Get an insight into her off season lie and plans for 2020 race season

We got the chance to spend time with Tahnée Seagrave, courtesy of Red Bull, to get an insight into her off season lie and plans for 2020 race season.

Interview by Laura Bailey

It’s a damp and dreary day, the rain lashes down on the Welshpool streets outside but nestled warmly inside in an extravagantly decorated tea room Tahnée Seagrave settles down with her lunch. As she straightens up her Red Bull beanie, we talk about her rollercoaster couple of seasons, injury and, of course, Red Bull Formation.

“I will get it fair and square, if I get disqualified that won’t be a problem.”

Photographer Credit: Jan Kasl / Red Bull Content Pool

The 2018 season saw Tahnée inching closer to her much coveted overall title, but that all changed in Leogang. She went into race day positioned as the fastest qualifier and defending Leogang Champion but was disqualified for going off course. “At the time I was quite resentful of how it all went, It was a real hard pill to swallow”. Getting so close to the overall win was hard for her to take, and the fear that it might never happen again kicked in but she used it as a fuel as she set off into the 2019 season. “I trained so hard. I was very angry, I was so fired up,” she says, explaining that she set herself the goal of winning the title. “I wanted it to be so that if anything went wrong, it wouldn’t matter, I would still have the upper hand. So that’s how I went into 2019. I was done being beaten by the same person over and over and over and over again.”

“It looks nice from the outside but there’s a lot of dirt in there.”

Photographer Credit: Jon Syrett / Red Bull Content Pool

Her fight for the top podium spot with Rachel Atherton has kept many of us gripped to the screen on race day. “It’s a competitive relationship and a healthy one” she explains,“ I do admire her, I have a lot of respect for what she’s achieved but it is hard to have your hero as your competitor as there are some tough times and you have to have a thick skin. It’s not always a nice playground.”

Come race day and the battle is on, be it with Rachel, or other contenders including Myriam Nicole or Tracey Hannah or any others. Tahnee is unashamedly competitive, and her drive and determination comes through when talking about her approach to training and racing. “I do have that feeling that there’s never enough and I’m scared sometimes because I wonder when I will feel satisfied with what I do. People are like “you’ve won seven world cups you should be pretty happy’, and I do have to be reminded that it’s pretty cool. I just always strive for more. I feel like that’s quite a natural human thing to do, we are never quite happy with what we’ve got and the grass is always greener.”

“People are still scared of admitting they’re seeing a psychologist”

Photographer Credit: Jon Syrett / Red Bull Content Pool

To get her up to where she wanted to be for the start of the 2019 season, Tahnée continued her work with her long term coach Chris Kilmurray. A phrase adopted across the Seagrave family fires her up through hard gym sessions, “I love the saying hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard”. But she also added something new to the mix, working closely with a psychologist, although it took time to feel ready to give this a go. “I thought I was very strong minded” she explained, ‘now I think I’m probably more stubborn than strong minded and I kept thinking that I knew how to deal with my head. My dad has always mentioned it and always encouraged it but I’ve always just shrugged it off. It just wasn’t the time, I just wasn’t ready for it I think. Now that I’ve been there and done that, I think it’s the greatest tool I’ve ever done. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.“ Her hard work in the offseason set her up well for 2019 and she was exactly where she wanted to be heading into season and when she won the first round in Maribor she was finally able to don the leaders vest and it looked like it might all be falling into place.

“When I crashed it was just a case of seeing it as something that was thrown at me and i’m going to get through it”

Photographer Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Racing never follows the perfect script however, and a nasty crash in practice at Fort William left Tahnée with her first serious injury, a Grade 3 AC Tear and ligament damage in her shoulder. So did injury thow a new perspective on things for Tahnee? “ I’ve definitely learnt a lot, it’s made me sit back and observe. Observe other riders, learn about them, see where I slot in. I think that was a really good tool for me to know now. But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it’s only a shoulder”. Rehab become another challenge for her to work through and she threw herself into it with vigour. “I needed a focus, you need a focus in everything. You can’t focus when you have things up in the air, you have to grab something. This year being injured, really has made me sit down and realise that I have had a pretty good stint until here”.

“The podium spots are always open. They don’t have someone’s name on them”

Photographer Credit: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

It wasn’t just Tahnée that was sidelined with injury in 2019, both Rachel Atherton and Myriam Nicole also missed the majority of the season and the women’s field was thrown wide open. “I was really impressed by how some girls confidence went through the roof, but wonder why do they need that window”. With new names appearing on the podium through 2019, Tahnée is hopeful it will continue into next season. “ The reality is the podium are always open, just because we are there doesn’t mean there isn’t the chance to beat us.” She speaks openly about wanting the racing to be as exciting as possible, time gaps to tighten, new found confidence in riders to continue to grow. It’s clear she recognises that exciting close racing will be good for the women’s and will boost coverage and interest. “I hope to see the fire from them next year, and see how they approached the races this year without the big names, I hope that’s how they approach the races next season. Because it opened up so many doors for everyone.”

“Everyone talks about women in Rampage all the time, but in all honesty the level is way too high in the men’s”

Photographer Credit: Jon Syrett / Red Bull Content Pool

Away from the downhill racing scene the year ended with Tahnee joining a select group of riders on an initiative spearheaded by Katie Holden, Redbull Formation. Based at the old Rampage site the freeride camp was aimed to push the needle in women’s freeride, or perhaps more simply as Tahnée describes, “send them out to the desert and let’s see what they do with a few tools”.

Her excitement rises as she recounts their time together in the desert, and she’s open about how it pushed her in new ways. “I can not ever explain how scary it is. I cannot put into words. I was walking up, I was near the top and I couldn’t believe what they ride. They ride a 3cm wide ridge with 50ft cliffs each side, it’s not human” she explains, “But after that week me and all the girls felt like we could build some pretty gnarly stuff. It’s exciting, you get the bug. That terrifying moment of being there for the first time and then riding down it like it was just a playground soon after. How much can we do, what’s next?”

She’s not sure where it goes from her, recognising the hard work Katie and the team put in and the need for future funding for it to continue, but would she go back? There’s no hesitation in her answer, an immediate yes. “I think it’s nice to show that you don’t have to get into racing to make a career out of this. You can be what you want to be. I always would’ve gone into racing but I do wish earlier on I had known it was alright for a girl to go and do tricks and I could go and do that – yes.”

As we head into the 2020 season Tahnée isn’t shying away from her ambitions, “there’s so much more I want to do” and it won’t be long until we get to see whether this could be the year it all comes together for her.

Interview by Laura Bailey