The Forestry Commission is hosting what is thought to be England’s first ever women’s only downhill race – dubbed the Diva Descent – in 2,000 hectare (5,000 acre) Hamsterley Forest, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, on 18 and 19 August.
The ground breaking event is being organised by 29 year old Sarah Muir, originally from Darlington, who wants to blaze a trail for more females to take up the once male dominated sport and progress to competition level under authentic race conditions.
“We have seen a pick-up in the number of women mountain biking which is great news and Hamsterley Forest has been at the forefront of breaking down barriers so it’s a perfect venue for this competition. Making it a female only race is about creating a less intimating atmosphere and encouraging girls to step up to the mark. We’ll also have expert coaches on hand. It seems to have worked because we have been oversubscribed with bikers coming from as far afield as southern England and northern Scotland.”
Downhill mountain biking involves racing against the clock down a steep slope with technical twists and turns. It is a sport in which UK male competitors have flourished, including Danny Hart from Redcar, crowned World Champion in 2011.
The race weekend based at the Descend Hamsterley facility starts with practice sessions on Saturday with the main action the followed day. Spectators are welcome to view the thrilling action as the women take on the tough terrain.
Alex MacLennan, Forestry Commission Public Affairs Manager for the North East, said:
“We have supported the very active Hamsterley Trailblazers group in running female only skills sessions to get more women to take up biking. The Diva Descent event is in the next stage with females getting a chance to sample the excitement of competition and pit their wits against other.”