For someone, a child being born into the family means the end of cycling. That is not a case of Katarina Tothova, though. An ex-professional downhill cyclist for the national team and a mother of three, she takes her kids to pump tracks regularly. Simon, the youngest, has only six months and sleeps in a portable car seat right next to the track so his mother is near to cuddle and comfort him if any need wakes him up. Meanwhile, the two other kids, Zbysek (4) and Katarina (2), are enjoying their bikes, learning to keep balance and how to rush over the rolls.
Born in Slovakia, Katarina moved to the Czech Republic when she was just four as her father used to serve in the former Czechoslovak military and was transferred to another unit with his entire family. In her early years, Katarina, who’s now 33, fell in love with mountain biking. She learned the first bike-handling skills on a BMX track during her premiere ride on a full-suspension bike, which she experienced on the day of her very first downhill (DH) race back in 2004. “It rained the night before and water running down the slopes changed the track to a muddy slide. I was more stumbling than riding,” Katarina recollects.
Only three years later, she joined the Czech national DH team and headed to the Swiss World Cup race in Champéry, which was soon about to become infamous for a tremendously terrifying track. Only a few riders made it down without crashing on the incredibly steep trail full of mud and stones that gave Katarina a lesson in humbleness. More World cup races around Europe followed, yet without a bigger success.
From DH tracks to pump tracks with kids
A shoulder injury in 2009 forced Katarina to stop racing for a while and another shoulder dislocation and ligament rupture made her reconsider her career. “Even though cycling had meant a lot to me, I saw that my time had been running and decided to step down from the national team,” Katarina says. She started focusing on local races and family planning. This was when she met her current partner Radek and three kids followed soon. Every time she wants to have a ride, she needs to take them along with two bikes, one balance bike, three helmets and a lot of snacks for everyone. She packs everything into a car and sets off to get to the closest pump track, which is accessible by a 15-minute drive from her home.
On the parking lot, she unloads the car and carries her youngest in a portable seat to have him as close as possible, while the older kids ride past the stadium right to the track. “We’ve started riding together this spring and, in the beginning, I had to have eyes all over. That is how scared I was that somebody could get injured. Now I know that Zbysek and Katarina can circle safely with me. Sometimes, we make it to up to three rounds before Simon wakes up and calls for his mum,” Katarina says. Even though she spends more time taking care of her kids than biking, she feels satisfied with the ratio. She believes this is the way how to make her kids love cycling and enjoy the sport together.