Monday, 26 April 2010
Interview: Petra 'kick-ass very politely' Wiltshire
‘How old?!’ That was the response of La Humpage when he ate Petra Wiltshire’s dust in Morzine last year. It’s a tough break for a kick ass mountain biker to get razzed by a 39-year-old chick. But he did. And once you get over the shock of a woman who was then pushing 40 hooning it down a mountain better than most youngsters you have to hand it to her – she’s an amazing rider. And more importantly in an industry which always focuses on the up and coming talent, she’s an inspiration.
‘I still love racing and any form of competition,’ grins Petra. ‘I do think twice about crazy lines and jumps now as it seems to take longer to get up when I crash. I normally forget my age when I get on the start line though and under goggles, body armour and helmets we all appear the same age. I don’t think I’m too old though and hope to carry on riding for at least the foreseeable future. If the mind and body are willing then why not?’
She goes on: ‘I am still riding bikes because I simply love it and the freedom it brings. Any sort of physical activity keeps me sane.I need to being doing something all the time and cannot imagine a day when I cannot. I will be racing zimmers or wheelchairs in the care home somewhere one day!’
It’s not hard to believe, especially when you take into account the huge medal haul behind her. Petra started racing downhill in her late twenties, when most elite racers (bar Steve Peat) are thinking of retirement. She still has her pro elite license. Hanging in her wardrobe are three World Championship jerseys, two European Championship jerseys and too many National Championship titles to count. She is also one of the few British MTBers to hold a World, European and National titles in one season. What do you mean you’ve hardly heard of her? Petra is diplomatic: ‘The media is inevitably going to aim at the younger market. Who wants to see a grey haired wrinkly racing down a mountain? I don’t mind getting minimal personal coverage, but would love to get more coverage for all my sponsors who have supported me over the years.’
Those sponsors today are Scott, Mule Bar, Sram, Buff and Maxxis. ‘I have been very, very lucky,’ she says modestly. Or just very, very good because frankly that’s an impressive collection of brands for someone who did her last World Cup three years ago. The focus these days is enduro DH – Maxi and Mega avalanche for a start as well as the Euro enduro series. Petra also does coaching – she’s worked with Jess Stone in the past and in the winter months coaches ski from her base in the Swiss resort of Champery with Freeride Company.
Petra doesn’t get caught up in the bollocks of mountain biking. She’s friendly, down the line, and pretty darn cool. When I asked her what the most important she ever learnt on a bike, the answer came back deadpan: ‘Learn which one is the front brake.’ The she followed it up with: ‘No actually it was something my dad said – at the end of the day, it’s only a pushbike. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact. Whether it cost £10,000 or £5o it essentially does the same thing. Sometimes people get blinded by technology and lose sight of the fact that a bike gets you outside and gets you happy.’
Yeah, yeah. The one reason why you should love Petra? Or at least be inspired? This quote: ‘I am an in it or bin it kind of animal. And I don’t climb with finesse, I’m all arms.’
There is hope for me yet.