When women shake up the world of freeride mountain biking

While the level of freeride mountain biking has never been so high, the big events are still mostly reserved for men. But women are knocking on the door of the discipline and no longer hesitate to take on the most dangerous tracks in the world.

For 20 years now, the Red Bull Rampage has been the reference competition in the world of freeride mountain biking. This year again, there were only men competing on the ochre mountains of Utah in the USA. But women are no longer satisfied with being only spectators on this kind of ultra committed event in the mountain bike world. They also ask to participate in these competitions, or at least to have a women's event organized for them.

To find the pioneers of the genre, you have to go to the United States. Most of them are women who started out on the downhill World Cup circuit, before branching out into freeride, where competitions are rarer and riders make their living producing video and content for their sponsors. This is notably the case of Katie Holden (pictured below) who has worked to ensure that women have a say in the freeride world.

"The problem with parity in this sport is probably that people just didn't imagine that a woman could ride on this kind of spot," she explains, citing the Red Bull Rampage. "Usually it's a guy's environment. No women had ever tried to ride there before. So I went down there and spent a lot of time there. I was like a sponge. I learned as much as I could."

Despite the barriers, Katie Holden has never given up, continuing to work behind the scenes over the years to get women into the sport. She first filmed some of her mountain bike lines on some of the spots where only men had ridden until now. The opportunity to show that women riders could also put their wheels where men used to do it. She is also the one who launched in 2019 "Formation", a freeride camp for women. The principle: the best female freeriders on the planet meet for several days on a spot and push each other, filmed by the cameras of Red Bull, partner of the event. A good way to prove the technical skills of women and to allow them to progress (see the video recap of the 2021 edition below). 

The "Training" camp is the result of the work of many women who have been able to dedicate themselves to their profession as freeriders for several years and are paid for it. This is notably the case of Argentina's Camila Nogueira, and New Zealand's Vinny Armstrong, Jess Blewitt and Casey Brown. The latter was the first woman to take part in the Red Bull Rampage qualifiers. Although she didn't make it to the final, she proved that women riders have the ability to compete against men on committed spots. "With Casey's participation in the Rampage qualifiers and the setting up of the training camp, we proved to people that women are now capable of riding here," concluded Katie Holden. "Having all these women out there showed that things are ready to change.