Valentina Höll | Find Your Young Talent
Find your young talent

It’s inside us all. It’s up to everyone to find their young and undiscovered talent, to overcome conventions and pursue our dreams with passion and confidence.

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Valentina Höll

iXS Rookies Champs Winner

“It was always clear for me that I would get into biking. I was only three years old when I started riding without training wheels and tried my first cross-country bike race.

“My parents loved to ride bikes, and in 2008 my Dad built a trail at our house. I grew up in a freeride lodge in Saalbach, in the middle of the Austrian Alps. Not everyone has a bike park right next to their house, I think living there helped me a lot.

“Then when I was eight years old, I got my first downhill bike, and I raced it at bike festivals for five years until I was old enough to enter my first proper downhill race; the 2013 iXS Rookies Cup, essentially a World Champs for rookies.

“I started to realise that I was pretty good at downhill racing.”

“I was outnumbered by the boys, I remember my Dad saying, ‘You won’t win there!’ Then I won, and he was like – ‘Oh god, what happened?!’ I started to realise that I was pretty good at downhill racing. I took part in the races near where I lived too – I was pretty much the only girl, and I just got better and faster.

“I was ski racing at the time too, but I preferred racing my bike. Ski racing was just cold; I’d get up early on the weekends and stand on a dark, freezing mountain just wearing my race suit! And 30 seconds later it was all over. But it felt like bike races were all about friends, barbeques and campervans – way more chilled out, and everyone cheering for you. So I decided to focus on biking; my school let me take time off to go to bike races, and I started strength training after school three times a week to get stronger.

“Everyone has a talent, but you have to train hard to improve. I just wanted to get better. I started riding and racing with boys more, because it helped a lot, they were faster than me so it pushed me on. I don’t want to be slower than them, so it’s the best training.

“When I won – it just felt awesome.”

“I get nervous and pretty quiet when I practise in the morning before a race – I feel like I’m going to throw up when I go up in the lift because I’m so nervous – but afterwards I’m like, ‘Yeah, I made it!’

“In 2017 I went to the Austrian iXS Rookies Championships; and it really felt like a World Champs. There were people there from all over the world including a lot of girls, and my strongest competitor Mille Johnset from Norway. We had live-streaming and a commentator. When I won by 15 seconds, it just felt awesome.

“My first World Cups will be in 2018. It’s been hard to wait for so long – you’re not allowed to race before you’re 16 – but I think it’s a good thing, the tracks are just so physical to ride. But I feel like I’m pretty well prepared now because I do a lot of training.

“If I lose motivation I just remember I’m training to race World Cups – that makes me want to go for it.”

“Motivation for training can get hard through the winter though because I have to go to school and then head to the gym afterwards; I get really tired. But if I lose motivation I just remember what I’m doing, I remember I’m training to race World Cups – I think that’s rad, and it makes me want to go for it.

“I’ve been to Fort William to check out the track – it’s good to check them out before you race – and I’ve got the right equipment now. Tracks are getting faster and harder, so you need a good downhill bike. I’ve got a YT TUES CF, it’s an awesome bike – and I felt great on it when I first rode it.

“I was the youngest girl to ever get a contract – I was pretty excited.”

“I was only 12 when I got the sponsorship contract from YT. I was the youngest girl to ever get a contract and I was pretty excited, I couldn’t really believe it. YT were great, they just gave me the bike to support me, and said that if I decided I didn’t want to race anymore, that wouldn’t be a problem. They just wanted to give me the opportunity to do it.

“I don’t think I’d be riding like I am now if YT hadn’t have supported me. It was a big motivation for me, and it kept pushing me to get better. I think it’s important to support the young riders, they need the support because they often can’t afford to buy their own bikes.

“When I see Rachel Atherton next to me, I’m excited and then I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m racing too!’.”

“It’s also incredible to be in a team with other YT riders like Aaron Gwin and Andreu Lacondeguy. Aaron is the best downhill racer in the World Cups and Andreu is this rad guy who is doing courageous stuff on the bike. It’s awesome because they all ride the same bike as I do, and I get to see all my heroes at races – when I look at the track and then see Rachel Atherton next to me, it’s exciting to see her, and then I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m racing too!’

“I look up to Rachel, she’s a hero of mine and she’s an incredible athlete that I aspire to be like. It’s funny though, I already give autographs to younger girls, and they seem to really look up to me, too. I’m like, ‘Why? How?’ But it’s inspiring to recognise that they like me and think what I do is cool – I always tell them to keep riding and, even though it can be hard, to ride with the boys.

“I love mountain biking because I’m always out in nature. There are different trails to explore, and you can ride with all your friends. It’s important to concentrate at races, but other than that, I don’t take life too seriously. I hang out with my friends and do other sports, like climbing, skiing and hiking.

“My friends think I’m crazy; they’re like, ‘Why are you riding down a steep hill with all these crazy roots and stones.’ But I never did like to pedal, I just always wanted to go downhill – I do it because it’s fun.

“I just like to take my bike, ride and have fun. I concentrate on my goals and work hard. I just want to do well in school – and go racing.”

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