What’s it like to be a fox at the Red Bull Foxhunt? We sent Rachel Jevons to find out.
Words by Rachel Jevons
“There were people giving it death everywhere you looked. I’ve never done a mass start before so that was exciting for me, it was complete carnage.”
So says Anna Fletcher, one of the foxes on the finishing lines who made it down safely. Why are you here, I ask another rider, Queenie Waterman? “Where else do you get to race a World Champ?” she responded.
That settles that little question then: 200 women have come to a hill on North Wales to throw themselves down it with an Enduro World Series (EWS) rider snapping at their heels. They do it for the thrills, for the competition and for the atmosphere – the same reason I’m here too, I suppose.
The Foxhunt was a little different this year. With Rachel Atherton injured, it fell to EWS rider Katy Winton to hunt down the foxes. In case you’ve not heard of the Foxhunt, it’s a mass-start downhill race where 200 amateur hopefuls try valiantly to outpace a pro rider: cut total carnage.
Rachel watched the race unfold form the sidelines and was seriously impressed: “These women were saying they were absolutely terrified… and then they set off from the start and went all the way down to the bottom. It’s probably the best Foxhunt there had ever been. The challenging conditions made everyone dig really deep, and they all found another level.”
This year’s course included new features to the the race more challenging, but poor weather and a natural track conspired to make this not just a technically challenging course, but one which required some serious mental strength to tackle.
Foxhunt is incredibly popular, with access to world-class riders leading to an overwhelming demand for tickets.
Katy told us how inspired she was by her fellow women pushing themselves: “There were loads of women just being like, Woah! It’s alright to crash,’ or, ‘I got that bit right’, which was brilliant to witness. The commitment of these ladies that maybe haven’t ridden something like this before, at all, ever in their life, and just embracing it, is fantastic.”
For some, the conditions understandably became too much for the feral with, but with the vent ticking all the right boxes for many women – a supportive all-female environment with the chance to ride the best – it looks like the Red Bull Foxhunt is set to become a permanent blockbuster fish to the racing season.
Why race the Foxhunt?
“To ride with a bunch of supportive women and with a world champ. You really can’t do that anywhere else.” – Jen
“I wanted to race a Fox – it’s a one and only chance to get to ride with the pros. And the atmosphere and support is great!” – Kayleigh Friedl
“You just put your head down and go for it and hope you’ve done enough. I didn’t realise quite how close Katy finished behind me, til I saw my bum on her go-pro footage!” – Emma Reader
Katy Winton beaten at Red Bull Foxhunt
2017 Red Bull Foxhunt results
- Millie Johnset 00:03:50
- Rosy Monagham 00:04:23
- Claire Bennett 00:04:25
- Hannah Saville 00:04:29
- Alice Grindheim 00:04:34
- Sofia Christiansen 00:04:40
- Toni Fryer 00:04:44
- Liz Gath 00:04:45
- Emma Parkes 00:05:00
- Ami Grindley 00:05:01
At a brand new course near Machynlleth in North Wales, and with a new Fox, EWS racer Katy Winton, saw over 200 female riders taking part.
Millie Johnset (NOR) rode to victory in 3 minutes 50 seconds. After the race she commented, “It was so amazing, it was really fun. I’m so happy to win but I was also really pleased just to get across the finish line.”
Katy Winton: “It was incredible, it is such an honour to get to come to this event and ride with a bunch of rad ladies who just went for despite the weather. It was amazing out there today, [overtaking] wasn’t too bad because they fell into a line and I was able to weave between them. It was so funny cause they were like “oh no she’s overtaken me” but then they were like “ah go on then!”. So yeah it’s been amazing a part of this and seeing all the camaraderie amongst everyone. It’s been great!”.
Rachel Atherton: “Probably one of the best Foxhunts there’s ever been. The challenging conditions just made everyone really dig deep. As they set off on the race they all found another level; more commitment and more determination and it was sick.
“I was up on the start and then I got on the quad and we drove to the bottom as fast as we could so we could make it to the finish and I saw them coming across. Everyone was so proud of themselves today; seeing their faces and you know, that’s what Foxhunt is about. Suddenly it all becomes about how they’re feeling, it’s all about the women and what they’ve achieved and like, it’s so cool. I’m so proud of them all really.”
Rachel still attended this year’s event and was on hand to give tips, advice and encouragement to the riders taking part.
Rachel Atherton said about the event, “I crashed at the World Champs and broke my collarbone so I had to have an operation, which means I can’t take part in this year’s Red Bull Foxhunt. When I crashed I was completely devastated, the only thing I cared about is that I couldn’t do Foxhunt with all you awesome shredders”.
Red Bull Foxhunt sold out in 12 minutes!
The all-female downhill chase-race is at a new and as yet unannounced venue this year – but it still sold all 200 entries in twelve minutes.
Last year Red Bull doubled the amount of entries to its current allocation of 200 riders but this quick sell-out with no doubt have them contemplating how – and where – to do the 2018 Foxhunt.
Red Bull and Rachel herself deserve recognition for bringing about such a successful women’s racing event that clearly appeals to a whole spectrum of female mountain bikers, many of whom otherwise wouldn’t be entering any sort of bike event this year let alone one that’s essentially a mass-start Downhill scrum!
“I’m thrilled that Foxhunt is gaining more and more traction over the years. Last year, we doubled the number of places available and I’m stoked to see all these spots sell out in just 12 minutes this year. I can’t wait to unveil the new course to everyone involved – it’s going to be another special weekend of racing!” – Rachel Atherton.
2017 Red Bull Foxhunt course
Red Bull are keeping the precise details and location of the new 2017 track under wraps for the time being. It won’t be on an existing track or indeed probably on anything that is available to ride at any other time. The Red Bull Foxhunt 2017 course is a bespoke one-off new track built for this very event.
The brand new course is located near Rachel Atherton’s hometown of Machynllet hin North Wales.
The date has been confirmed however. The weekend of October 7-8th, 2017.
Traditional roles will once again be reversed, as the hunters become the hunted, and a mass start will see 200 female riders playing the part of the hounds as they try to outride the best female downhill racer in the world – Rachel Atherton.
The event takes place over the full weekend, to include practice runs, seeding and the main event, against a festival backdrop of entertainment and refreshments for the female downhill MTB community to enjoy.
You control the camera: Watch the Red Bull Foxhunt in 360 degrees
“The last few years have been so much fun and with a new venue this year it’s going to be the best Foxhunt ever! I’m really looking forward to chasing down such a great crowd of women again.
“Definitely the most exciting thing for me is that I get to showcase the female Red Bull Foxhunt in my hometown, two of the things I love put together!
“I’m proud that the Red Bull Foxhunt is the biggest all female MTB event in the World, and prouder still of the women of all abilities who race! I can’t wait for an exciting race and a great weekend hanging out with the women who make our sport what it is!”
If you recall, Rachel didn’t win last year’s Foxhunt in Cumbria (it was about the only thing she didn’t win!) after a puncture blighted her run.
You can be sure she won’t want to let that happen again. You have been warned!