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Women and their bicycles: a portrait series, Mountain Mayhem special

Mountain Mayhem, sponsored by Wiggle, is the UK’s largest 24-hour mountain bike endurance event. Riders compete in teams or solo to complete as many laps of a gruelling 8 mile course as possible, and the vast majority of riders are amateur racers.

Cycling photographer Alastair Johnstone was there, continuing his mission to capture the essence of female cycling in a series of portraits.

Amy, 34, Solo racer at Mountain Mayhem

Amy Baron-Hall © Alastair Johnstone
Amy Baron-Hall © Alastair Johnstone

Name: Amy Baron-Hall
Age: 34
Team or Solo? Solo
Bike: Trek Superfly

What age were you when you started racing, and how did you get into it?

I started racing in 2008 so 29. I started mountain biking because I met a group of girls through the website that doesn’t exist anymore; ‘She Cycles’. A group of us got a team together, and its kind of progressed from there, and now I’m riding solo.

Is this your first time at Mountain Mayhem, and how did you find it?

No, but it’s my first time solo. The track was really tough with no flat at all. It was either up or down, but good – really good!

Favourite place to ride?

Probably the peak district, having just moved there.

What advice would you give women thinking about riding or racing?

Find a good group of people, get out there, and just make sure you keep smiling and enjoy it!

Highlight of the weekend?

Probably just how friendly everyone has been on the course, definitely. And the marshals who’ve just been fantastic.

What else do you ride?

Most of my riding is commuting to work.

What do you do right before you race?

Get scared! (laughs)

When’s the last time you really scared yourself on your bike?

Probably when I crashed on the second lap on the muddy descent. I went absolutely flying!

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Liz, 40, Team racer at Mountain Mayhem

Liz Gilmour © Alastair Johnstone
Liz Gilmour © Alastair Johnstone

Name: Liz Gilmour
Age: 40
Team or Solo? Team – SaddleSkedaddle
Bike: Scott Scale 29er

What age were you when you started racing, and how did you get into it?

I started off windsurfing, and then when there was no wind I went mountain biking and then I got into the competitive side. I started doing Gorrick races around London when I was about 23 so I’ve been racing a long time.

Is this your first time at Mountain Mayhem, and how did you find it?

No, I did one 11 years ago when it was in Birmingham. Because of the weather it’s been really really tough. It’s just been slippy and greasy and quite scary. You’ve had to be really careful at all times to make sure you’re not just going to wipe out. My second lap was just ridiculous; there was so much mud it was just sliding. It was like sledging round the mountain bike ring. (Laughs)

Favourite place to ride?

Erm…I think Afan in Wales.

What advice would you give women thinking about riding or racing? 

Start off with something that you know you’re going to enjoy. I think as long as you enjoy it you’ll always going to do a bit more.

Highlight of the weekend?

I think it’s just been having fun with my friends and the team spirit. Saddle Skedaddle have looked after us really well, and that’s been really nice.

What else do you ride?

I ride Southern Series, the odd National Series and Gorrick in the Winter as well.

What do you do right before you race? 

I normally do a little warm up, and that’s probably about half an hour. Have a gel 15 minutes before I start, and then try and stay relaxed and not get psyched out by people on the start line.

When’s the last time you really scared yourself on your bike?

Probably about 10 minutes ago! (laughs)

Headline image © Alastair Johnstone

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