Air Maiden – For the Ladies who Freeride
It’s a Saturday morning at 9.00 am and although a bit on the cold side, the weather is dry and there’s hardly a breath of wind, so pretty much perfect conditions – a good start indeed. This was year two of Air Maiden and even though 2008 was a great success it’s always a bit nerve wracking to see if everyone was telling the truth when they said they couldn’t wait to come back again.
Well we needn’t have worried, as 43 women flooded the freeride park, ready to take their skills to the next level. The only comparable events I can think of are the likes of Womenzworx and Slope Sistairs in North America, where there are huge amounts of women out riding, but not as many actually competing, so it was encouraging to see so many women were willing to make their way to Scotland. It must be our hospitality!
There was a real international feel to the event this year with a bunch of the Irish girls coming over, one girl flying up from Bristol, as well as Canadian, German and Slovakian girls in the mix. The youngest was wee Megan at only 11 years old and the oldest……… well let’s just say she remembers 70’s and 80’s fashion quite clearly the fist time around!
Emma Guy and Tracy Brunger from the Hub and Andy Barlow from Dirt School were our coaches for the weekend and you could tell what a great job they were doing, just from how much some of the women had progressed by the Sunday. The level of skill seemed a bit higher than last year, so is this a sign that women are in fact out there doing the freeride stuff after all?
By Sunday the women were feeling the effects of a full day of jumping, manuals and drops. Personally I felt like I’d been bench pressing a baby elephant! But there was little time to feel sorry for yourself and everyone just got straight into practising what they had learned, before the competition started in the afternoon.
So on to the competition. The girls were each given 2 runs on 3 separate sections of the track and then judged on amplitude, fluidity, style and how much they had progressed from Saturday. Section one was the first 9 table jumps, section 2 covered the wooden drops and wall rides, then riders had a choice of either the fun box or the specially constructed wooden jump at the foot of the park. More people opted for the wooden jump this year and there were plenty of tricks being pulled to entertain the growing crowd.
In addition to the coaches, we had a couple of guest judges in the shape of Fraser McNeil and Kenny Fulton from Scotland’s cycle stunt team The Clan. To be quite honest they looked more worried than some of the women taking part. Perhaps concerned about an angry mob of women if they weren’t happy with their scores? They needn’t have worried, everyone was in a relaxed mood and just happy to be taking part in a really laid back event. One of the men was overheard commenting that you just wouldn’t get this kind of atmosphere at a male competition because there would be too many egos and competitive natures. That’s what was so good about Air Maiden. The women who had more skill and experience were happy to take time out and encourage the others to go bigger and give out tips and advice. I’m not saying that women aren’t competitive, of course they are, its just that they get satisfaction out of helping the other girls as well. You only had to look at the train of women tailing the more experienced riders onto the big wooden jump at the bottom of the hill to see what I mean. In fact as the day went on, those that had just learned to do the jump were then helping others to conquer their fear and do the jump too. And what a jump it was! If only it could be a permanent feature at Glentress, but alas it will be torn down again for another year.
Now for the podium results:
1st place – Polly Harrison (225 points)
2nd place – Dagmara Polakova (218 points)
3rd place – Lesley Wood (214 points)
4th place – Liz Law (213 points)
5th place – Tara Lee (204 points)
The full results are on the Air Maiden website www.airmaiden.co.uk
Big thanks as always to Lynne Aitchison for coming up with the idea in the first place and for all her hard work in organising Air Maiden. I spoke to her last night and she’s so mentally exhausted that she’s vowing never again, but she said that last year, so give her time and I’m sure she’ll be up for it in 2010. Besides, some of us missed the live version of that famous back flip so she’ll need to do it again!
Thanks to our local sponsors for supporting us – The Hub, Dirt School, Exoteric Apparel, Vice Bikes, MB7, Uplift Scotland, The Forestry, 7Stanes, Bike Patrol, Lucozade, and special thanks to Richard Latimer from BikesandBerms for all his hard work organising the jump.
Words by Lesley Wood
Pictures courtesy of Jayne Emsley (www.mountainbikephotography.com)