May 22, 2024

Winning Isn’t Everything for Downhill Mountain Biker Tahnée Seagrave

Tahnée Seagrave keeps her head down, works hard, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks; and if you want to bike on her level, she thinks you should do the same.
by Justin KornEditor

Wearing a toned-down pastel colored adidas cardigan, distressed cap, and 3-Stripe denim track pants, I spot Tahnée Seagrave across the foyer near our HQ’s coffee break watering hole, Touchdown café. She’s giving me beachy and laid-back vibes. But at the same time, when she eventually sits down with me and tells me she’s “insanely competitive” in one of the most turbulent outdoor sports, my head cocks sideways like a perplexed golden retriever.    

Then, as we continue chatting, the fog lifts and I start understanding that the Tahnée sitting in front me is much more nuanced than I was led to believe by her demeanor and sense of style.  

Tahnée is one of Britian’s elite downhill mountain bikers, complete with a lilting it-must-be-tea-time-somewhere accent, yet she spent much of her youth in Morzine, France. She throws her body down a mountain, yet nowadays health is her priority. She won her eighth World Cup trophy in Les Gets in 2021, yet the win was more a sense of relief than a cause for jubilation. That’s to say that there are a lot of contrasts in Tahnée’s life.    

Life can get pretty rocky. For Tahnée, that’s been her entire career. 

For upwards of around four minutes, downhill mountain bikers throw caution and safety to the wind. Their bodies reverberate from the uneven, rocky terrain. The rest of their musculoskeletal system whiplashes to and fro from jumps and looping ramps. Meanwhile, falls can be detrimental.  

Even the racer’s bikes have built-in suspension and shock absorbers to protect its metallic joints, nuts, and bolts. The riders on the other hand? Well, they’ve resigned themselves to the thrill and dangers of Mother Nature’s extreme dirt and gravel highway to hell. 

I felt compelled to ask how Tahnée mentally wills her body to weather the downhill mountain biking storm, day in and day out. “My desire to win kept me going all the time,” Tahnée Seagrave says of her tenacious racing spirit. “I wanted to have the best result that was possible.” She has sustained her fair share of bumps, bruises, slipped discs and even a concussion, but on top of her strong will to get back on the proverbial riding horse, she also has quite an extensive supportive cast. Her team, sponsors, and family and friends also do their part in helping Tahnée stay focused and motivated.  

As a result of her inner circle’s compassion and loyalty, she tells me, 

"I give everything 110 percent every day into this biking life."

Tahnée SeagraveProfessional Mountain Biker

She’s still not immune to motivational dips 

The physical toll of mountain biking, however, still puts Tahnée at odds with her love of riding. “Since 2019, I’ve had injury after injury, so my motivation did dip a bit,” she says referring to training footage where she’s visibly not in the right riding frame of mind. She still powers through, owning up to the fact that riding isn’t just a hobby, it’s her chosen profession. “Even if I didn’t want to be there, it’s my job – so I turn up,” Tahnée says.      

Moving forward though, she says, “I just want to make being healthy my priority.” Both physically and mentally. She admits that she’s an inveterate overthinker. Talking about how her sport helps her stay present, she explains, “I think the only thing that keeps us athletes sane is our sport. Especially extreme sports athletes, because you don’t really think while you’re riding and it’s a moment of peace we get. But obviously, I’d like to work on that – I’m not going to be able to throw myself down the mountain forever. I’m going to have to find other ways to calm down.” 

She adds: “That’s why I got into meditation and other things that aren’t on my bike. But for an easy and quick fix, the only thing that stops me from overthinking is if I grab my bike and go.” 

Winning isn’t everything for Tahnée

We move on to talk about her 2021 season where she took gold in Les Gets, France. Her first world cup win since 2019. To my surprise, the win carried a different significance for Tahnée.

“There was something a bit off the whole year and that win doesn’t feel like a particularly happy moment, but it felt like a relief because I had new sponsors,” she says, “so it felt kind of like a gift to me and the team just to kind of feel secured. It didn’t feel like a personal win. It didn’t make me any happier or any more motivated. I was running on fumes.”

The win still proved that Tahnée’s hard work and effort from the training that led up to the race had paid off. Although in Tahnée’s eyes, she knows where her talents lie. And trophies are more for her team and everyone that’s stood by her through the good and the gnarliest of crashes. She says, “I never need to doubt my bike skills whatsoever or my race craft.”

With nothing left to prove, she just wants to be the best and strengthen her relationships with everyone who’s standing in her corner. That includes her fans.

Making the most of falls for her fans

At one competition in Mont-Sainte-Anne, in France, she was cruising down the track when she got to the rocky part of the course. This is an area where fans typically pool together to cheer on the riders and it’s also their best chance to catch a glimpse of the live-action mountain biking stunt work. As Tahnée puts it, “Everyone goes to watch there because you’re pretty much guaranteed to see crashes or something really cool.”

It just so happened that Tahnée took a tumble on this part of the track and while she was okay, her bike wasn’t. At first, she admits she was “angry and upset.” But the breezy, even-keeled biker stayed present and put things into perspective.

“And we knew we had three to four minutes before the next person came,” she says, which gave her some time to vibe with her fans. So, she went into the crowd for some high-fives when the unexpected happened. “And someone offered me a beer – and I’m so tired, obviously. And then I’m like, it’s the last race of the season and these people have come here to see me, watch me race, cheer me on.” She downed the beer

Many of these impromptu and authentic moments she captures on her social media accounts. And it’s moments such as these that she lives for at this stage of her career. “To share that moment with them was incredible and it just topped the year off. We just shared that special moment in that time,” she tells me.

Her self-awareness is palpable 

Living life in the fast and rocky lane is an education in itself. There were many lessons that Tahnée learned along the way. She says, “Being an athlete and being thrown into the deep end of the highs and lows, you become a resilient person. All my life lessons come from sport.” And because of that, she’s “very open-minded and driven.”  

“Every single day,” she explains, there’s something new in store for her. A laugh escapes her lips as she finishes the thought. “It’s always entertaining.” But on a serious note, she’s  also aware of how much she’s given of herself: the time and her physical and mental health.  

“There’s a lot of loyalty, hard work, and dedication. I’ve worked hard not just to get to where I am in the sport and my career, but also as a person and an all-rounded athlete; and we’ve achieved just that.”  

Sharing insights into being a professional athlete

For the future riders who want to join Tahnée for a life on the muddy tracks, she says, “You have to be strong in your decisions.” And then blending in some words of wisdom her father passed on that resonated inside a younger Tahnée, she adds, “Talent can only take you so far, but it’s the work behind it which will get you even further.”

Tahnée recognizes that being young in a sport isn’t easy – and it’s only as she’s matured, went through the motions, and had all kinds of experiences, that she feels like she’s in a position to dole out advice on her sport.

And as for one bit of Tahnée advice I’m going to take away with me that’s useful for any of life’s worthwhile endeavors. She says,

"Whatever you set out to do, don’t settle for anything less."

Tahnée SeagraveProfessional Mountain Biker