On March 27, the Sunshine Coast’s Gracey Hemstreet, 17, started off her 2022 downhill mountain biking season by winning gold at the UCI World Cup in Lourdes, France. She was 6.8 seconds ahead of second place.
Coast Reporter caught up with the young athlete once she returned home. The following is an edited version of that Q&A.
Coast Reporter: First of all, congrats on the World Cup! How are you feeling now after all the racing and travelling you've done over the past few days?
Gracey Hemstreet: Thank you. I'm pretty good. I'm in Squamish right now just riding. It’s surreal. I wasn't expecting that, so it's pretty insane.
Q: What was your reaction to your results in Lourdes?
A: I got to the bottom and was like, whoa, OK. Cool. Phoebe [Gale] was last to get down. And then, I was first, and I was really shocked. It didn't really hit me until later that night.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the race itself. How did you feel on the track?
A: The first day, it was just kind of getting my lines good. I didn't honestly because the lift was so slow that everyone got like three laps at the max on the first day. So it was a little stressful. And then the second day, felt way more comfortable on the track, on the bike. On race day, the morning of, I changed a few lines. It was sick. It all worked out.
Q: What kind of team support did you have?
A: Thanking Norco Factory for all the amazing support, and my family from last year for the sport and getting me there and everything. They're amazing. Everyone's super helpful.
Q: Now that you're back on home turf in Canada, have you been talking to any other bikers or people who watched your race and hearing their reaction?
A: Everyone's so stoked. I swear, like half the Coast messaged me on Instagram.
Q: You had a really strong finish to the 2021 season. How do you think that helped prepare you for this race?
A: I feel like it gave me some confidence, knowing that I'm up to pace and just got to improve my race. And then I did. Yeah, it worked out.
Q: What was it like for you getting back into racing last season? You had an injury that kept you out of the competition earlier in the season. How did you transition back into racing?
A: Yeah, it was weird. I didn't race for like, over a year – I broke my finger. Then I got back into my first race in 2021. It was pretty insane. I was definitely nervous, but I just did my thing. It was good.
Q: How are you going to be preparing for the rest of this season? What do the next few weeks look like for you?
A: Just kind of the same. I’m in the gym four times a week and then riding every day and just staying active and fit.
Q: What else are you competing in this year? What will your season look like?
A: So I'm doing all the World Cups, and then I will be doing Crankworx Whistler, I believe. Yeah, I'll be there for the second week, because I'll be going there after Val di Sole [Italy].
Q: Is there anything for this season that you're looking forward to?
A: Trying all the new tracks because I only raced three World Cups last year, and I’m racing all of them this year, so that'll be cool.
Q: What is it about mountain biking that keeps you at that competitive edge?
A: It's just so much fun. Especially jumping. I kind of grew up in a bike park and then just loved it from the get go and tried Crankworx Whistler and then went from there. It’s just so much fun.
Q: What kind of advice would you have for young bikers in regards to downhill biking?
A: Just have fun. That's the main thing about it.
You can follow Hemstreet’s 2022 season on her instagram @graceyhemstreet.