May 15, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

Riding with the Goddess 

Women are mountain biking’s fastest growing demographic

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"It was always an idea in the back of my mind to create an event for girls," Strand said. "The events that exist for girls are timed events, downhill, cross country and even in the Velodrome (where) whoever comes across the finish line first wins. This is the only non-timed event for females that exists to date."

"It's an event that gets women out and gives them a platform to display their talents," Lefroy said. "We were in the boardroom pitching (Womenzworx) to Whistler Blackcomb and they asked us how many women we might get in the first year, and we said 50 or 60 with our fingers crossed behind our back. We were worried. What happens if only two of us show up and we are the only two?"

Decline Magazine trumpeted the event as a huge success. Forty women - some from as far away as France, Scotland and Australia - participated in the first competition, making it the biggest field of female riders for any other gravity event hosted in 2007.

"We want to build freeride and slopestyle female riders," Strand said. "It's really difficult for the girls. It's hard for them to get better when they are not given the opportunity to do so. I think this competition gives them that opportunity."

New this year, the third annual competition will host an invitational slopestyle event showcasing between five and ten top female riders in the Whistler Boneyard.

"Obviously the girls are stoked," Strand said. "Clearly they want it."

Like Strand and Lefroy, Kira Cailes also had her mountain bike start in racing and coaching. But the former Dirt Series instructor eventually left her post to pursue fulltime work as a mountain bike patroller and later as a patrol supervisor for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. She began ski patrolling on Blackcomb Mountain in 1999 during the winter and transitioning to summer patrolling in the mountain bike park was a natural progression for the seasoned rider of 20 years.

"I raced cross country for a couple of years and I enjoyed it, but I made the decision not to race," she said. "I preferred to ride for my own enjoyment. I enjoyed racing. I didn't want to make biking a stressful thing."

She leads a staff of both professional and volunteer bike patrollers. There are more men than women on her team, but that is just the nature of the beast, she said.

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