It’s not much of a push to say that the season just past has been a good one for women’s downhill mountain biking.
Five of the seven world cup races were won by either Manon Carpenter or Rachel Atherton, and four British riders were in the top 10 of the overall series rankings come the end of the term.
To top that all off, the podium was packed with union jacks at the World Championships. And with Red Bull Foxhunt becoming the biggest female-only MTB event to ever take place, it looks like things are filtering down to grass-roots level riding now as well.
Certainly, last weekend’s Foxhunt was an event specifically targeted at the constantly-growing women’s cycling community, and in doing so it brought a tried and tested concept into uncharted territory.
In the past, the contest had been lead by Gee Atherton, and had seen the downhill star give a bunch of budding riders a head start before chasing them down the hill.
This year the format remained the same but with Rachel Atherton at the helm, and after a turnout of over 100 amateur riders, there was certainly no lack of interest.
“The last few months have been amazing,” admitted Rachel. “The World Cups have gone so well, the Brits have been killing it, and to have an event like this at the end of the season is just so awesome.
“I’m pretty proud of everyone and I think they should be proud of themselves as well.”
The GT Factory rider may be a regular winner on the global stage, but she didn’t come out on top this time around. 17-year-old Elena Melton took that honour – and she’s only been riding downhill for a year. It’s exactly the kind of story to get more women riding.
The emphasis wasn’t on the final result at Foxhunt though. It was on the innovative concept, the chilled out weekend and the promising response to what was dubbed ‘the friendliest mountain bike event of all time.’
Rachel continued: “It’s been amazing. The race was beyond my expectations, and the whole weekend has been so much fun.
“We’ve done a lot of riding, everyone has enjoyed themselves and we’ve even had some yoga classes – which was the perfect way to stretch the legs!
“It’s really amazing seeing how many girls have actually been riding though. Although it’s a race, it kind of takes the pressure off having me chase you down.
“I think I’ve pretty much got the chance to speak to everyone who’s riding as well, and it all just makes me want to keep going, keep riding and keep spreading the word.”
After Foxhunt went off without a hitch in Edinburgh last weekend, Rachel will no doubt get the chance to do just that at the follow-up event next year.
She is already looking forward to building further on the original concept of the event, and challenging more women to ride harder than ever before with an even more challenging course.
“It’s great that everyone has had so much fun,” she said “I wasn’t sure if everyone would enjoy it, but the feedback has been nothing but positive.
“To have 120 girls racing makes it the biggest event by far in female mountain biking, so to be part of that has just got us all buzzing.
“I think next year and the year after it’s only going to improve. Now we know the standard we can continue to make the events bigger and better.
“We know now that next year the course could be a lot more difficult because everyone can handle themselves. I’m pretty excited!”