We have another of our new writers with us this week. We move up North, to Aberdeenshire, where Freya is from. Still at school, Freya has been involved in sports from a young age. She loves the outdoors and the opportunity to enjoy it, whilst growing up in rural Aberdeenshire. SW/S allows her to combine both her love of sports and writing to help make a positive difference in the world of women’s sport.
In Lourdes, France, March 26-27th 2022, it’s the beginning of the 2022 UCI Downhill Mountainbike World Cup season. And the first season of racing for 16 year old Aimi Kenyon from North East Scotland.
We spoke to Aimi a week after the first round of the World Cup about her first race as a junior rider for PinkBike Race team, and her experience of competing against some of the best young riders from across the globe.
Aimi started mountain biking from a young age after her brothers, who already loved it, got her hooked: “Early on, I wanted to be just as fast as them.” This pushed her to improve as quickly as she could.
Racing followed naturally for Aimi, with her first downhill race at Innerleithen in the Scottish borders, one of the most well known and loved mountain bike hotspots in Britain. Aimi immediately fell in love with racing her bike and from that point on, she never looked back.
When I asked about her female inspirations in the sport she responded with female riders Tahnee Seagrave and Rachel Atherton who have dominated the racing circuit for years: “these womens’ love for the sport and determination proved to me that it could be done, to have men and women compete side by side on the same track and come within seconds of each other.”
Aimi mentioned how inspiring it was to watch Valentina Holl, who is considered somewhat of a “newbie” on the World Cup scene: “She has begun to close the seemingly large gap between juniors and elites. It’s really motivating to have someone just a few years older than me, have similar times to many of the elite women, who, for years I’ve looked up to.”
We then went on to chat about her first race as a junior and some of her most memorable moments of her time out in Lourdes. She spoke of the team’s sightseeing days in Lourdes itself and recalled how there was a bit of stress when parts for the bikes hadn’t arrived on time.
“The track walk felt surreal as I was used to watching the world’s top riders, videos of the track on youtube and now I was walking alongside, watching them create the content I was so used to seeing through a screen.”
It was then practice day. First time on the course, with riders desperate to try new lines. The lifts up the mountain were very slow resulting in Aimi only getting two proper runs. On her third run, she crashed and hurt her ankle, resulting in her having to roll down slowly on her bike to the finish line: “The team dynamic is really strong, I felt comfortable having a bit of a “wobble” after my fall.”
Aimi spoke of her pride at pushing through the injury and competing and how she was glad she didn’t pull out of the race. She finished with an incredible 9th place out of 13th which she was thrilled by as she hadn’t gone into the race with any expectations as it was a completely new experience.
In a sport that is still very much male-dominated. She described how she felt that she improved quicker by pushing herself to keep up with the boys she rode with and mentioned that, to her, riding with boys is just the same because they didn’t act any different towards her.
“It’s great that so many more girls are getting involved in the sport and are now competing at races all over the country,
“My advice to younger girls and women who wanted to get started in the sport is, don’t stop. No one is good when they start but just keep going.”
If you are interested in getting involved in the sport more information can be found at sportScotland, on where and how to take part in downhill mountain biking.