Time To Dance

How TFR Enduro mechanic Andy Lund became Hattie Harnden's confidante and hype man

All season long, Hattie Harnden has carried the message “Time To Dance” with her, written in shiny gold marker on her handlebars, down 38 stages across eight Enduro World Series stops. It was her rallying theme for the season, and a constant reminder to enjoy herself and ride loose. Fun is fast, as they say, and Harnden proved that by winning two races and taking third on the EWS women’s overall.

Trek Factory Racing mechanic Andy Lund writes the message every race. On the other side of the handlebars, he also adds a rotating reminder for Harnden, usually a recent point of emphasis from training. Early in the year, it read “Open Shock!” so that Hattie wouldn’t forget to open her rear shock after climbing to the start of each stage. In Burke, the handlebar read “Look Up!” followed by three arrows pointing upward. Lund put a dot below the “Os” for a nose and drew a smile beneath it.

This small ritual illustrates a pivotal aspect of mountain racing: The point of fact that no rider ever truly races alone.

Hattie Harnden and Andy Lund after Hattie's win in Whistler.

In enduro racing especially, no riders gets up and down (and up and down, and up and down) a course without help, whether from teammates, competitors, staff or mechanics. Equipment know-how is especially valuable in a sport that tackles some of the toughest mountain biking terrain in the world on all-day excursions. 

Lund has experience in spades, having worked his first World Cup race as a mechanic in 2008. But beyond his technical knowledge, Lund has also provided Harnden with tactical and emotional support over the last two seasons. 

“He’s more than a mechanic,” Harnden says. “Andy is that person you lean on as well. He knows me almost as well as anyone in my family. You’re spending all this time together, so you get to know each other very well.”

He's more than a mechanic. Andy is that person you lean on as well. He knows me almost as well as anyone in my family.

- Hattie Harnden

Lund first worked directly with Harnden at the 2019 XC World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne as part of British Cycling. Lund had only passing interactions with Harnden to that point, but he certainly knew her name — Harnden convincingly won the British junior XC title earlier that year while riding for Tracy Moseley’s T-Mo Racing.

Lund’s first impression of Harnden then still holds today.

“She was very focused and determined, which I was amazed by at a young age,” Lund says. “She was very level headed. She seemed older than she was in terms of the processes that she’d go through.”

Lund and Harnden joined TFR at the same time in 2020, and Lund was in the front row for one of the most formative races of Harnden’s young career. On the Queen Stage in Finale Ligure, one of enduro’s most iconic venues, Harnden laid down the fastest time among all women’s riders while racing in the Under-21 category, besting the fastest elite time by more than 17 seconds.

Hattie's motto all season long.

Hattie stepping up to the podium in Burke.

The performance cemented Harnden as a special talent. She went on to dominate her category, sweeping the pandemic-shortened series and fast-tracking her move to the elite category in 2021 at just 20 years old.

That season, Lund began working more closely with Harnden. She provided swift returns, taking ninth in her elite debut, then third, then second, then a win in just her fourth ever elite EWS race.

Heading into 2022, Lund became Harnden’s near-full time mechanic. Harnden and Lund live just two hours away from each other in the UK, which enabled them to meet after the 2021 season for next-season testing and preparation. The extra one-on-one time allowed Harnden to experiment with a smaller bike, which she ultimately opted for this past season, giving her better maneuverability in the late stages of EWS races.

Most enduro riders are eager for a break after the season. Lund and Harnden wanted to keep working.

I love taking my bike apart and going through it all, cleaning it all, greasing it all, and then putting it all back together. I think a lot of people hate it. I find it very therapeutic.

- Hattie Harnden

“We found that come the end of the season, a lot of people would be like, ‘Right, we’re done,'” Lund says. “Actually, there’s a huge chunk of time when you can do some testing, get ready for the new year, and you’re a little bit ahead of yourself. You’re at a better starting point. Doing the work beforehand, can help you have that advantage.”

The extra hours spent perfecting the bike wouldn’t have been so fruitful if Harnden and Lund didn’t mesh well. They have a lot in common. They’re both patient, laid back Brits with healthy competitive streaks and good eyes for detail.  

“Andy is super easygoing, and you can tell he loves the sport. He goes above and beyond all the time when we’re looking at things,” Harnden says. “Throughout the winter, he didn’t have to do all the testing and things we do, but I’m very lucky that he enjoys spending the time. We nerd out about trying to get the bike as good as we can.”

Andy Lund at work in Petzen.

Lund has helped turn Harnden into a better mechanic. She has always been drawn towards engineering. She studied chemistry, physics and math in school, and grew up wanting to be an architect. But being able to tinker with her bike has helped make Harnden a better rider, too. She says it puts her more in tune with her machine. 

After her racing career, Harnden says she could see herself putting together her own toolbox.  

“I actually could really get into being a mechanic,” Harnden says. “I love taking my bike apart and going through it all, cleaning it all, greasing it all, and then putting it all back together. I think a lot of people hate it. I find it very therapeutic.”

During race weeks, Lund also acts as Harnden’s coach, confidante and hype man. They’ll often do track walks together and discuss line choices. Lund is a former racer himself, and he will pre-ride stages when he can and relay what he learns.

She gives me a hard time. I wind her up. It's just how we are.

- Andy Lund

Harnden also benefits from racing with a skilled and experienced teammate in Pedro Burns. The 25-year-old Chilean rider is yet another savvy and upbeat presence in Harnden’s corner (and she in his). They can often be spotted together under the team tent at races poring over GoPro footage together.

Harnden isn’t always capable of taking the same lines as Burns, however. Fortunately, Lund understands the limits and nuances of her riding style. 

“The boys will be like, ‘Oh yeah, you just send it off of this.’ And I’m like, ‘Hmm, that’s not quite realistic,'” Harnden laughs. “Andy is very good at helping me be like, ‘You’re fast at doing it your way. And this is the sort of thing you would do.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s the sort of line I would take.’ He knows my riding style and how I would approach things. And he understands my strengths.”

Pre-race, Lund’s biggest focus is keeping Harnden calm, centered and loose. Harnden does a good job of regulating her anxiety herself, but in the midst of intense competition and travel, it doesn’t hurt to have another soothing presence nearby. Up until she leaves for her first stage start, Harnden is under the TFR team tent joking around with Lund.

Hattie rumbling through the woods on her way to winning in Burke.

“She gives me a hard time. I wind her up,” Lund says. “It’s just how we are. She’s not giving me a hard time for anything in particular, but she’ll take the mick out of me and just have a laugh.”

Lund often stresses to Harnden the importance of only worrying about what can be controlled. Want to adjust the fueling strategy for a race with particularly difficult transitions? That can be arranged. But if, say, rain clouds unexpectedly roll in, there’s nothing else to do except ride the changing conditions as well as possible.

Harnden and Lund both believe in fully dialing in every controllable factor they can, so that Harnden’s only focus is riding her bike as fast as possible come the first stage.

“We’re good at being like, ‘We know we’ve done the work, the bike’s good, I’ve done my training. We’ve done everything we can,'” Harnden says. “I think we’ve gotten good at that positive outlook on things.”

I've seen people get too regimented and that's when I think the fun goes away.

- Andy Lund

The nature of enduro makes Lund’s role all the more important. Harnden takes her phone with her as she’s racing, and will text Lund in between stages to communicate any issues she’s having, or get updates about her times and how she’s doing relative to the competition. 

Lund tries to give Harnden the information she needs without potentially creating stress in the process or, as was often the case this season, making her lose focus if she’s doing particularly well. If Harnden is having a hard race, he’ll gas her up. If Harnden is on a good run, Lund will often send short, subdued responses to help her stay in the zone: Keep it up, keep pushing, keep going.

Harnden got down on herself after crashing twice on Stage 2 in Canazei last June. She messaged Lund, “I think I’m out now,” but Lund quickly lifted her spirits.

“I messaged Andy and I was like, ‘Oh, that was such a big crash,'” Harnden says. “And he was like, ‘You’re still within seconds of the lead. It’s fine, there’s still time, it’s a long day, long race.’

“He was just like, ‘You got this, you know you can do this.’ And it put me in the right place. I was like, ‘Actually you’re right. I can do this.'”

Andy and Hattie in the TFR Enduro pit.

Harnden would go on to win the last stage of the day, the Queen Stage, to vault into third place and take her first podium of the season.

Lund’s ultimate goal is to make sure Hattie is having fun at all times, both to keep her relaxed and confident in the moment while racing, and to slow the accumulation of stress throughout the racing season. Having been around high level racing for a long time, Lund has seen many riders take themselves too seriously.

“I’ve seen people get too regimented and that’s when I think the fun goes away,” Lund says. “Then you see how it affects other people or the riders. Ultimately it affects results. It’s almost like they build too much pressure on themselves.”

As a squad, TFR Enduro makes a point of exploring the areas they visit, even if it’s just to sit at a nice café in town. They might find a relaxed activity to do together, like playing mini golf. And they rent houses rather than hotel rooms whenever possible so that they can live more like a family while on the road, cooking dinner together or passing the time playing Uno.

It's good to stop and sit, look and listen, and close your eyes. Because racing can be pretty flat out.

- Andy Lund

Harnden likes to appreciate her surroundings. She’ll often take time during training to stop and soak in the incredible vistas she comes across while riding all over the world.

“When we were in Whistler, we went and did these amazing, slightly techie climbs,” Harnden says. “We went to these beautiful places. And yeah, you climb up for an hour and a half, and it’s hard work. But you get to a viewpoint and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is why I love riding my bike.'”

A lighthearted approach to racing also means creating space for self-care. Harnden, Lund and Burns are a tight-knit group, but anyone who spends so many weeks traveling with the same few faces needs time alone every once in a while.

Lund unwinds by taking meandering bike rides by himself, often in search of a lake where he can dangle his legs in the water. Harnden might go out for coffee, or spend some time switched off in her room. Decompressing while in the full swing of the EWS slate can be difficult, which is why Lund and Harnden are intentional about spending time away from each other.

Hattie and Pedro Burns scoping the course in Sugarloaf.

Inside the TFR Enduro tent in Crans-Montana.

“It can be quite tough at times when you’re within the same circle for a month,” Lund says. “You find ways to manage that and have a switch off time. It’s good to stop and sit, look and listen, and close your eyes. Because racing can be pretty flat out.”

Blocks of racing like the back-to-back-to-back North American stops in Whistler, Burke and Sugarloaf are particularly tough. The team showed up early to Whistler from Europe to get acclimated to the nine-hour time difference between the Pacific and Central European time zones, but long-haul travel can wear on mind and body like a hard ride. Whistler was also a new venue for everyone, which meant learning and navigating a foreign layout.

Enduro racing also impedes on one’s personal life. Once again using Whistler as an example, Lund explains that to talk to his wife, he’d have to call her as he was going to sleep to catch her as she was waking up in the UK. When Harnden won in Whistler, it was roughly 1 a.m. back home, much too late to call her parents to tell them the good news.

I don't know all the things I did to make it so good. ... It just developed so well by itself. It just happens. It's instinctive.

- Hattie Harnden

To recuperate from a month of missing friends and family, Harnden says that she and Lund might not hear from each other for a week after a long trip. But a healthy team environment can be a respite from one’s personal life, too.  

“Just having a chat, making sure everything’s all good,” Lund says. “You have to, especially when you’re away. If something’s potentially bothering someone, being open in talking about things is important. Because then you get a better understanding of the person, which helps that overall relationship.”

Over the last two years, Harnden and Lund have come to rely on each other for much more than their job descriptions would indicate. Harnden’s success belies her age. She’s still new to the upper echelons of racing, and she’s still learning more every day about her potential, her ambition and her bike.

To that end, Lund has almost seamlessly become her font of wisdom. And Harnden’s results reflect a rider who is mature beyond her years, with an incredible penchant for impressive late-stage performances owing to her stellar fitness and even keel.

Thumbs up in Whistler.

There’s no telling yet how high Harnden’s ceiling can go. The only certainty is that Harnden and Lund are better together, something they know because they’ve never had to say it.

“I don’t know all the things I did to make it so good,” Harnden says. “When a race goes well, my coach is like, ‘Well, if you don’t remember it, it’s because it went so well.’ It’s almost kind of like this with the relationship. It just developed so well by itself. It just happens. It’s instinctive.”

The strongest relationships are frequently the easiest. Lund and Harnden fell into symbiosis through small actions: A joke, a text, a spot of encouragement here and there, adding up to build the foundation of a friendship. Pro racing is too often a serious business. Harnden and Lund are writing her story in glittery, shimmering gold.