BROOKLIN -- On the morning of her Olympic appearance in London this summer, Emily Batty will first attend to her own appearance.
She'll brush on mascara and makeup, set a string of pearls around her neck and put rings on her fingers and diamonds in her ears.
Then the 23-year-old farm girl from Brooklin will hurtle herself with expert abandon over a mountain bike course, in a sport she describes as "gruesome."
Though it may be that in its mud-caked exertion, it never is in her execution.
I'm a cyclist, that's my profession, my passion, but I'm definitely a woman first.
Blond, blue-eyed and always bejeweled, the emerging mountain bike superstar has a supermodel-like appeal for young male fans of the sport.
"It's flattering, definitely, to have such a grand male following," says Batty of her infatuated Facebook following.
"I'm a cyclist, that's my profession, my passion, but I'm definitely a woman first."
For the self-described "girly girl," however, it's her legions of youthful female fans that she's more intent on impressing.
Having spent her childhood at the bottom of courses watching her older brothers compete, Batty came to idolize the women competitors. And she recalls how a mere word from one of them would make her heart soar.
Former Canadian Olympic rider Chrissy Redden in particular impressed Batty with the time she'd devote to her autograph-seeking acolytes.
"At the end of her race she came to me and she knelt down on her knee and then not only did she sign what I wanted her to sign, but she actually had a conversation with me," Batty recalls.
"I realized those small little conversations and those small little connections with younger people can make or break someone's career or passions."
At race's end these days, Batty is routinely surrounded by adoring little girls and everyone and everything else -- coaches, race officials, podium presentations -- will wait until she's spoken with them all.
"And sometimes it comes back to bite me in the butt, because I end up being on my feet all day long," she says.
"But I wouldn't change it for the world because I love just giving, giving, giving as much as I can ... because that's what people who helped me get to where I am did."
Batty's older brothers, Eric and Mark, turned her on to cycling at age six. But her entire cattle farming family would transform itself into a travelling mountain bike road show as the children came to excel in the sport.
"We would be travelling every summer, all summer in our family safari van," Batty says.
"We did that for eight or nine years. And we'd go to North Carolina or South Carolina on two-week training camps on March break."
And in their travels to competitions and training camps across North America, the Battys evolved a NASCAR-like efficiency as a road team.
"We all had a purpose; dad was a mechanic, mom organized the whole thing, I was the feeder, so I'd stand in the feed zone and pass them their water bottles."
At age 11, Batty dropped her water bottle duties and took to racing herself. As she and her brothers began to show signs of serious talent, her parents threw their full-throttle support behind them.
"If you wanted to do something they said, 'School will always be there. Athletics, you can only be in your prime for so long,'" she says.
"They spent their retirement funds on us travelling the world pretty much when we were young just to give us this opportunity."
At 23, Batty has risen to fourth in the world rankings for the women's mountain bike -- a sport where riders don't typically hit their primes until their late 20s and early 30s.
And she says the unusual course at the London Games -- with few steep declines to aid recovery -- is perfectly suited to her power and speed strengths.
"You're on the gas pretty much the whole lap," she says of the 4.6-kilometre course, which riders will traverse five or six times.
"The course in London is suited very, very much to my strength abilities."
Outside the rugged sport, Batty's interests run in far more dainty directions.
"We're into makeup, and shopping is pretty much my leisure hobby nowadays," she says. "And I love to bake."
While many of her competitors might have similar feminine pursuits away from the rutted routes, they typically put on a less lustrous game face on race day, Batty says.
"What sets me apart, I guess, is I don't change from day to day. ... I love fashion, I love girl things, women things, feminine things," she says.
"When I get up the morning of a competition ... I still have my rituals, you brush your teeth, you put your mascara on. My jewelry never really comes off, it's kind of just part of me and who I am."
Batty, just five-foot-two, says the sport has always been a male bastion, but that her emergence as a top-draw star may be helping to erode its machismo.
"It's always been a very male dominated sport, so I think just by carrying feminine ways into that, it set me apart," she says.
"People are like, 'Wow, she's wearing makeup on the (course).' I just keep my normality while I'm doing this gruesome, muddy ... hard-core sport."
Her beguiling appeal has pumped up Batty's profile to a point where some in the cycling press are comparing her to road racer Lance Armstrong in her potential to promote the sport.
And while the modest and forthcoming athlete utters a "holy crap" when the comparison to her "idol" comes up, she says she'd be thrilled to be an effective mountain bike ambassador.
"If I could just stay myself and never change and just give the energy I'm giving now I can hopefully make a difference," she says.
While she's hopeful for Olympic gold, Batty may well crush some young dreams. Her coach and fellow Trek Canada teammate Adam Morka is also her fiance.
Joseph Hall, Torstar News Services