The women that shred the gnar in the downhill scene are of small numbers, in this male-dominated community. This here is a tribute to them. Nick Waygood on the words and photos.
A mate said to me on the drive home “It’s insane that the women are doing that track, like they’re definitely super tough. Some of the dudes were scared of it, which says a lot about how hardcore the chicks are. It’s definitely crazy to see.”
And if we take the gender bias and assumed roles out of that comment, it is somewhat true. Even as a photographer standing on the side of the track at the MTBA National Downhill Championships, not even touching a bike for the weekend, it was insane to see the skill level of all competitors. From the rough rocks, to the tangle of roots, and inch-thick dust... many riders did it all without a problem.
The women's categories at Bright consisted of only 18 women spread across 5 categories, differing in age from Elite to Under 15s; each of them as stoked as they could be to be riding bikes in the crisp alpine sun, no matter the track difficulty and conditions, or the competition that was at hand.
Desptive the competitive demands of a National Championship event, sportsmanship is still strong too, with constant support between one another through the tough sections of not only this track, but the others on the circuit too. They hug out their wins, and talk for 15 minutes about how insane their runs were.
We caught up with a few of the women further into the week, to see what they loved most about not just mountain biking, but racing downhill.
“I started mountain biking at Greenvalleys in 2015, which is only an hour from me in Sydney. But I guess what I love most is the elite girls giving me help on the track, and the amount of support I get from family and friends.” – Cassie Voysey, 1st U17 Womens
“I started riding bikes with my brother Kye A’hern. We both came from racing motocross and after a year of not doing so, Kye had found the mountain biking spot. 2 years later, he wanted me to give it a try. The vibe that a MTB race gives is something so different to other sports and I LOVE it! The heckling spectators lined down the track, and in the finishing arena is just awesome!” – Sian A’hern, 3rd Elite Womens
“I’ve been racing downhill for 3 years now, getting into it through XC riding for school spot. I realised I prefer the downhills to the uphills, and that was that! I enjoy the racing atmosphere because everyone is so supportive, from the riders to the hecklers. The MTB community is basically a big community that always looks out for each other. I travel to some really amazing places, which wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for racing!” - Ellie Smith, 1st U19 Womens
“I starting mountain biking in primary school for school sport in Jindabyne, most often being the only girl amongst the boys, but I never let that bother me. Having Thredbo as my playground, I always saw people riding downhill during summer. Dad said I could “have a go” if I was prepared to ride with him, and that’s when I fell in love! The DH scene is so inclusive, everyone is like minded. I’ve definitely formed lifelong friendships through the mutual love of mountain biking.” – Tegan Molloy, 2nd Elite Womens
In this world where the mountain biking sport is forever growing, the charismatic women are what make this sport truly unique. Keep on charging, you’re absolutely smashing it!