Haley Batten rides away from world championships with a pair of medals
The Park City mountain biker claims two third-place finishes for the U.S.
Park City mountain biker Haley Batten wanted to be at her best for two stretches of the year. One was for the North American World Cup events in July and August. The other was for the world championships.
After claiming two medals at the world championships and another podium finish in Canada on the World Cup circuit, it’s safe to say she lived up to her expectations.
“It’s kind of funny looking back now, right?” Batten said. “Those were my goals, and I think I was questioning that I’d be able to put it together. And to be able to do so and look at that now, it’s really, really cool.”
Batten’s hardware-winning races at the world championships, held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 28 in Les Gets, France, capped off a hectic but successful stretch for the Parkite.
She kicked off the women’s elite cross-country Olympic (XCO) World Cup’s two-event North American swing with a seventh-place finish at Snowshoe in West Virginia on July 31. Then she claimed her first World Cup podium of the season with a third-place result at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada on Aug. 7. At the world championships, Batten was a part of a six-person team in the team relay that won bronze for the U.S. Four days later, she won another bronze medal in the women’s elite XCO race.
“It’s one of those events where the pressure and the excitement’s kind of bigger than any other race,” Batten said. “I think, to be able to manage all of that and just being able to use that to fuel my race, was really cool. … Just the whole environment was really cool, and it’s special to represent (the) USA again. It was a dream, honestly.”
Batten took over on the fifth of six laps in the team relay event for Team USA. She put her head down and put all of her energy into that one lap to try to gain as much ground as possible for the Americans. Her team ended up finishing third, and she was happy to contribute.
“You have to kind of take the pressure and the energy and funnel it in a way that allows you to fuel you,” Batten said. “It’s a lot of pressure. A lot of people can crack in those team relays. So, I’m glad that I was just kind of able to put it in the right direction, I guess.”
Speaking of pressure, Batten was starting to feel some nerves into her individual race. She felt she was in her best form all season, and all the work she did all season was in preparation for this year’s world championships.
“I think it was just being able to take that energy and calm down a bit and prepare as best I could, knowing that I had done all the work,” she said. “At this point, it was just being able to put it together on the day. Luckily, come race day, I was in a really good mental headspace and just really excited for the race.”
France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot dominated the race from start to finish, easily claiming first place. Batten found herself in a battle between Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff and France’s Loana Lecomte for the remaining two spots on the podium. She spent part of the race in second but fell to fourth. Batten couldn’t pass Neff for second, but she held off Lecomte take third place and win a bronze medal.
“There were a lot of battles, and I think there’s definitely times where you question, like, ‘Oh gosh, I’m in touch. Can I make it happen?’” Batten said. “You have to kind of push those thoughts aside and just give your best. I didn’t honestly realize until I was crossing the finish line. OK, I did it, I just got a medal at world championships. It was really crazy.”
Her family made the trip to France for the event, which made it even sweeter.
“I got to enjoy that moment with them,” Batten said. “And have them watching and cheering out there and lots of friends and teammates and people that have been a part of this whole process. And I think that’s what means the most is that I’m able to share this whole experience with so many great people, and that was really cool as well.”
After finishing in 28th in her first XCO World Cup race of the year, Batten’s results have improved almost with every race, culminating with her performance at worlds. The Parkite burst onto the World Cup scene last year with a couple of podiums and an Olympic appearance, but she wasn’t satisfied with her end to last season and start to this year. However, the last few races have confirmed that she can compete with the best riders in the world. There’s still one more event left on the World Cup circuit this year, too.
“It took so much time to get back onto podium form, so I think I was like, ‘Gosh, do I really have what it takes to be there?’” she said. “It’s definitely a part of sport, so I think for me to prove that I’m still capable of being a podium competitor and one of the best on the circuit is a really good feeling.”
Head Coach Miller Hales, arriving at Park City with both D1 playing and coaching experience, has excelled in her first season at the helm, and has her team preparing for the tournament.
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