Scottish professional mountain bike racer Mikayla Parton prepares for 2022 UCI Downhill World Cup

As the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup prepares to return to Fort William, all eyes are on Mikayla Parton, the local rider who has climbed the standings, turned pro and landed top sponsor.

WITH the return of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup from Fort William on May 21-22, a local rider is gearing up for her title shot. Mikayla Parton came to the sport later than most, if not all, of her downhill competitors. But for the 24-year-old, it was truly love at first bike.

“I had just turned 18, which is very late to begin with,” she explains.

“Most people who compete at this age will have already competed in two years of Junior World Cups.

“I just really got into it at that age and ended up buying a downhill bike the following year. [after having a trail mountain bike]. It would have been 2016 when I got my first downhill bike and did my first Scottish race. From there, I got addicted to running – all I wanted to do was get better results.

“I just loved it!”

The Scottish Privateer [a rider who isn’t supported by a factory team] admits that before she knew it, the sport took over her life. She got to the point where she was racing as many Scottish and British races as she could and gradually her name was going up the board. At the end of 2018, she was crowned downhill champion at the Scottish Championships in Nevis Range. The title has attracted interest from sponsorship by Greenpower, who also sponsor the Scottish downhill series.

“I couldn’t believe they wanted to help me get to the World Cup,” she said. “I still feel so lucky that they asked me because I’m still with the same sponsor today.”

Alongside Greenpower, Mikayla’s main sponsors are Nevis Range, Trek Bikes and Endura. Thanks to her support, Mikayla is a full-time professional mountain bike racer. She says: “Luckily I have enough support now to be able to train and race full time.”

Mikayla rode her first downhill World Cup season in 2019 as a “total rookie,” but the real feat came when Mikayla placed fifth at the 2020 World Championships.

“That’s when I was getting better results and it got to the point where I realized, wait, ‘This is my job now,'” she laughs.

“It still catches me off guard, and I still feel very grateful for it.”

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Unfortunately, the end of the 2020 season also resulted in a nasty concussion and neck injury after Mikayla landed on his head on a downhill run.

Despite his past injuries, which also include a fractured rotator cuff, his nerves seem unwavering.

Mikayla admits that her mother, who is the founder of The Highland Soap Company and an avid mountain biker herself, always encouraged her to try things, even if they might scare her at first.

“My mum rode mountain bikes before me, and for a while she was better than me – which was so frustrating,” she laughs.

“She used to take me out and I would get so mad at her saying, ‘You know I can’t get this down’.”

She highlights her excitement for her mother to watch her race at the UCI World Cup. “I’m so excited for this and it’s even more special because my mum never comes to the races so it will be amazing to have her with her friends and family.”

Having grown up in Fort William, Mikayla is particularly attached to this annual event. As one of Scotland’s biggest cycling events, Fort William competitions have attracted crowds of over 20,000 spectators in the past.

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Chris O’Brien, Managing Director of Nevis Range, says: “The Fort William World Cup is an incredible event that puts Nevis Range and Fort William on the world stage.

“Rare Management has done an incredible job as organizers of the event, and we are honored to have hosted the World Cup for the past 20 years. The role it plays in promoting the sport and the he inspiration of young people to become the athletes of tomorrow cannot be overstated.

“We are so proud, not only of what this means to us, but also of how it showcases Scotland as a world leader in mountain biking!”

The National: Charne Hawkes PhotographyCharne Hawkes Photography

After a two-year hiatus, viewers are invited to watch their favorite racers. So how does Mikayla feel before the race in her hometown?

“It’s not really integrated, but it’s going to happen here,” she thinks. “In 2019 I was such a rookie it was kind of crazy, but now I’m fully into the show.

“Last season was a full season, but we never came to Fort William. It’s so strange to think that racing is going to come to where I live, and I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed on a race weekend.

“The atmosphere is amazing – maybe I’m biased but I feel like it’s one of the best [races in the world cup series]. It was amazing to be there, I remember my qualifying race and the sheer amount of people screaming. It was unreal. You can’t really beat a Scottish event. The people of Fort William are amazing. I feel like I have a good base of support here from friends and people who generally want to see me do well.

Although Mikayla admits it may bother her that she came to the sport so late and had to sacrifice her college degree to get to where she is now, but she maintains a positive attitude: “I can’t believe that I get paid to do this. I’m happy and I like riding the bike, I try to enjoy the whole experience.

Wiley C. Thompson