The mass start – photo from RedBull UK
Fancy being chased by World Champion Rachel Atherton down a hill with 100 plus other women? Yes, please!
Bored and frustrated with the slow recovering from knee surgery, I decided to cheer myself up with an entry for the women’s Redbull Foxhunt 2015. A unique event, as it is the only mass start downhill mountain bike event for women in the UK, with the added bonus of being chased by the 2015 Downhill World Champion, Rachel Atherton.
It’s hardly a local event for me, being in the Pentland Hills of Scotland, but figured it was worth the drive. The event took place on the last weekend of September, a hit and miss time of year with the weather, however the sun god was looking down on us as the course was bone dry and the weather was glorious for the entire weekend.
Due to the hideous traffic conditions, my event buddy – Amanda – and I made it to the rider’s briefing on the Saturday morning with only 1 minute to spare – enough time to grab our free breakfast of Yoghurt and stewed apples and a large coffee.
The format of the weekend was explained to us, and then Rachel Atherton spoke about having fun and getting the most from the weekend as a chance to meet other female mountain bikers. Once done, we got our bikes and ourselves sorted to join the long queue for the first uplift of the day.
The queue for the first uplift of the day
The uplift was a complex affair, bikes in a trailer, people in shiny new Jeeps to point B. Then it was bikes onto a smaller trailer whilst we walked up to point C. Then it was a STEEP push up with our bikes to point D and the start of the run. The whole journey took about 45 minutes, although we queued for nearly an hour for the first part of the uplift.
The views from the top were fantastic, with Edinburgh sprawled in front of us in the north east, and the finish line a tiny speck in the distance below. Being up at the top of the treeless Pentland Hils it made me feel glad that the weather was kind to us!
During the push up, we walked along the track which looked steep and tricky through the heather, however once I started my first practice, I quickly realised that the ground was smooth under the heather and nothing to really worry about. Some of the grassy sections had stones underneath which caught a few riders out – with some falls and injuries plus quite a few punctures.
At the start – with Edinburgh in the background. What a bike 🙂
If you like fast – just let your brakes go! – type riding then you would love this event. The route was no harder than your average red cross-country trail (and with barely any pedaling). The whole track was lots of fun with a mixture of fast descents, berms, small rock garden and a couple of (rollable) jumps…and dry!
Due to the length it took to get up to the start, there was only time to do two practice runs before lunch, and then the qualifiers was in the afternoon. I was in the first wave of people to go to the start for qualifying, however the wait at the top was seemingly ages. During this time, I got ridiculously nervous (why? I have no idea, however it was an interesting insight into how poorly I perform out of my comfort zone). By the time it was my turn to start I was shivering, started in a completely wrong gear and messed up the short uphill section. I gave myself a sharp talking to and then enjoyed the rest of the run.
I felt I did really well, so was a little surprised to qualify only 69th – mid pack. But my nerves and the mess up at the start cost me about 20 places (my aim was to try and get into top 50). Nonetheless, the adrenaline at the end of the run left me with a high and the energy around the finishing pit was contagious, everyone was loving it!
Day two – race day – was another gorgeous day, with less wind and more warmth. There was time in the morning to do one practice run before the actual race. I went up with the two girls who qualified 1stand 2nd and they were giving me tips on what lines to take as we were pushing up, the push up was worth it as Rachel was up there on her own. After a quick chat about rugby, we had a photo and then she shot off down the hill – the girl is even faster in real life than on tv!
World Champion Rachel Atherton
Getting 100+ women and their bikes up to the top of a mountain is no mean feat, so as one of the riders in the first cohort it was a long wait at the top. Time to get nervous again…and as we finally lined up it made me realise how many riders were there – wow!
The horn blew and off we went – manic was the word for the first minute or so of the race with some crashes and collisions. I had one girl fly over her handlebars directly in front of me! The small uphill was congested and then was great fun from there, trying to overtake and not be overtaken. Before I knew it, I was over the line and the race was over. What a weekend!
· The event was £15 to enter (and an additional £10 for camping) which included all food, entertainment, the Red Bull race top, drinks (including alcohol on the Saturday evening). Amazing value
· There was also free yoga sessions, mechanical support and showers.
· The whole event was so well organised and super friendly
· If you want to do well (and avoid collisions) then race your heart out in qualifying to get into the first few rows of the grid. Mid pack was carnage J
· I would definitely recommend this event, even if you aren’t into competition as it’s very supportive and relaxed – and mass starts are bonkers!