In between the stack of race bikes, sixteen-year-old Hattie sits with her nose buried deep in a text book. “Hattie has exams coming up, and school must come first,” Tracy calls out from inside the campervan in a comedy ‘mum’ tone. Inside, the other half of the T-MO Racing team, seventeen-year-old Meg battles with the small oven as she takes her turn rustling up a meal for the whole team. This is unlike any other race pits I’ve ever been in… being in the T-MO race team is being part of the T-MO family.
If you haven’t already heard of Megan James and Hattie Harnden then you will do very soon, as they have already collected more podiums than most experienced elites. Looking through their roots-and-rain race profiles, their list of victories is impressive, but more impressive are their disciplines. Victories between them include national Cyclocross Champion, National XC Champion, National Enduro Champion, and two wins at the UCI WC Downhill – a clean sweep. In these days of strict development pathways and serious national federations, it’s very rare to see such a multi-disciplinary approach, but perhaps less surprising when you consider their coach and mentor is none other than Tracy Moseley.
Now Tracy Moseley’s story is well told, but I would imagine if she had a pound for every time someone asked her “So, what’s the difference between enduro and downhill?”, she would have a much bigger campervan. Her fame is well deserved – is there a more successful mountain biker out there? I don’t think so. Tracy has stood at the top step in so many events, in so many countries, that it would be hard to count. Her cool head, ferocious speed, and genuine love for riding make her the ultimate racer… a people’s champion in every way, a role model, and the definitive ambassador for a life on two wheels.
T-MO Racing was born out of necessity back in 2012. After a successful career in downhill, limited bike time meant that Tracy was almost ready to throw in the towel – but then grassroots enduro started to gain momentum and Tracy saw the potential for a new challenge, more time on the bike, and more adventures. Tracy’s passion was ignited, but she needed a team. This was long before the EWS gave enduro an identity and made it a global phenomenon, so Tracy decided to start her own. After being told she would need a brand or an identity to succeed, it seemed sensible to jump on her nickname, and so T-MO Racing was born. Tracy maintained her strong downhill ties with Trek UK, who helped her out with equipment in the early days. This gave her the flexibility to dabble in XC Eliminator World Cups and to pick and choose the enduro races she wanted to race. She raced like that for two years, and even her first year of the EWS was the same; almost a privateer, Tracy and her now-husband James would travel to the races in their camper, living in the pits, with no fancy hotels – and she dominated. Trek US took note and things quickly changed.
In 2014 Trek Factory Enduro started, but Tracy wanted to keep T-MO racing going. It needed a new purpose. It was only when out riding with the British Cycling XC team that Tracy saw the effects of the brutal selection on the junior riders: if you didn’t show performance, you were gone. Many junior riders with great bike skills and potential were falling through the cracks in the system; this played on Tracy’s mind and the seed started to grow. Using her own sponsors, experience, connections, and ultimately money, Tracy wanted to help some of these future stars and give them the same opportunities she had. Not for a pat on the back or for positive media, but to give something back to the sport that had been her life for so long.
“I love Tracy’s multidisciplinary approach! I enjoy every discipline of cycling and I want to follow this same path. It’s important to vary the cycling you do, and I think it helps progress in loads of areas. It obviously works for her – she’s smashing every discipline she does, which is pretty awesome and inspiring to see.” Meg James
When riding on a kids’ half-term club ride, Tracy first met Hattie. “I couldn’t believe it, there was this little girl on a crappy old bike with flat pedals, and I couldn’t shake her off,” Tracy laughed. Seeing the untapped potential Tracy managed to get an old (but nice) bike to help Hattie move to the next step. Although Hattie was very focused on XC, Tracy has always been a big believer in the multidisciplinary approach and was keen to get Hattie a teammate who could bring her on in different areas. As soon as Tracy met Meg, a tiny little kid with handlebars so narrow it was unbelievable, smashing through trails sections and wanting to be the next DH champ, at an XC race in 2015, Tracy knew she had found the perfect teammate. T-MO Racing had its new stars.
When Tracy came through the sport, there were no coaches; everything was discovered through trial and error. “Kids now just want to get on a team, and it puts a massive amount of pressure on them at a young age. It can make them override, hurt themselves, and not enjoy it in the years to come… so much talent can be lost.” Tracy tends to focus on more ride time and developing a broad experience of disciplines. Leading by answering questions, not by dictating knowledge, Tracy never wants to be the person to give a direction over a line, but instead likes the girls to find their own style, have fun, and learn if and when they want. Meg is keen to fill us in on her best advice as she cooks: “I got a lot out of her telling me the most important thing for me is to ride smooth and not always at 100%. This has stopped me from hitting every turn way too hot and probably stopped me from crashing a lot more!” (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Meg has taken a big crash since this story was written. Get well soon, Meg!)
“Tracy has provided me with the opportunity to ride a bike competitively. Had she not done so, I wouldn’t have even considered competing.” Hattie Harnden
T-MO Racing has a very grassroots vibe, but yes, they are getting massive help from Trek. “It’s easy to worry about the appreciation for what stuff costs,” Tracy says. “When you are that young and everything is handed over on a plate, respect for the kit is vital, which you only learn after spending your own money.” The bikes are on loan for the year and then have to go back, and James ensures the girls look after them well. The guys at Cycle Jersey have made all the jerseys, and the rest of the kit is sourced from Tracy’s own sponsors. By keeping low-key, Tracy reduces the pressure on the girls to perform. Tracy wants to give them a chance to do something they enjoy, and to help with the races that they want to do. For Meg, the reward is clear: “I love her multidisciplinary approach! I enjoy every discipline of cycling and I want to follow the same path, not just focusing on one discipline. I think it’s important to vary the cycling you do, and I think it helps progress in loads of areas. It’s obviously worked for her – she’s smashing every discipline she does, which is pretty awesome and inspiring to see.” Hattie looks up from her textbook and adds, “It’s made me stronger than I ever could have been from just focusing on one discipline. It also means that I respect the riders competing in other disciplines after having given it a go myself.”
Tracy is very clear about the role of the team, “T-MO Racing is a stepping stone to a professional career – I cannot give them full support for a WC campaign, but I am really honoured to be a part of their development.” As I follow the team around the race stages of the UK National Enduro Championship, it’s clear how close they all are. Good-natured banter and jokes flow easily while the girls set the pace of the day. When a big rock-drop causes some concern, Tracy is quick to jump in: “Try not to place too much focus on the one section where you’re going to struggle; instead, focus on the sections where you’re going to make time. Focus on your strengths, focus on the good things and how to progress.”
With the stars of the sport now more visible than ever, it’s easy for junior riders to idolise and specialise early, many burning out before they have even got going. As such, it’s refreshing to see Tracy’s approach: ride for fun, race what you want, study and do well at school – and above all, enjoy your time on the bike. As Hattie and Meg go from strength to strength in every discipline, it looks like we are going full circle.
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey