform at that next level, but I was confident in my progress as a rider — and in my coach, Dario Fredrick. The most challenging aspect was finding a new way to evaluate my performance. I learned to see more value in the effort I gave each workout and race, trusting that eventually the result I hoped for would follow, and focusing on the process. Overall, racing in these competitive fields is much more exciting, which I find motivating and tons of fun.
3. How has having experienced riders just as Katerina Nash and Lea Davidson as teammates benefited your riding and racing?
Having so many experienced riders as my teammates has been of enormous value to me. Not only are they incredible women off the bike, but the way in which they tackle challenges and chase their dreams is really inspiring. I look up to each one of them so much, and I think that I have benefited greatly by being surrounded by their positive energy and hard work. They also ride pretty freaking fast, both uphill and downhill, so being able to chase them around while pre-riding courses, training, or just going out for a fun rides has helped me evolve as a rider.
Video: 2018 Clif Pro Team
4. How has the transition been from racing in the U.S. to racing in Europe?
Making the transition from racing in the U.S. to Europe definitely has its challenges, from the long flight and jet lag to finding the right food to eat. Being able to travel to such incredible places is what makes this sport so great, and I am continuously learning how to adapt and build a successful routine. The depth of the field, aggressive style of racing, and technical courses are also different in comparison to racing in the U.S. Learning to adapt to the time change, to eat properly, and to train in new venues has been something I am trying to get better at, and I’m so lucky to have such great support to help guide me along the way.
5. How big of a goal is the U23 national championship in 2018? What advantage is there in returning to a course where you’ve won in the past?
The national championship is an important event on my goal sheet this season. I absolutely love the course in Snowshoe, and I’m looking forward to another exciting race to defend the title. Having the privilege to put on the stars and stripes before the U23 races so far this year puts a smile on my face. I’ll give my best to race for that honor for next season. Defending my title will give me a shot to wear the jersey for another season in the World Cups — that’s a special experience to me. With some strong competition coming up from last year’s junior field, it will be a battle. Having never been to Snowshoe prior to the 2017 national championships, I was impressed by the venue. The course is an absolute blast, with lots of technical root and rock sections, followed by brutal climbs. The rainy weather last year highlighted the demands of the course, and following those extreme conditions, returning athletes will be ready for anything.
6. What does your ideal mountain-bike course look like?
It would have to have a little bit of everything. I love technical and challenging features, especially when they highlight the natural terrain, but I’m always stoked to find manmade features like jumps or drops on track. A steep, long climb is always an opportunity to push your limits, so I think a proper course helps you find the pain cave and test if you can dig a bit deeper, which makes it an exciting race.
7. Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
I have little routines like packing my race bag and preparing my breakfast the night before (if I have an early morning race), using the same toothpaste that I know won’t make me feel sick, or wearing the same sports bra for race day. I’m not sure how or why these rituals have come to be part of my routine, and I may even have a few more random ones that are so ingrained in my preparation that I don’t even notice them. I don’t usually listen to music during my warm-up since I like to be aware of my thoughts leading into a race. Sometimes, I listen to a couple of songs while I get everything ready before walking out the door, but I don’t have a particular playlist or anything, just whatever comes to mind that will get me stoked to race.
8. What are your plans for the fall? Any plans for cyclocross or road racing?
During the fall I’ll take some time to enjoy my home trails, maybe road trip to chase down some fun new rides, and prepare for my second year at Quest University [in Squamish, British Columbia)]. No ‘cross or road racing for me, but lots of fun riding with great company.
9. As part of USA Cycling’s U.S. National Team, what is the most significant resource for you?
Throughout my development, I’ve received incredible support from USA Cycling. As a junior I had the opportunity to join multiple development camps in Europe, allowing me to gain crucial international experience. USA Cycling has also organized skills camps that I’ve been able to take part in, that have helped me, and other riders, become more confident and proficient on all terrain. Being a member of the National Team for 2018 has strengthened my relationship even more with USA Cycling. I’ll be able to utilize the resources that have been fundamental in my development, while focusing on new areas, such as recovery or sports psychology, that will help me improve as an athlete.
10. What can you tell us about your Clif Pro Team, and equipment, for 2018?
Being part of the Clif Pro Team has been an incredible experience for me, from having inspiring teammates and fantastic support to completely dialed equipment. Every day I feel so grateful to be part of this group of women and to be able to work so closely with the Clif Bar company. This season I’m riding both a hardtail and full-suspension — the Orbea Oiz and Alma. These bikes are dialed with Fox suspension, Rotor cranks, Race Face components, Maxxis tires, ESI grips, DT Swiss wheels, and Astute saddles. Giro, Camelbak, and K-Edge take care of the essential details. We also had the pleasure of designing our own custom kits with Garneau, which was a dream come true. The continuous support and positive values of the company, our team, and all of our sponsors is amazing. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with such great people.