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Interviews

Real women and their bicycles: a portrait series, downhill special

Last weekend, we witnessed an exciting opening round to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill series, with Brits, Rachel Atherton and Manon Carpenter scooping the top two places on the elite women’s podium at Fort William.

Round 2 of the prestigious World Cup Downhill series takes place this weekend in Val di Sole, Italy, with riders vying to get through qualifying today, so they can race in the final on Sunday.

To get you in the spirit of everything Downhill, we’re bringing you a portrait series special, showcasing some of the female riders on the international Downhill circuit.

Manon Carpenter, 20, Downhill and BMX rider

Manon Carpenter. PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Manon Carpenter
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Manon Carpenter (MADISON SARACEN) during her race run on Sunday at Round 1 of UCI MTB World Cup Downhill series in Fort William. PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Manon Carpenter (MADISON SARACEN) during her race run on Sunday at Round 1 of UCI MTB World Cup Downhill series in Fort William.
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone

Name: Manon Carpenter
Age: 20
Team: Madison Saracen Downhill Team
Bike: Saracen Myst

What age were you when you started racing and how did you get into it?
I think when I first started racing nationals I was about 15. I got into it because my dad used to run the races in South Wales and I always went along with him to ride bikes. I kind of got bored helping out with the races and wanted to have a go myself (laughs) and did pretty well and really enjoyed it so I kept going.

How long have you been riding on the World Cup circuit?
This is my fourth year, two years in juniors and then this is my second year elite now.

Where’s your favourite place to ride?
Umm, we’ve got some really good stuff at home in South Wales, I do love riding at home, and then Whistler is good fun, anywhere in the Alps.

What advice would you give to women considering getting into downhill?
Get a good base of skills, I spent a lot of time riding things like pump tracks. Just learn how to ride a bike before you go throw yourself down a hill.

What’s been your biggest career highlight?
Winning Junior World Champs I think, and this [Round 1 of UCI MTB World Cup DH in Fort William] to be honest.

What are your aims for 2013?
Win a world cup, win World Champs.

Apart from Downhill, what else do you ride?
All sorts of riding, I love anything on two wheels.

What do you do right before you race?
I like to go through the track in my head a lot, and just listen to music.

Do you have any race day rituals or superstitions?
Going to sleep! (Laughs) Having a power nap.

When is the last time you really scared yourself on your bike?
In my race run about five or six times!

What’s the support like for women downhill racer’s from the industry, how has it affected you?
It’s getting better. There’s the most girls I’ve seen on proper teams this year which is great, it’s good to see it getting support.

How has women’s downhill changed over the years?
I’ve only been in it four years, but in that time I think the level has stepped up, I mean it’s hard to say because you know you always think the level is stepping up because everyone is getting stronger all the time, but yeah it’s definitely looking promising, and everyone looked rad on track today.

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Tahnée Seagrave, 17, Downhill rider

Tahnée Seagrave. PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Tahnée Seagrave
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Tahnée Seagrave PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Tahnée Seagrave
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Tahnee Seagrave, during downhill practice last Friday at Fort William. PHOTO: ALASTAIR JOHNSTONE
Tahnée Seagrave, during downhill practice last Friday at Fort William.
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone

Name: Tahnée Seagrave
Age: 17
Team: FMD RACING / INTENSE CYCLES
Bike: Intense M9

What age were you when you started racing and how did you get into it?
I wouldn’t be able to tell you what age, but I think when I moved to France I was eight and I started around then.

How long have you been riding on the World Cup circuit?
This is my second season.

Where’s your favourite place to ride (racing/for fun)?
Val di Sole, definitely.

What advice would you give to women considering getting into downhill?
Grow some balls! (Laughs)

What’s been your biggest career highlight?
I don’t know, every race pretty much.

What are your aims for 2013?
World Champs.

Apart from Downhill, what else do you ride?
I used to ride BMX, but not any more.

What do you do right before you race?
I eat a peanut butter sandwich. (laughs)

Do you have any race day rituals or superstitions?
No.

When is the last time you really scared yourself on your bike?
Yesterday on the table top [at Fort William], nearly supermanned over those, yeh it wasn’t very nice.

What’s the support like for women downhill racer’s from the industry, how has it affected you?
Well I’ve got it very lucky because I think I’ve got a lot of people [who] help me out a lot, but when I see other girls, I think they could do with a bit more support, and I think that’s why there’s not so many girls on the circuit maybe.

How has women’s downhill changed over the years?
It’s definitely getting a bit bigger, well I like to think so anyway.

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Morgane Charre, 22, Downhill rider

Morgane Charre PHOTO:
Morgane Charre
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Morgane CharrePHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Morgane Charre
PHOTO: © Alastair Johnstone
Morgane Charr tackling the course at Fort William last week. PHOTO:
Morgane Charr tackling the course at Fort William last week.
PHOTO: © Phil Hall

Name: Morgane Charre
Age: 22
Team: MS Mondraker Team
Bike: Mondraker Summum

What age were you when you started racing and how did you get into it?
For mountain bike I was 17, and I rode BMX before.

How long have you been riding on the World Cup circuit?
It’s my fourth year.

Where’s your favourite place to ride?
Maybe Leogang [Austria] (laughs) I love that track!

What advice would you give to women considering getting into downhill?
Just to have fun.

What’s been your biggest career highlight?
World Champion last year!

What are your aims for 2013?
I want to podium as much as possible.

Apart from Downhill, what else do you ride?
BMX and motocross, a little bit, not too much.

What do you do right before you race?
I listen to music (laughs), always the same music and I try to focus on the track and just remember all the lines.

When is the last time you really scared yourself on your bike?
Err maybe last year in the French cup.

Headline image and interviews by: © Alastair Johnstone

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