Mountain Biking’s Raddest Women: Willow Koerber

Portrait: Jordan Manley

Willow Koerber. Portrait: Jordan Manley

ALWAYS PASSIONATE, EVER STYLISH, KOERBER HAS BEEN AT THE TOP OF AMERICAN XC RACING
FOR NEARLY A DECADE, BUT SHE IS STILL LOOKING FOR A MAJOR INTERNATIONAL WIN. NOW 31,
SHE IS PINNING HER HOPES ON THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN AUSTRALIA. THE COURSE IS
FAST AND TECHNICAL—A PERFECT FIT FOR KOERBER.

Juli Furtado, 1993. World Cup, Vermont.

Juli Furtado, 1993. World Cup, Vermont. Photo: Tom Moran

Juli Furtado was my first hero. I remember, as a junior, I saw her in Durango. I didn’t even look for cars as I ran across the street as fast as I could to get her autograph. I raced against Furtado in the late 90s in Mammoth. I can’t really remember how I did, but it sure wasn’t great. I remember finishing and just wondering how in the world they went that much faster. I think I was 19 or 20 at the time.

I was also very influenced by her rival, Paola Pezzo, as she was glitzy, glam and fast—all the things I wanted to be. I think I liked her famous RockShox ad just as much as the guys did. Racing against those women on the big stage made me feel like what I was doing was important.

When I started racing pro, I really admired Lesley Tomlinson. She was on the RLX squad, and that of course meant fashion and biking. I love to dress up and be a girl, to wear high heels. It makes me happy. My teammates joke about how many bags I travel with just to look cute.

paola-pezzo

Paola Pezzo, 1996 Olympics, Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Tom Moran

As a woman, I can’t deny that I like male attention. The mountain biking scene seems to provide plenty  of that…. I recently spent the weekend with 10 guys at the SRAM Super-D in Ashland, Oregon. They commented over and over how nice it was to have me there, sending out some feminine energy. I give health tips and tricks, make them laugh and really just feel good to be where they are, doing what they are doing. I love to do that.

Mountain biking appeals to me for the simplicity and beauty of peace in the forest, feeling alive, feeling excited and pushing through pain to find that Zen-like place. I don’t mind getting dirty. I am not just a girl; I am many things. The duality of my soul typically leads me to extremes, so maybe this girl/bike thing is a perfect example of that. I always want to learn, I never want to have a “definition” of who I am. Change excites me. Things are always changing on the trail, and things are always changing in my life. I am an excitement addict, and my wheels are my wings.

Five top female riders discuss the women who inspire them, breaking into the boys’ club, zen and the fine art of femininity.

Willow Koerber

Willow Koerber

Micayla Gatto

Micayla Gatto

Darcy Turenne

Darcy Turenne

Rachel Atherton

Rachel Atherton

Melissa Buhl

Melissa Buhl

Sept/Oct 2009 cover This content was originally published in Bike’s Sept/Oct 2009 issue.

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