We’ve just got this report that the ladies-only Stilettos On Wheels MTB race in Brighton was a great success, with action packed racing on – wait for it – dry and dusty trails. Obviously the sun shines on the righteous – so where have we gone wrong eh? Anyway, here’s a full report:
“Well, our sunshine dance certainly worked! The morning of Stilettos On Wheels girls-only mtb race in Brighton dawned gloriously last Saturday. More than 70 women signed on for the event at Stanmer Park, Brighton – almost double the turn out of the first race in May – and the racing was fast and furious on the super dry, flowing trails.
The event boasted not one but two national champions in attendance. UK and European 12-hour national champion Maddie Horton had been in the arena since Friday night leading groups of nervous but enthusiastic girls around course pre-rides. And Finnish national cross-country champion Noora Kanerva flew in especially for the race, sporting her blue and white flag jersey with pride. Noora lined up at the start alongside a mix of novice riders and experienced UK female mtb racers; including Natasha Barry, winner of this year’s Brighton Big Dog, expert cross-country racer Laura Sampson, and Emma Cutler, who ranked 2nd in this years UK and European 24-hour championships.
The British Cycling Commissaire blew the whistle shortly after 11am on Saturday, September 8th and the race was on! A steady stream of girls powered up the grassy slope out of the arena and into the woods, ready for the first climb. The climb was short and steep to get the riders up and into the singletrack as quickly as possible, the course was taped and pink dots and arrows led the way round for those unfamiliar with the 3.5mile trail. This plan was not foolproof, however, as just before the log run section some mischievous (we’re being kind) walkers moved some tape and arrows to turn a left turn into a right turn….there was some confusion for a few minutes before the marshals arrived to set it right and all was well again. “Oh well, at least the bit we had to do twice was really nice singletrack” one of the misguided riders was heard to say. Very sporting, we say.
The race course flowed round Stanmer’s excellent singletrack, over the log run and through the jungle: and because of the steep climb at the start was mainly flat or downhill for the majority of each lap. Two-hour and four-hour races were run consecutively, with solo and pairs categories.
Fiona Everingham had a clear lead in the most popular two-hour solo category, but the battle for 2nd and 3rd was closely fought, with just 40 seconds separating Natalie Russell and Delphine Penning at the finish. In the two-hour pairs race a no-show on the day and a last-minute upgrade to the four-hour category by one of the pairs, left the top step of the podium wide open for Stella Buckingham and Jodie Braham, riding for the Rockinghorse Children’s Charity (Stilettos on Wheels official charity partner).
All too soon the chequered flag was being waved as the four-hour race came to its close at 3pm and the racing was all over. The four-hour race saw some of the fastest laps completed, with one of the four-hour pairs winners Natasha Barry and Liz Gilmour, riding for wxc World Racing/ridebike.co.uk, smashing out a 20.24 minute lap as part of their 10 lap victory, closely followed by Noora Kanerva’s 20.28 minute lap in the four-hour solo category. Despite her superfast times, Noora could not make up time lost to a puncture on lap three and Laura Sampson, riding for Gipping Race Team, emerged the victor and took the Stilettos On Wheels title by more than four minutes. Laura, who is coming back from a recent collarbone injury, is an elite mtb racer and currently ranked 9th in the UK. Just a minute and a half behind Noora, Katherine Mason, riding for BEC, also completed 10 laps to take the third spot on the podium in the solo category. Dirt Diva team riders Lisa Carrington and Sophie Anns completed 10 laps to come second in the four-hour pairs, with Sarah Rountree and Gina Sweeting, of Fruit Pastille Racing, coming in third with eight laps.
Each finisher received a bespoke sprocket medal, designed by Kate Bebbington of Dormouse Inc, a Surrey-based mountain biker and professional metal and leather-worker. On the podium, the top three in each category also received a hand-crafted leather medal and a big bag of goodies. Prizes included Exposure lights, beautiful Lezyne pumps and saddle bags, Schwalbe tyres, Ana Nichoola jerseys and gloves, Osprey hydration packs and t-shirts, Icebreaker merino base layers and socks, cool bike bits and bobs from Mt Zoom, Torq gels and bars, and, of course, the obligatory champagne on the podium for the winners!
Thanks to the many generous sponsors a host of spot prizes were also doled out during the prize-giving, with lucky rider Gayle Wells walking away with a Bamboo Bikes XC MTB frame, as well as the prize for rider wearing the most pink on the day! Cheery Eleanor Rutter also scooped a prize for being the most chilled out and smiliest rider on the course (she’s still smiling now ).
In the main arena sponsors had stands showing off their latest products, including the launch of the Torq Raspberry & Apple bar (in Stilettos On Wheels pink and black of course!), and providing support and advice to riders and spectators alike. Schwalbe fixed the punctures, Brighton-based bike shop Freedom Bikes did the mechanics, and Sabreen Queshri-Hitchens from Active Physio Clinics provided physiotherapy support (in between riding her bike – Stilettos On Wheels was Sabreen’s first ever mountain bike race and she was particularly proud to have made it over two out of three logs in the log run!). Rachel Hammond, MD of Bamboo Bikes, was at the event and smashed out a lap on her demo Bamboo Bike – complete with special pink tyres -before letting interested girls test ride the bike. Maddie Horton, who runs the Fully Sussed mountain biking academy when she’s not racing herself, also had a fleet of Specialized Fate 29er Carbon bikes for girls to trial.
Tasty food and drink was provided by Brighton companies Sue’s Burgers and Dinkyccino, while Stilettos On Wheels charity partner, Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, manned the very well stocked tea and cake stall and provided children’s face painting to raise more than £200 for equipment at Brighton’s Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.
After the race and prize-giving was all done and dusted, all everyone wanted to know was ‘will there be another race next year?’. And, of course, the answer is a resounding yes. See you next year!
Visit www.stilettosonwheels.com for up to date information on the Stilettos On Wheels series planned for 2013.
About Stilettos On Wheels
Stilettos On Wheels is a new mountain bike race for women only aimed at creating a greater focus on women in the sport. Created by mtb racer Irene Lachner, the event is for both beginners and experienced riders, to give more girls the opportunity of competing with and against each other. The courses will be designed for all levels of riders, with fun at the heart of the track design.
Stilettos On Wheels is inspired by the Danish MTB series heelsonwheels, which is now in its 4th year and is famous for its unique atmosphere. The event has become a fixed date in many female riders race calendars and has an average of 130 female competitors of all skill levels taking part each year.