My goal is to win,” Haley Batten says. “In Tokyo, I was so focused on just attending, but, for Paris, I have a different mindset.” Batten’s matter-of-fact tone when discussing her goals for the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games would be mildly surprising given her easygoing demeanor, if the statement didn’t carry such obvious merit. The 24-year-old, who grew up in Park City cutting her teeth on the local trails out her back door, has ascended the ranks to become one of the best professional cross-country mountain bike racers in the world. Now she’s eyeing the top step.
When we spoke, Batten was in Annecy, France, which would be her home base for the next six months as the bulk of the international race season takes place in Europe. She was only a couple weeks removed from a win at Vail Lake in Southern California, where she topped strong field that included 2018 World Champion and 2019 World Cup Overall winner Kate Courtney to secure some valuable UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for cycling sports) points for the season and 48 hours removed from finishing second against another world-class field in Heubach, Germany.
Batten’s no stranger to these sorts of results, as the past few seasons have seen her knocking at the door of major wins. Last summer Batten won the Bronze Medal at the UCI World Championships, finishing behind only two competitors, reigning World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot of France and reigning Olympic Champion Jolanda Neff of Switzerland. Her resume also includes three World Cup Cross-Country podiums and a World Cup Cross Country Short Track victory at Nové Mêsto in the Czech Republic in 2021.
Cross-country mountain biking requires a foundation of superhuman endurance and power to grind up steep mountain sides combined with the technical skills to navigate challenging rocks, drops and jumps at the absolute limit of exhaustion. Batten honed the basics on the trails at home in Park City. “When I was starting out, the Crest Trail was this epic adventure. Just to make it up Puke Hill and finish the whole trail felt like a huge day,” says Batten. “Every week, my dad and I would go with the guys from White Pine on Thursday night shop rides, and we’d follow them around the Park City Mountain trails like Moosehouse and Black Forest. I remember it being so hard but so fun. I have such great memories from those trails.”
As her passion for mountain biking grew, Batten started to scratch the competitive itch. While it’s not uncommon to see youth mountain bike teams training throughout the local trail systems, there wasn’t always a huge competitive scene in Park City, especially for girls. “When I was a freshman in high school, there were probably six girls on varsity at races. Now, oh my gosh, there are as many people racing and spectating as there are at the World Cups! It’s amazing,” she says. “We didn’t have NICA [National Interscholastic Cycling Association] when I started, but I did a lot of local races with my dad and brother. I raced in the guys category until I was 14, but everyone was always super welcoming and respectful. It challenged me to be faster, and my parents raised me in a way that said, ‘why not race the guys?’ It took me to a new level.”
That new level has exceeded what most would imagine possible and has Batten on the precipice of greatness. In just a couple seasons of elite racing, she’s already amassed accomplishments that would be the envy of most world-class cyclists, but the biggest prizes are still on the horizon. The Olympics are coming in 2024, but, in the meantime, there’s the little matter of a full World Cup calendar and the World Championships in Scotland starting on August 3. When I asked if she had any advice for youngsters who want to follow in her footsteps, Batten didn’t miss a beat. “Don’t hesitate because, when you’re passionate, it’s worth the risk to go for something big. I could not win this or that race, I could crash and I could totally fail. But, taking that chance to chase a dream to the edge is what makes you feel most alive.”
Watch Haley Batten Race This Summer
Keep up with Batten by watching live coverage of all the racing as she takes on the world’s best this summer. Following the UCI World Series looks a little different this year than in the past as Warner Bros. Discovery has acquired the rights to broadcast. Visit discoverysports.com for details on how to sign up to watch, and head to uci.org for a complete calendar of events for the season.