They’re Going Downhill Fast
COPPER MOUNTAIN – The majority of downhill mountain bikers fit a certain profile, and it doesn’t include many women or older racers, there are a few on the circuit, however, who are trying to change that.
The downhill course at the Copper Cup Sunday wasn’t typical for long-time racers. The race took place on the smooth and twisty Boondoggle single-track, Copper Mountain’s only mountain bike trail, considered, even by crosscountry racers, to be “mild.”
“It makes you appreciate some of the other courses,” said 52-year-old expert rider Dave Ford of Arvada. “It’s more of an endurance course; lots of pedaling.”
Ford doesn’t fit the typical demographic of other downhillers – twenty-something white males. His field consisted of himself and another racer. But he’s not the only one up against a scant field. There were also just two pro women and two sport women competing Sunday.
“I’m one of the oldest national guys out here,” Ford said. “I don’t have to go full-tilt like these 25-year-old guys do. I’m really only 25 in my head. But, it is fun screaming by a guy who’s 19, 20 years old. I am competitive. Anyone who has a NORBA card and says they’re not is lying. I was never into doing weird things like jumping out of planes or anything, but I really have fun doing this. Adrenaline’s a great drug. Racing gets all my endorphins going and I feel good until, like, Wednesday. It’s just fun.”
Female downhillers wonder why other women don’t get into the sport. They admit that the possibility of getting cut and bruised is more eminent than with other sports. Or, more intimidating, the possibility of breaking bones, like pro rider Alison Riley, who broke her arm in three places jumping a 40-foot road gap on a downhill course in Snowmass two weeks ago.
“You can crash a lot in crosscountry racing too,” said Martha Renn of Vail, who is the No. 2 downhiller in the region. “You wear those little tank tops and shorts. At least doing this, you’re padded.”
Cuts and bruises are insignificant to women like Renn. She opted to not wear her right knee pad in Sunday’s race, as her knee was too swollen from a crash during mountaincross practice Saturday.
“I just try to go do it again right away,” she said of sections on a course where she’s crashed. “It doesn’t really hurt.”
?? started downhill racing three years ago, and said she finds herself wishing more women were involved in the sport “all the time.”
“Yeah, it can be scary at first, but every year, it just seems like you want to do more,” she said. “There’s like four or five pros that are the usuals at these races, and at the nationals, there’s like 30 pro women. We’re doing free (race entry) for beginner and sport dual slalom for women next weekend in Thunder Valley. We really want to get more women into it.”
Of the sport downhillers competing Sunday, Jennifer Brocious of Colorado Springs was also only one of two women in her field. Although she was the only women practicing on the obstacle course with a throng of men after her race Sunday, she said she feels a lot less intimidated and self-conscious than she did when she first started competing two years ago.
“I was scared at first,” she said. “In the races, some of the guys would come up behind me, and I’d get really nervous and not hold my line.”
Next year, Brocious said, she is going to join the slightly larger category of expert women. She was first turned on to downhill mountain biking when visiting Vail with her family one Fourth of July.
“We had always had crosscountry bikes, and we didn’t ride them that much,” she said. “Then, we saw all these people coming down the hill at Vail all decked out in their helmets and gear, and that’s when I was like, “Wow, you can just go straight downhill.”
The Mountain States Cup finals, including downhill and crosscountry races, take place at the Snake River Festival at Keystone Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
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