By: Noah Sears
Photo: Anthony Smith
Jill Kintner is perhaps best known for her storied career in gated racing, which has included three 4X World Championships and a bronze medal in BMX at the '08 Beijing Olympics. It's no surprise then that she turned a few heads when she completely ditched head-to-head racing this year to try her hand at downhill. I caught up with Jill after Crankworx and got the low-down on the change.
So you made the big switch the year from focusing on 4x to trying your hand at DH, what was the impetus for the switch?
A couple reasons, but the main one was that I reached a crossroads where I didn’t have any goals or motivation left for 4X. I enjoyed my time racing it, and am grateful for all the success, but didn’t want to do another gate start or race head to head anymore. Felt like I was just sort of maintaining rather than progressing my riding, and what for? I’m all about being a better bike rider, so downhill offered a purer form of riding where I could be creative.
You’ve had some pretty stellar results so far, what were your best and worst moments this season?
I haven’t really thought about good or bad. At Sea Otter we saw a lady in an electric mobility scooter walking a pony around the block on a leash, that was pretty good. Winning the slalom there at the first big race of the season on a new team with all the owners and employees cheering me on was pretty special too.
Bad might have been crashing like three times super hard at the Mountain States Cup in Aspen (Snowmass). I had to get stitches in my face, and still have a sore hand from that trip. It was fun, just took a serious beating the week before national champs.
Were you pleased with your performances at Crankworx this year, aside from your win at the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge?
I'm not that fussed about my results at Crankworx, I had fun but couldn’t really get into the spirit of Whistler as much as in years past. We had been on the road for a few weeks without a day off, and all the trails in the bike park were really blown out and not that fun. I did way too many runs of A-Line, and I just wanted to go home the minute I got there. We actually left early, was a bit of overload. More important goals were Worlds and WC finals.
How confident do you feel entering your first World Cup race, where the field is substantially faster, larger, and more experienced than at the U.S. domestic races?
I’m confident in my riding, an am really excited to race the top ladies. My plan for the year was to have a progression into downhill, gain experience, adapt physically, etc., so I feel ready. I’ve been to plenty of world cups, so it’s not gonna be that big of deal. I’m stoked to be in to position I’m in, just gonna be prepared for opportunity I suppose, and see what happens. I’m not really that tied to any outcome; just want to ride my best.
How much of your success thus far in DH do you attribute your teammates, Bryn Atkinson and Lars Sternberg? Have they to some extent got you up-to-speed quicker than you could of on our own?
For sure I am really lucky to have them both to bounce ideas off of, and help me. Bryn and I have spent a lot of time together working towards similar goals, and he has taught me more than anyone, so a lot of my success is from his support. Lars and I have had a ton of fun on the road in the US this year, and I have learned from him as well, and laughed my guts out. He is a funny guy. At races though, they are focused on their own riding, and I do my thing.
Do you think the tracks at the remaining World Cup round in Windham and the World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne suit you strengths? Are they your kind of tracks?
I don’t really know what my kind of tracks are yet, and I haven’t ridden these particular ones ever before. At home I ride more loamy, rooty, technical trails, but most of the U.S. rounds this year have been pedally and kinda easy, and I did well. Dunno, we will see, I feel pretty adaptable. Mont-Sainte-Anne could be one of the best tracks ever, as could Windham.
Living in the NW, you’re no stranger to rain, mud, and roots, do you think this gives you a leg-up on the competition given what we’ve seen weather-wise at the WC rounds so far?
Well I didn’t spend all that time riding in the rain for nothing. I think the European girls have that stuff pretty dialed, but As an American I have an advantage cause most of the girls are from Cali or Arizona. Roots are tricky no matter who you are… I’m still learning, and happy to be doing so. Even if I’m not at the top right now, I’m enjoying the process to get there again.