A conversation with Park City’s Haley Batten as she readies for her second Olympic Games

Batten, 25, grew up riding in Park City. She shares with TownLift thoughts on the 2024 Olympic course, what she's focused on this time around, and advice to Park City's youth mountain biking community.

PARK CITY, Utah — It wasn’t long ago that you may have run into Haley Batten on the local mountain bike trails in Park City. In all likelihood, she probably greeted you with a friendly smile and hello before continuing on her speedy way. If you were climbing up Armstrong, you might have been put to shame, and if you were struggling through a technical section, you probably wished you could ride as smoothly as she did. 

Now that Parkite, who was also a cross-country skier with Park City Ski Team, is bound for her second Olympic Games. Batten, at age 25, will be one of just two American women competing in mountain biking. 

USA Cycling announced the four-person mountain bike team in early June. 

This season, Batten has been making big moves in the world of elite mountain biking. She currently leads the UCI World Cup overall standings, while her 2024 Olympic teammate, Salvilia Blunk, of Inverness, Calif., sits in third place.

At the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Araxá, Brazil, Batten secured victories in both the short track (XCC) and cross-country Olympic (XCO) events. Her win in the XCO event was particularly notable as she managed to outmaneuver Jenny Rissveds, the winner of the first round in Mairiporã, during the final lap to clinch the victory. 

Haley Batten of Park City wins MTB-World-Cup in Brazil.
Haley Batten after winning a MTB World Cup in Brazil in April 2024. Photo: USA Cycling

Now, Batten splits her time between Squamish, BC, where she attends Quest University, Santa Cruz, Calif., and global travels with Specialized Factory Racing.

When the Olympic team was announced, Batten was preparing for a World Cup Race in Val di Sol, Italy, which she completed on June 16. TownLift chatted with her about how she’s feeling headed into the Paris Games, what it was like growing up riding in Park City, and what advice she has for all the young riders in the local mountain biking community. 

MK: How often do you get back to Park City to ride, and do you miss it?

HB: I love Park City; it’s the best. It’s so close to my heart. It’s amazing, I mean there’s really nothing like it. I’ve been to a lot of places now to ride my bike, and it’s really special there. I don’t think people realize in Park City—like the young kids—they don’t know how good they have it. I remember growing up there, and then I was looking for colleges, and I was so picky because I was like, do they even have enough trails? Am I gonna get bored? 

MK: What are some of your favorite rides here?

HB: I mean, I loved going up Armstrong and doing Pinecone up to the Crest and then down through Black Forest and Moose House, all of those over there. Shadow Lake—I love that area. I lived in Trailside so I rode the Trailside bike park and even Round Valley. That’s where I spent a lot of time when I was young. I love Park City Mountain; I’d ride Tommy Two Step a lot and John’s all the time. 

MK: Switching gears a little bit to the Olympics, now tell me about the terrain and the course that you’ll be racing in Paris.

HB: We were able to race on the course last year. There was an Olympic test event, so we did a full race there, which was great. And then this year, after the Nove Mesto World Cup, we had two days to train on the course. There wasn’t a race or anything, but the course was open for training periods, and we could ride the course, test equipment, get video, and all that kind of stuff.

The course is super cool; I think it’s a great race course. It has a lot of wider, high-speed sections, transition sections, and climbs, but also some cool natural sections where you’re in the trees and then a lot of manmade features, like a big rock garden, a big log section. So the whole course is very manmade, which is pretty traditional for an Olympic course. 

It really has a little bit of everything. It’s definitely a physical course, but it’ll also be very tactical. 

Haley Batten is currently the top ranked female mountain biker in the world. (Photo by Evan Kay)

MK: What do you think the race will be like from a tactical standpoint?

HB: I think the group will probably stay together a lot. It seemed like it did at the test event as well because it’s so high-speed. The climbs aren’t so steep or so dramatic where you can really get away, but then you also have these major technical sections, so you really have to have all the elements of being a mountain bike rider to be able to perform super well. 

MK: How do you feel going into it?

HB: I’m really looking forward to it. Since last year, I’ve definitely been focusing on the terrain and how to develop my skills specifically for this course. There’s a lot of, it’s not gravel, but you know in Round Valley in the summer when it’s got that hard pack, but with a loose layer on top of it. There’s a lot of corners like that. So, it’s very loose on hard cornering. So that’s a skill in itself. If you can corner way faster than everybody, I think you can get a couple of seconds here and there. So, I’ve been trying to work on all those little details of the course. I’m excited for it and I think everybody’s preparing and in the final countdown now, which is kind of surreal.

MK: If you had to choose one thing, technical riding or climbing, what would be your strong suit?

HB: That’s a great question. But honestly, I’ve built myself to be good at everything. I never show up to a course and think ‘Oh, yeah, this course really suits me.’ I’m just ready to race every time. Whatever it is, and I think I’ve done the work to be a really good technical rider, a really good climber, you know, powerful in the flats. This year, I’ve focused a lot on being a more powerful rider. To have that punch, that attack. This year in Brazil, I attacked one of the best sprinters on the flat, I’ve never been able to do that before, so I’m really taking on all the little elements. And that’s my favorite part about the sport because there’s so much to develop and get better at and I’m really trying to check all those boxes. So, I think I’m really an all rounder.

MK: How do you feel going into this Olympics versus your first experience in Tokyo? 

HB: Tokyo was…not that it was a surprise, I really wanted to go and I prepared to go and worked really hard to go, but I was definitely the underdog. It was almost unbelievable. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the Olympics. I qualified. I’m one of the best in the world. This is crazy. It was all like a whirlwind, in a way. To have all that experience now and I know what the Olympics is like. For the last three years I’ve been really focused on Okay, what does the Olympic performance look like? How do I get a medal? How do I become an Olympic champion? How do I prepare at my best to perform on the day and not just attend the Olympics and become an Olympian. So for me, it’s really been developing over the past few years to become a smarter rider, a more mature rider, and focus on, like I said, performance and not just attendance. 

MK: What would you have to say to the young riders here in Park City’s mountain bike community?

HB: Definitely enjoy it. Every day, feel the gratitude for where you are and where you get to ride and how lucky you are to have the infrastructure you have. I grew up in a place where we learned to take care of each other and to respect each other, to say hi on the trails. When I grew up there, every time you saw somebody on the trails, you stopped, you pulled over, you said, ‘Hi, how’s it going? Have a great ride!’ In all honesty the last time I was back, it was, like everybody’s buzzing by and that’s what it’s like in California. And that’s what I miss about Park City. I think everybody just has to realize how lucky they are.

And what’s amazing in Park City is we have a huge Olympic infrastructure. We have a lot of development programs from cycling to skiing, summer and winter sports and being able to capitalize on those resources is something that a lot of people don’t have. So if you have big goals, utilize your resources and learn from people and listen to your mentors. There’s a lot of Olympic experience and high level athletes that you can learn from and I think just always being humble and appreciating what you’ve got and that also makes it more fun. 

Batten will race in one more World Cup race in Crans-Montana, Switzerland before heading into full Olympic prep mode. Her race will be held July 28, 2024.  

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