Words by Jennifer Purcell
Thirty seconds in to the seeding run on Saturday afternoon, I’d already been shouted at for hesitating on the first A/B line option, been overtaken on said B line and then shouted at again that there was a rider behind. This wasn’t going well. I then spent the remaining five and a half minutes of my run desperately trying to stay upright, stay off the brakes and not cry (and was only successful at the not crying part, just). Before I was even at the bottom I’d resigned myself to not racing the main event on Sunday.
I then looked at my watch. Six minutes. That’s all. What could I do in six minutes? Unload the dishwasher. Make a sandwich. Hard boil an egg. Or race with a World Champion…
This was to be my first experience of the Redbull Foxhunt, a unique mass start event where 260 women speed off downhill trying to outrun Rachel Atherton, the World Champion ‘fox’. The new location of Melmerby Scar promised a dramatic setting with amazing views but posed equally dramatic challenges for the event organisers after a week of rain.
We’d already had a hint of the conditions from Rachel, having posted a video of herself being blown about at the top of the Scar during the week, and we’d all heard about the rain. An email dropped Friday morning with a new schedule for Saturday, indicating that we’d need as much practice as possible. But it was only at the race briefing on Saturday morning that we heard about the troubles with the uplift as we were invited to walk it. Ah.
The self service uplift was a good 30 minute hike-a-bike so steep in places that your elbows were up by your ears. One of those for practice and another for seeding was enough for most of us, with murmurings around the tipi of bailing on the main race if the uplift wasn’t working. The course was muddy and steep with a grassy off camber switchback that I just couldn’t stay upright on. But here’s the thing: women were coming down beaming. As I asked some of my new friends how they found it, they were using superlatives like ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’ and ‘epic’. Which sections? Where on the course was it awesome to ride? Where they talking about the same course I just slid down? Then someone described it as ‘Type 2 Fun’. The type of fun that isn’t fun at the time, but you realise it was fun afterward. After my disastrous seeding run, I wasn’t so sure, but I was inspired by all these amazing, strong, skilful women who were buzzing on Saturday evening. Six minutes. That’s all.
After a delicious pancake breakfast on Sunday morning we were told some good news. The uplift was working! We were split in to groups and told to be ready from 11 for a new start time of 1pm. The bikes were loaded on trailers as riders climbed in to several Jeeps for our bonus free Extreme Jeep Experience, which was so terrifying it took the edge off my race fear. One girl in my car said she definitely wouldn’t have raced if she’d had to go through that for practice! Three and a half hours later and everyone was at the top, the Fox was on her start ramp and we were off. I took a moment to appreciate the speed of the front girls before clipping in and heading down. The mass start had me really nervous so I was being overly cautious, but as soon as I heard someone call out that Rachel was coming, I put in a bit effort and started overtaking. Approaching the first obstacle, people were hesitating, so I overtook on that too. Then I stayed upright and overtook a couple more. By the time I was halfway down I started cheering. Cheering myself for staying on, cheering the girls I was passing, cheering the photographers for capturing our awesomeness and cheering the spectators for cheering us. I laughed all the way over the finish line and was greeted by high-5’s and hugs. No way this was Type 2 Fun.
Rosie Holdsworth emerged victorious, a mere five minutes faster than me! I applaud her bravery at charging ahead of the pack. It would have been great to watch the faster girls race over the finish line. [You can watch Rachel’s POV footage of the race here – Ed]
There was a whole range of riders there this weekend, from experienced racers to women entering their first ever mountain bike event! I don’t race to win, I race for the challenge, but also for the community you get at bike events and the Foxhunt was one of the best riding communities I’ve ever experienced. If you fancy riding with 259 truly inspiring women (plus a World Champion) then I’ll see you at next year’s Foxhunt. Type 1 Fun at it’s best.
Jennifer rides for our premier dealer Flare Clothing, competing at regional cross country races. She’s never done the Foxhunt, or any downhill race before and wanted a challenge.