Getting to Know: Junior World DH Champion and Val di Sole’s Wyn TV Privateer of the Week – Izabela Yankova

Izabela Yankova

Izabela Yankova had an incredible first year at the World Cup as a junior with three wins and a World Championship title. The only other driver to match his success in 2021 was Jackson Goldstone who also won four races. After her huge successes, Izabela is on a new program and bike for 2022 and we caught up with the fast young cyclist to find out about her mountain biking debut.

Are you describing?

Hi everyone! I’m Izabela Yankova and here we are at my first Pinkbike interview after my first season of DH racing world cups.

Where are you from and where do you live?

I am from Bulgaria and I live in a small town, at the foot of the Stara Planina mountain, in north-central Bulgaria.

How did you come to mountain biking?

Since my childhood I loved to ride BMX or my normal bike every day! It was my favorite thing to do because I always had a lot of fun with the local boys. One of them bought his first downhill bike and I dreamed of having a downhill bike, riding in the mountains, etc. We got so much inspiration from all the athletes and the videos on YouTube.

Then after a few years I bought my first downhill bike (a 2009 Scott Gambler) with my own money, which I was saving my parents and grandparents of course. I got interested in racing in Bulgaria and asked my dad if we could go to one of the races. I had no gear, not even a helmet but luckily my little brother was riding a mountain bike and I took all the gear from him. I won the race because I was the only girl there. All the people there were so shocked when I hit my helmet in the bar after jumping the final jump, which wasn’t ready and didn’t land..hahaha! I do not recommend this! Since then, my dad started investing in me, his time, his money and everything, just because he saw how happy I was. This was the start of my journey.

Who are you riding for?

I had the greatest chance of my career to join a new program from my favorite bike brand, Specialized. I’m just extremely happy, lucky and grateful to be supported by these amazing brands and people on a different level.

What bikes are you currently riding?

Right now I’m racing the Specialized Demo Race 2021 and the P.3 Dirt Jump. I’m expecting a Stumpjumper and a road bike.

Do you have a job outside of mountain biking?

No, I don’t need a second job and I still go to school every day. Can’t complain, they’ll give me more than I wanted for a good start. Money is important but that’s not all…I always think of everything I already have that money can’t buy. The only thing I want is a comfortable life.

What are your strong points?

I always try to be a better person, to not hurt anyone and to see the positive side of everything. I don’t try to please everyone, too much effort and for me it’s better to live my life as I want and do what I love.

I learn from everything and it’s fine with me if I make mistakes, they have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. I like to say what I think but sometimes it is better to be silent. I am a hard worker and since a kid I know that all the sacrifices, struggles, falls, hard work, it all pays off one day.

What are your weaknesses?

My technique on the bike is still not good. I have a lot to learn and improve, it’s not easy but I’m improving.

What are some of the problems privateers face that people might not realize?

I don’t like complaining. Lots of people are like me, I’m not the only one. I’m just lucky to have this wonderful family and father. He was everything 5 people do in a team. My small team tried to help me as much as they could and I know how difficult it was for them. I will always be grateful, they are also an integral part of my journey!

How does the WynTV Privateer price help your race?

This award helped me a lot to buy a new KTM off-road bike for training. I have 2 very good addresses near my home and it’s very cool!

What has been your worst fall over the years?

My worst crash in years was in 2020 and it was on a normal city bike. I’m not ready to share this nightmare, I wasn’t myself then. One of my worst crashes on a downhill bike happened during my first photo shoot with Specialized in the US after the season. Fortunately nothing broken, just a lot of pain, haha. You have to be ready for anything.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I became Junior World Champion 2021 and it was the first medal in the history of Bulgarian MTB. I hope this can motivate many parents and young children. The sad thing is that you can’t be supported by the federation, it won’t happen anytime soon. I would say never, but I have to stay positive.

What is your biggest regret?

I never regret anything that happened in my life, it cannot be changed, undone or forgotten. So I’m taking that as a lesson learned and moving on.

Where is your favorite place to ride?

Morzine! I love it, it’s a cycling paradise, an unreal place!

What’s your favorite non-bike website?


What is your favorite motto or saying?

“You are what you do, not what you say you will do”
“Listen more than you talk”
“The sun will rise and we will try again”
“You have to believe in yourself when no one else will”
“If you don’t do what you love, you’re wasting your time”

What makes you happy?

Lots of things but my favorites are bikes and mountains. Feel the sun on my face. Do something for others. Swimming in the sea/lake. Dancing. The smell of new books. Time spent with my family. Real people. In-depth discussions. Music, lots of music. Hard work. Struggles. Good food.

How do you want us to remember?

I learned that people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. I just want to show myself that anything is possible.

What does the future hold?

I don’t know what the future holds, this world is crazy as we have seen. I try to make the most of every moment.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think that’s enough for now. Thank you for this interview, Pinkbike!

Wiley C. Thompson