The third Red Bull Fox Hunt came to Cumbria at Melmerby Scar. This time I couldn’t miss out. The weather had been pretty awful leading up to the weekend and the email Friday morning changing the schedule sent the message that something wasn’t quite right. I arrived Saturday morning after receiving warnings from friends to take wellies!! The mud was slick, slippy and everywhere.
We gathered for the briefing in the Red Bull tepee at 9am. For me, the first realisation of what an amazing event this was happened right then. I was sitting in a tent with 260 other likeminded, strong women and waiting to meet the awesome inspirational Rachel Atherton. Let’s face it, aren’t we all in awe of her? She is the most incredible and humble athlete, unprecedented in her skills and achievements. The energy in the tent was electric, well, that was until we were told that the up lift couldn’t run due to the mud. We were going to have to walk/hike a bike up that scar!
Many women were daunted by this, and many with good reasons to be. But you know what? We all did it. We pushed, shoved, and carried our bikes up there, with a lot of help and support for each other. Practice was made extra special by Rachel Atherton giving support and advice track side.
There were two A or B lines to scope out, a technical section down the scar followed by a short singletrack, wide off camber grassy chicanes, berms, whoop de doos and a drop into the finish. Excellent track, but I really struggled on the wet slippy grass off camber section. I hiked up again to try to nail the mistakes I’d made. My goal for the weekend was to get on the front line for the mass start, even if it meant multiple hike-a-bikes to practice! Second time went slightly better, but I still found myself in the bracken at some points; Argh! What was I told about body position and off camber again??!
The seeding run was at 3pm from the top of the scar. Off we went again, hiking up giving support to each other. Despite being told that we didn’t have to enter seeding to be in the main event, 150 women did the hike anyway. Those with illness, those less fit, still did it. Hats off to those who struggled, but continued. Seeding was so much fun even though I ended up in the bracken…again! But I still managed to come 12th which gave me a spot on the front line.
After a fun evening in the tent with a brilliant atmosphere, we were on for race day. I still wanted to nail the off camber section so headed up for another practice in the morning. This together with support and advice from team Flare, who were in the pits, made me feel much more confident and ready for the race.
Despite a few challenges for Red Bull, meaning that some of us had to walk up again, 250 or so women made it to the top ready to race. To see everyone together ready for the mass start was an incredible sight. The atmosphere was bursting with energy and I was so buzzing to be a part of it. Standing on the front line ready to battle with those around me and knowing Rachel Atherton was chasing us down, was, yeah, it was scary, exciting and one of the best things I’ve ever done. The 5 minute countdown felt like a minute and the last 30 seconds like 3, then we were off.
I’ve never done a mass start before and I had to retrain my mind in the first 100 metres to stop being polite! I was pushed off the track a couple of times, but it wasn’t until I was overtaken that I knocked it up a gear. My race face was on and I attacked with everything I had! I was overtaken and I overtook numerous times riding across the peddly section at the top. I just managed to pull in front down the technical scar and along the singletrack, which gave me an advantage. Practice also paid off as I stayed on the track this time and kept my speed through the grassy off camber. I managed to pass two girls at the bottom just before the muddy berms and final drop into the finish.
We had done it. I have to admit to shedding a tear with my friends! Despite the challenges, 250 women had done it, en mass. Looking back up at the track there was a snake of women all the way back to the scar, it was an amazing sight. A girl next to me said she didn’t know anyone but could she join in our emotional moment?! Of course she could, it was a collective moment for us all.
A community of women, regardless of ability had achieved the same goal. Some had never raced, others were seasoned racers, some had illnesses to deal with, some were fit. We ranged in age between 15 to late 50’s but we all overcame the challenges of the weekend, we made it to the top and made it back down again. Not only did we share the 6 minutes of a race experience together, but we built stronger ties for women’s mountain biking, made new friends and showed ourselves just what we can achieve if we stay positive. It was a race and a weekend that I’ll never forget.
I was stoked to find out I came 9th with a 04.10.821 not too far behind the super fast ladies out in front. Rachel got a puncture but still managed 80th place.
1st: Rosie Holdsworth – 03’44″870
2nd: Roslynn Newman – 03’45″198
3rd: Rosey Monaghan – 03’49″202
4th: Kirstin Moynihan – 04’04″866
5th: Melissa Pearson – 04’05″289
Rachel Atherton – 06’02″153
You can watch Rachel’s POV here http://www.redbull.com/uk/en/bike/stories/1331821361069/pov-watch-rachel-atherton%E2%80%99s-dramatic-foxhunt-run
All images courtesy of Shane Millen Photography