661 Mini Downhill Forest of Dean: Round 1 - Total Women's Cycling

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661 Mini Downhill Forest of Dean: Round 1

The greatly anticipated FoD Mini Downhill Series is back!

Each winter¬†Pedalabikeaway¬†and 661 team up to host the Forest of Dean Mini Downhill series – and we were excited to hear that this year’s event has seen record numbers of women enter. We went along to check it out.¬†

The mini downhill series is exactly that, mini! Rather than the usual few kilometres of track you find at most races, the FoD course takes only a couple of minutes to complete, if that! This event is the perfect way to dip your toe into the world of competitive racing.

Racer: Lindsey Hanley Photo: Saskia Dugon Photography

Women’s involvement in racing has been on the rise in recent years. With events such as the Red Bull Foxhunt, Katy Curd’s coaching sessions and pro athletes organising ride days, the industry has seen a rush of women hitting the trails, and levelling out the gender field.

This year the 661 FoD Mini Downhill series has two women’s categories to enter – Ages 13 to 29 and Ages 30+ – which is a big step up from the usual race format where all women are lumped together regardless of skill or age. 28 women turned up to race at the weekend, the most the series has ever seen according to Zoe Mortiboy who works at the Pedalabikeaway centre, and co-runs the Dame Cycling group.

Forest of Dean has several downhill tracks, and this year’s course was the “Ski Run”. Known for being the original downhill trail at FoD, the Ski Run has a variety of rooty and rock sections at the top, leading down into some fast corners, tabletops and finally a road gap.

With the miserable wet weather conditions we’ve been having, it’s no surprise that on race day, the track was looking quite muddy and slippery, especially on those rooty sections. The day began with a couple of hours for practise, where riders can either catch the uplift, or push up to sections they wanted to session.

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I caught up with previous enduro racer, Hannah Walker – it was her first time racing downhill.

“This has definitely been my favourite race over any other! It’s the perfect event to start with for downhill racing because it’s competitive, but fun and friendly”

With over 300 riders across 10 categories, the practise time was immediately followed by the first race run. The structure of the race is that each rider gets two race runs, and their best time from those is taken.

British elite downhill racer, Katy Curd, was also racing at the weekend. Impressed by the amount of women entering, Katy said the “women’s competition is great this year.”

In the women’s 13 – 29 category, I chatted with the youngest racer, Megan Nevard. At 13 years old, this was her first time racing at the FoD series. Megan finished the race 18th out of 20 with a best track time of 2:00.41.

It’s brilliant to see young girls getting into racing, and like Megan, not being put off by the older or more elite racers in her category.

Photo: Saskia Dugon Photography

“This is my second ever downhill race, and it’s really fun. I’ll be entering the second round in January”

Everyone raced their best this weekend, and it was really inspiring to see so many women and children getting involved. Here are the podium winners from the women’s categories:

Women’s 13 – 29

Photo: Saskia Dugon Photography

1) Katy Curd – 1:12.79

2) Maddy Brown – 1:19.78

3) Aston Tutt – 1:21.21

Women’s 30+

Photo: Saskia Dugon Photography

1) Eleanor Maxfield – 1:18.00

2) Lindsay Hanley – 1:26.15

3) Hayley Tutte – 1:43.89

Having seen the mini downhill series for myself, it really does look to be the perfect introduction to downhill racing. With no one there for points, or for serious competition, it provides a fun and friendly environment for anyone taking part.

After a long, wet, muddy day of riding, morale was still high amongst all the racers. The atmosphere was brilliant to be around, and really made me wish I had entered. There’s always the second round!

Second Round: Sunday January 31st 2016

Third Round: Sunday February 28th 2016

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