by Hannah at Flare HQ
Saturday morning rolls around and it's the usual story - we're running late! Gobbling down some breakfast before packing up the van, heading out from our campsite in Peebles and travelling the few miles down the road to Innerleithen and the Golfie trails for the first MaidEnduro by Air Maiden.
We wanted to sponsor this event because it is open to any type of rider. There aren't many women-only events either and as we started out as women's brand I think it's really important to support anyone trying to get women into mountain biking. Racing for the first time can be really scary as well - I find racing scary full stop - but doing it with a group of likeminded people makes a huge difference.
So rolling into the Golfie car park, we start setting up, hanging clothes out and no sooner had we done so then there were people having a look around, asking about the new products and trying stuff on! I waved goodbye to the girls setting off for practice and instead chatted in the pits. Eventually my partner Ben handed me my bike (somehow a number board was affixed to it?!) and sent me on my way up the hill along with #teamflare long time member Zara Kane. We had a great catch up pedalling our way up the fire road, and eventually found ourselves next to a marshall at the top of stage 1!
Down we went - literally! The first part of stage 1 was steep, loamy, rutted and full of roots zigzagging their way across the marked trail. We made it out onto a fire road and breathed, we made it! The next section again was tough, but a welcome surprise was Janey Kennedy offering coaching tips and tricks. She began by showing us a sneaky high line, before giving pointers on how to navigate a tricky double root drop. On down the trail we went, finally reaching a rocky chute reminiscent of the trails I'm much more familiar with the the Peaks, I stopped to catch my breath and as I did Kat Simpson, a member of the team from 2015 whizzed by! We stopped at the bottom of stage 1 to share stories and of course to take a quick selfie.
The rest of the trails were similar - from the rock strewn surface of Flat White to even more perilous roots on Final Fling eventually Zara and I made it to the bottom through a combination of sheer luck, inflated confidence ("I can do this, I can do this") and cyclocross-style leaping off the bike.
Although I didn't race (as I said, it's not for me) I was thrilled to have experienced the atmosphere of the racing first-hand, since usually I'm stuck in a tent all day, as well as challenging myself with some tough trails I wouldn't usually try! This is the whole idea, of getting women out of their comfort zones and into new trails that with some moral support, coaching and other people in the same position, you'll come away with new skills in your riding repertoire as well as a bunch of new pals.
Massive well done to Lynne and the Air Maiden team for putting on a great event, we'll be back next year! Thanks to Darren Ellis for the photos.