Catching Up with Willow Koerber

Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.

More Mountain Biking Videos

Willow Koeber has had quite a year. She racked up a Bronze medal at the World Championships in Mt. St. Anne Quebec, a second place finish in the World Cup race at Dalby Forest, a second place finish in the World Cup race in Houffalize, a third place finish in the World Cup race at Champery, and second overall in the World Cup Series. Along the way, she hasn't been shy about showing off her feminine side. She's taken a lot of heat for some of the shoots, including the Cycling Passion video above. We caught up with Koerber to find out what she thinks about all of the fuss.
–Heidi Volpe

Would you say you have little discretion when it comes to showing your feminine side?
I am a woman first and an athlete second.  It just comes naturally for me to be who I am rather than repress myself.

I was at a race this past year and I heard a conversation between two guys talking about the pro women's field. Of course your name came up. They talked about your race results briefly. Then the conversation lingered on your body. Which do you want to be remembered for?
If I can’t say both then I pick results.  They actually stand the test of time!

                                            Photo by Daniel Geiger

After the Velo News Article came out, there was quite a bit of hate mail. Did you read any of it? How did it affect you if at all?
I am not sure how many angry letters Velonews actually received, but I did read two that they printed in the next issue. I picked it up to read about the World Championships (where I won the Bronze medal) and before I could even see the photos there were two letters that were pretty intense. I actually could read them and know that it was their problem, not mine. You have to have thick skin to “be yourself” in the public eye.  I am willing to risk being unpopular or offensive to someone if that means I am living my life to the fullest in the way that is true to me. The editor of Velo News did defend me by saying that I am pretty and fast, so what? That was cool. I really gave my all in that interview, and if those people would have read it, they may have gotten something out of it. 

                                            Photo by Patrick Fraser

What did you think of your photos for Outside? 
I loved the Outside photos!  First of all the crew was a joy to work with, and I liked the contrast of being in a dress and heels in the field. I love being outside and that is always where I am the most comfortable.  I think that shows in the photos.

When we were doing our photoshoot for Outside, I knew they would not print a shot of you in heels. Truthfully, I let it go because I wanted to see you walk up the fireroad in a pair of Christian Louboutin heels. NICE WORK! Aside from them being fabulous shoes, why did you want to wear the heels so badly?
I always feel more confident in heels, and I want to feel confident in front of the camera.

If Playboy called you to shoot a photo spread, how completely would you bear yourself? 
Maybe a little booty and boobs.

You made quite a splash at the Mellow Johnny's Classic in Austin Texas. You were in a bikini, had a couch in your pit and kiddy pool for your recovery ice bath. Cycling Dirt called it soft porn during the interview. How did that concept come about?
There was no concept. It was like 105 degees right after a race (and I was all jet-lagged from Germany).  No showers. No river. So I went to the ice bath and they wanted my post race interview.  

The Cylclepassion shoot was very fashion forward, and had a whiff of decadence, why did you allow agree to a shoot that would go that far? 
Cyclepassion. . . . it is just so much fun!  It is really that simple.  I am really proud of the photos and the documentary.  All the girls involved are very interesting personalities.

What did your family think of that shoot? 
I just gave my mom the DVD a few days ago. I hope she watches it! It may not be something they would do, but at this point in my life, they know that I like this sort of thing.

And what kind of role model do you think you are for your sister? 
I would like to be an example of how to be free in mind and body, how to be truthful, how to treat others, and how to have fun!

You mentioned that Paolo Pezzo was your was idol. Would you say you are picking up where she left off? Who else do you admire?   
I would love to be the next Olympic gold medalist!  I love any female athlete with the guts to race and train their hearts out as well as the courage to push boundaries in all directions. It is the only way to grow!  Gabrielle Reece, Lindsey Vonn, Amanda Beard, Brandi Chastain. These ladies are fierce and I admire them.

What do you have to say to the female racers who say your overt feminine aura undermines the equality needed in the sport?  
I have never heard that from a fellow racer.  If I did, I would just say that there are all kinds of ways to do things!  An “all roads lead to Rome” type of response.  

You have an interesting dichotomy of competitive aggression and sex bomb appeal. Is that a hard balance to keep?
It’s not hard, but it does take a lot of intention.  I have been racing in a very masculine sport for 17 years, so it's a constant balancing act. I have started taking belly dancing classes and painting on canvas.

What is your favorite lip gloss?
I love all Nars lipglosses. Right now I am into this pinkish nude called Striptease.

What is your favorite part of any race?
When my legs do whatever I tell them too and it doesn’t hurt!

How long does it take for you to pack for a race?
I hate packing.  It gives me a panic attack.  I get one huge suitcase and just fill it up.

How long does it take you to get ready? GIve me your splits.
Shower without washing hair: 4 minutes.
Shower with hair washing and leg shaving:  8 minutes.
Makeup 5 minutes. Hair if it’s wet:  10 minutes, if not 2. 
Outfit and shoes:  1-15 minutes. That depends if I am going to pilates or out in Vegas. 

Cyclepassion video by Markus Neuert, Cyclefilm

Filed to:

promo logo