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Interview: Vancouver Island’s U21 Enduro World Cup leader Emmy Lan

Racing downhill, the secret to consistency and getting stoked on the level of young riders

Emmy Lan at Vedder Canadian Enduro League Photo by: Sara Kempner / Dunbar Summer Series

To say Emmy Lan is on a roll would be to understate things drastically. The Comox Valley racer dominated the under-21 women’s Enduro World Series (now Enduro World Cup) in 2022, winning every individual race she entered. A brief injury stopped her from going for a perfect sweep, but she easily won the under-21 women’s overall title.

In 2023, Lan is off to a similar start. She’s won four of five rounds of the Enduro World Cup, despite changing teams late in 2022, as well as the under-21 women’s enduro national title at Crankworx. With a long break in the ERD calendar, Lan occupied her summer by racing downhill at the Dunbar Summer Series, Canada Cups, in the opening of Whistler’s Stevie Smith dedicated 1199 track and, oh yeah, at world championships in Fort William.

Lan’s now back in Europe getting ready for this weekend’s EDR in Loudenvielle, France. We caught up to Lan at Canada Cup downhill finals at Sun Peaks, where she was piloting a prototype Forbidden downhill rig. The Vancouver Island racer talks about dirt-bagging world championships out of a van with her team mechanic,  gets really stoked on the level of riding she sees from younger girls at her local trailhead, shouts out her local trail organization, UROC, and explains why she spent her summer racing downhill bikes.

Read our interview with Emmy Lan below, then follow her racing at the Loudenvielle World Cup. The enduro is now scheduled for Friday, Sept. 1.

Lan, center, and a big crew all stoked on Sun Peaks returning to the Dunbar Summer Series. Photo: Sara Kempner
Canadian MTB: You’ve been focusing on enduro the last year, what brings you back to the Dunbar Summer Series?

Emmy Lan: I’d say a big part of bringing me back to downhill is the community. The downhill community is insane, its one of the best communities I think there is. It gets me quite stoked on racing. Sometimes the pressure of high-level enduro can be a lot, but doing these local DH races is so much fun, so it gets me stoked on racing, which I love.

With the enduro focus, there’s been a long break in the EDR calendar this year all the way from June to September. Does that make it different for you trying to manage a divided season?

Yeah, I’d say the biggest thing is getting tired. Like you get quite burnt out when the season’s that long. But it is really nice having breaks in between. Going back and forth is a lot, but it’s definitely nice getting to come home for a bit between races.

One thing that EDR break allowed you to do was race Canadian downhill nationals, where you ended up qualifying for worlds. How were those two events?

They were both super fun. I hadn’t done a downhill race in a while and hadn’t ridden the downhill bike in a while, so getting back on the downhill bike definitely took some getting used to. But doing nationals was a good warm-up, ha ha, for doing worlds.

Emmy Lan welcomes Nicole Kennedy onto the elite women’s podium at Sun peaks. Photo: Sara Kempner
At worlds you were travelling with the Forbidden team and… van camping?

Yeah, for worlds it was Anthony and I, which is funny because he’s technically our mechanic. But he qualified at nationals, which was super sick. So we went together and just slept in the van, it was super fun.

That’s … the most serious event of the year.

Yeah, ha ha ha.

Living out of a van is maybe not what some would consider perfect preparation for the race. How did that play out on track?

I think it was actually fine. There’s no pressure when you’re sleeping in a van. We had no pits. We were just enjoying it and just doing it for fun. Sometimes when your clothes are all muddy it’s not super ideal, but those are small problems and you always figure it out, so it’s fine.

Another downhill race you squeezed into the break was the Canadian Open DH on 1199. That’s named after another Islander. What was it like getting to do the first full race on that track?

That honestly was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. i thought the track was super gnarly. It was just a really difficult track. But it was really cool doing it for Stevie, and riding something built for Stevie with Tiana there. It was really cool to do that race, it was just hard. Which is good, I guess.

Tianna Smith showing off her tattoo at Crankworx Whistler
Tianna Smith shows off a tattoo of one of Stevie’s quotes during the Canadian Open DH on 1199. Photo: Rob Perry
After one of the early-season Enduro World Cup races you returned home and helped out at one of the Ride Like A Girl camps, something you do with some regularity. Why is taking time out of a busy calendar to do events like that still important to you?

I think it’s all about the community. The community – United Riders of Cumberland – does so much for me, and the bike community does so much for me that I think it’s nice to, and almost obligated to give back like that. It’s also super sick to watch the community, especially the girls, grow. There’s so many girls now, it’s sick.

Yeah, how much have you seen that community change in the time that you’ve been riding?

Honestly, so much. It’s insane. It’s just expanded so much. And the level has expanded so much, too. The girls now that are so young are doing super cool things and they’re so fast, yeah, its super sick.

Why do you think those kinds of programs are still important?

I think I big part of Ride Like A Girl is the mentorship and learning from other riders. You get so much experience from racing, so having someone who has been through that experience and can pass down that knowledge is so helpful. The RLG program gave me so many connections and friends to ride with too, which is super fun.

Do you have any riders that have been mentoring you through your career?

A lot of people have guided me along the way. Magnus [Manson] definitely helps me a lot with downhill racing. A lot of the women, like Claire [Buchar], Vaea, a lot of the women I look up to.

Emmy Lan racing at Sun peaks. Photo: Sara Kempner
You’re also on a new team this year, the Forbidden Synthesis. The EDR season also started really early this year. How was adjusting to a new team while trying to carry over from last season.

It all happened pretty quickly and I guess I was pretty nervous going into the season. The first races were so soon and I was on a new team but everyone on Forbidden is amazing. The team manager, Rhys [Verner], Alex [Storr] and Magnus are all the nicest people, it couldn’t really get much better than that.

Forbidden is based in your hometown. Is it different racing for a team that is based just down the block?

I think it’s super cool. One of my favourite things ever is just going down to the office and hanging out seeing what goes on. I know them all pretty well and it’s super cool knowing they’re building the bikes, they’re creating everything. The behind-the-scenes is so important and knowing them, I think that’s huge.

You’re racing the Druid V2? Is there a reason you chose that bike over the Dreadnaught and have you modified it at all?

It’s full stock. I think it’s the best possible race bike for me, just because the Dreadnaught’s a bit bigger and I need a bike that I can move around and is a bit more playful. The Druid’s so good for that. It’s so playful, it’s so easy to maneuver but then it can also just plow through so much, too. I think it’s a super good all-around bike, which is perfect for the Enduro World Cups.

You’ve not only been successful at enduro, but incredibly consistent while racing at wildly different tracks all around the world. Is there any secret to that consistency?

I think enduro is just testing your all-around skills as a mountain biker. So I just try to be as well-rounded in everything as I can. The courses are definitely different but it’s all kind of the same, it’s just mountain biking. So I try be smooth and keep it consistent when I’m racing.