GATTO IS AN ARTIST, ON AND OFF THE BIKE. ONLY 21 YEARS OLD, SHE’S ALREADY WON TWO CANADIAN DH TITLES, AND IN 2007, SHE TOOK THIRD IN THE JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. SHE’S ALSO AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN AND ASPIRING GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
I got into riding when I was about 12 years old. I was in awe when I met Lesley Tomlinson and Alison Sydor at an XC riding camp in Whistler. Lesley saw potential in my skills, and she mentored me for the next five years. She taught me not only how to ride and train, but how to approach sponsors, and the attitude it takes to get to the top. She is now my team manager, and although I now compete in a different discipline, we still go for rides. Every time I’m with her, I learn something new.
I have always looked up to Anne-Caroline Chausson. She simply kicks butt. No matter what discipline she chooses—whether it’s downhill, 4X, BMX or downhill skiing—Anne-Caro just charges and dominates. She was on par with the pro men, and as a woman, that is definitely something I looked up to. All us girls like to think we’re equal to the men on the course, but there are few female riders who can actually hang with the big guys, and Anne-Caro was one of them.
I recently signed with Commencal, one of Anne-Caro’s old sponsors, and the first bike that was given to me was actually one of her old bikes. It was cool to think that I’ve come so far, and yet still look up to her so much.
I’ll be the first to admit that besides the top tier of women, I’d rather watch the guys race than the girls. But I also think women are slowly gaining a good foothold in the sport, and I do believe that one day we will be respected like the snowboard and surf girls are.
I love seeing girls showcased in the media. However, they are either scantily clad or posing on their bike in some sort of provocative stance. Why can’t there just be a picture of a girl shredding, her ponytail flying out the back? Why do we always have to play the sex symbol? Women aren’t going to earn the respect of the guys if we keep selling ourselves short like that.
Still, I have no problems staying feminine in a male-dominated sport. However, it does get a bit wearing when you spend two months in Europe with all boys. I always come home from those trips swearing like a sailor.
Five top female riders discuss the women who inspire them, breaking into the boys’ club, zen and the fine art of femininity.
This content was originally published in Bike’s Sept/Oct 2009 issue.