Haley Batten focused on upward momentum year after Olympics
Parkite is currently the top American woman in the World Cup standings
Last year, Park City mountain biker Haley Batten fulfilled her Olympic dreams when she competed in Tokyo. While she didn’t win a medal, her ninth-place finish was the highest of any American in the event.
At the time, Batten was competing in the elite World Cup for the first time and exploded onto the scene. She finished on the podium in her first two XCO World Cup races, including a second-place result in the Czech Republic that qualified her for the Games. She also won a short-track race there. Batten didn’t have that same success after the Games, but she gained plenty of valuable experience.
“Nobody would have expected that I would have accomplished getting three podiums in that time,” she said. “After that, I think just so much was going on that my results at the World Cup circuit became a little inconsistent. I think I peaked so hard and focused so much on the Olympics that I kind of struggled in the second half of the season to put out a good result. So, I think now I’m learning how to be a more consistent racer and seeing what I need to do in my training and planning to make sure that I can do that.”
There’s also something to be said about competing on the Olympic stage at just 22 years old.
“There’s so much that you learn from the Olympics about adaptability and just going for something that there’s so much pressure on,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll go to another race where there’s as much pressure both of yourself and wanting to accomplish a big goal and from other people in the media as well.”
Now 23, it would be easy for complacency to set in for Batten. But she keeps her focus set on the next big race. Last year, it was the Olympics. This year, it’s the world championships.
Her season this year has had its ups and downs so far. Batten teamed up with Sofia Gomez Villafane to win this year’s Cape Epic, an eight-day stage race in South Africa. Since then, she’s emphasized building up her fitness and looking to peak at the world championships.
“(The Cape Epic) was a really cool experience,” Batten said. “I’ve kind of just been building and working my way up to World Cup speed throughout the season. We’re four World Cups into the season now, and I find that I’m getting fitter and strong each race, which is really good.”
Her World Cup season didn’t get off to the best start, however. She came in 28th in Brazil to start the XCO World Cup slate. Batten also finished 31st in a cross-country short track (XCC) event in Brazil that she called “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” The Parkite has improved as the season has gone on, including two 12th-place finishes in her last two XCO World Cup races – her best results so far.
“That Brazil World Cup, trying to go back to the high speed of World Cup racing was really tough, but I think my training and my trajectory has been really good throughout the season,” Batten said. “In each World Cup, I feel like I’m finding pace again and getting stronger. Each race, I feel a lot better and I feel like I’m getting my footing and getting a bit closer to where my goals are at.”
Batten is currently the highest-ranking American in the XCO World Cup standings through four races in 13th place, and she’s one point ahead of fellow American Kate Courtney. Two of the remaining five races are held in North America, and Batten’s hoping to be at her best for those two events.
Batten credits her experiences in Park City growing up for shaping her into being the rider that she is today. She recalled how she would go on weeknight rides through White Pine Touring as a teenager as well as all of the other opportunities she had as a young mountain biker in Park City.
“We’d have the Intermountain Cup races on Saturdays, and then the weeknight races on Wednesdays,” she said. “So, it was pretty endless, what you could do and the rides you could do and the people you could ride with. So yeah, I miss it a lot, and I think it’s a big part of the racer I am today.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Batten dominated high school races for Park City High School’s club team. She won a state title as a freshman in 2013 and is now competing against the world’s best mountain bikers.
Batten said that she sometimes almost forgets that she competed in the Olympics until someone asks her what it was like. But there’s still plenty more for her to accomplish in the sport. Competing at the Olympics again in Paris in 2024 is on the list.
“What’s crazy is the next Olympics isn’t so far away,” she said. “I definitely appreciated that experience, and I’m really happy about how I performed there, but my eyes are definitely on the next one right around the corner.”
Park City Head Coach Pete Stoughton mentioned how his team will bring their trademark enthusiasm to what should be a relatively-rain soaked course, saying in a prepared statement, “we anticipate radiant smiles on all of our riders faces this weekend.”
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