It was North Wales' turn to host the 4th edition of the increasingly popular Red Bull FoxHunt with Rachel Atherton. A hillside, in the small market town of Machynlleth, transformed into a DH track fit for 200 female shredders. The aim: after a mass start, to get down the track the quickest and to out run the 'fox'. Sounds easy? Well. We were in for a treat, not only did the track have some difficult A and B line choices to make, the conditions were made tough due to the overnight rain. Mud fest doesn't even come close!
As Rachel Atherton was unable to ride due to injury and subsequent shoulder/collarbone surgery our 'fox' this year was Katy Winton. Fresh from racing the Enduro World Series and finishing 3rd in the overall, Katy would be the one to try and out run on the day!
Saturday was all about practice and seeding. Providing the efficient uplift and top banter almost to the top of the hill were the guys from just round the corner, Antur Stiniog. Once dropped off, a short muddy pedal/push got us to the start.
The track: A wide bracken lined grass track led off down the hillside, nice and fast, into some off camber muddy turns. We were soon in the woods, then the fun started!
A and B lines. Choices choices, and mud, lots of mud! It was wild! Katy and Rach were on track to give advice and help out on these sections.
With a couple of sprint sections thrown in for good measure, the track was complete. A great mixture, a track to keep you on your toes especially with the mud! Did I mention it was muddy?!
Once seeding was complete and we knew our running order for the next day we could make use of the powerful jet washers, onsite shower facilities and tuck into some healthy hearty food (and a beer or two of course!).
Sunday. Race day. Mass start! We don't get many of those in the uk!
With enough time to fit in another practice run if you wanted it was soon time to get to the top for the main event. With our FoxHunt red and white jerseys on, all 180 together looked a pretty awesome sight!
With the first 60 ladies gridded in lines of 15, the remaining 120 after was a free for all, go when you wanted. Rachel waited, stood on the boulder in the middle of the track, with start horn in hand. Katy in position on her start ramp to give chase!
With a 10 second countdown, the adrenaline monkeys started doing laps, we were off. Jostling for the lines we'd practiced desperately trying not to fall off. Trying to stay high on the off camber corners but been pushed to the low lines, finding yourself in the bracken and on parts of the track that you'd never been before, slipping and sliding about the place. I loved it! The unpredictable nature of a mass start race!
172 of us made it down across the inflatable Red Bull arched finish line with Katy coming through in 21st spot. A sea of red jerseys, big smiles of relief and high fives packed out the finish area. I was super chuffed to finish in 3rd spot behind young guns, Rosy Monaghan in 2nd and Mille Johnset taking the win.
Having raced the first Red Bull FoxHunt back in 2014 this was a noticeable step up in technicality, made harder by the muddy conditions. Added to this the reduced time to practice. Chapeau to all the ladies who got down the track during practice and also to those who went on to race, not an easy task.