I’d managed to get one of the sought after tickets for the Foxhunt – a mass downhill start of 150 women riding down the Pentlands being chased by the World Cup Downhill champ, Rachel Atherton.
When I rocked up into the car park on Saturday morning, I suddenly felt a bit out of my league; surrounded by some serious bike bling and MTB girls who race.
I’ve just started doing events this year and had a blast at the Selkirk Mountain Marathon and 10 Under The Ben but this seemed a different level!
After brekkie, the practise uplifts started and 150 of us were transported in pretty nifty jeeps up the hill before doing a spot of hike a biking to the top of the course.
I then showed my race naivety by charging down the first practise run, not realising the last feature was a jump with a flat landing and having a spectacular high speed crash. Thankfully I wasn’t part of the group who broke their collar bone.
Lesson 1: scoping out the tricky bits and working out your line is what the practise runs are all about – make the most of it
We squeezed in another practise run before lunch and then it was time for the ‘seeded’ run where we set off in number order at 30 sec intervals to determine your place on the 150 women grid for the main event. I was surprisingly nervous as my start grew closer. I was fine once I got going but quickly realised my race fitness needs to improve. The intensity of a flat out 5 minute ride is something I’ve not experienced.
Lesson 2: need to sort out nerves, guess they will get better as I do more races
Lesson 3: need to work on fitness for this kind of thing. 5 hours out in the mountains is very different to short sharp bursts
The atmosphere around the village was great – loads of cool folk chatting away and excited about race day. Rachel had been around on the practise runs and kept stopping to give girls tips and encouragement.
I had to dash off to a party but those who stayed had a yoga session, got some dinner and drinks and watched a MTB film. All very cool.
A friend texted the seeding results – I hoped to be in the top 50% and came in 29th which a massive surprise and meant starting in row 3. I was super chuffed. Three of us who’d been chumming about all ended up in the same row which was cool.
Lesson 4: don’t be scared by full face helmets and seriously expensive bikes
Race day arrived and the sun was shining for us. There was a bit of tactic discussion as the uplift started in reverse seeding order. I wasn’t sure how aggressive and ‘elbows out’ people would be and I certainly didn’t want to knock any of my new chums off their bikes. I did know however that I have a real competitive side, which revealed itself at Selkirk and 10UTB!
When we got to the top of Caerketton Hill the nerves kicked in big style and it took a wee while for us to get organised into our grid positions. My wheels were almost touching the wheels of the rider in front so there could be some serious carnage. I reckoned the first row would be off like a bullet and I would only really have to worry about the second row and any speedy girls coming through from behind.
The horn went and 150 people funnelled down over the heather to a short steep climb. Thankfully I managed to get a bit of space and got up the climb ok. When I hit the traverse, one of the girls got taken out by another rider just in front of me so needed some quick reaction skills to avoid the crash. The rest was over in a flash and I hadn’t been caught by Rachel! I was super pumped at the finish and there was a lot high fives and whooping going on. What an atmosphere! I finished 23rd which was way above expectations.
I loved this event and really hope it’s on again next year. I’ve certainly got a few technical skills to work on such as jumps and keeping my knees out a bit. I’m maybe a bit old to launch my racing career but why not?!
Throughout the weekend we were treated to delicious food from the Loving Food Truck such as Greek yoghurt, stewed apples and flapjack for brekkie, tomato and courgette soup with oat scone and chilli served with flatbread. Definitely my kind of event!
You can watch Rachel’s headcam as she chases the pack here