Women of Dirt - Rain, Wind & Fun!
Thursday, 15 October 2015, 3:06 PM
By Meagan Robertson
Looking out the window on the morning of Women of Dirt 2014, it looked like it might be Women of Dirt, Rain and Wind – but the forecast wasn’t about to deter the 92 women who turned up ready for a day of racing, baking and enjoying the hub of women’s mountain biking in Wellington.
Run by Revolve, Wellington’s “down to earth” women’s cycling club, the Women of Dirt six-hour relay continues to be an un-missable staple in the capital city’s local racing scene. Held at Makara Peak, the event has a unique atmosphere that combines the fun and intensity of racing with costumes, goodies and plenty of socialising.
“It’s a truly unique event to be part of,” says this year event organiser and Revolve committee member Shailie Pidcock. “Women of Dirt seems to bring out the best in everyone – there’s a great sense of camaraderie, impressive and ingenious costumes, hilarious team names, delicious baking and great prizes to be won!”
Abbie Bull races hard to finish her last lap. Photo © Pete Marshall
The Women of Dirt scene
By the time the race briefing was held early on Saturday, 22 November, 23 teams of Dirty Girls and seven solo Dirt Divas had turned the Makara Peak carpark into a festive biking village, complete with team signs, tents, bags of goodies and plenty of high spirits.
With six hours ahead of them, solo riders and teams worked out different strategies, with some vying for a podium finish while others were more focussed on trying the 18 different baking competition entries!
“I love this event because everything about it is a bit different,” says Foreign Foxes team member and avid mountain biker Faith Dennis. “We ride up one-way tracks we normally ride down, we wear ridiculous costumes that often aren’t the most practical for riding and it’s just as fun in the village as it is on the trails.”
Worth the effort
The event, which was held for the first time in 2010, wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors and volunteers, and Shailie says it’s amazing how businesses and individuals are willing to support an event they believe in. “It’s truly heart-warming to see businesses come forward and offer bits and pieces, or their time, because they believe that Revolve is important to the biking community in Wellington,” says Shailie. “Almost everyone has a story about a partner, relative or friend who’s come along for a ride or two.”
One of these committed supporters is Wellington bike shop Dirt Merchants, which has had two mechanics on site at Women of Dirt for the past three years.
“We’ve been a staunch supporter of Revolve and its events since we opened three years ago,” says Dirt Merchants owner James Duncan, who also offers Revolve members a discount on products and services. “Revolve races have such a great atmosphere that it’s fun to be part of the day, and, most importantly, we want to support a club whose purpose we believe in.
“Run solely by volunteers, Revolve is committed to encouraging women to become involved in mountain biking at all levels – that takes more work than most people realise and is good for the mountain biking community as a whole.”
These sentiments are echoed by even organisers Mike Thomason and Evelyn Williamson, who generously donate their time and their timing machine, to keep track of the Dirty Girls and Dirt Divas’ lap times.
“Coming from an event management background, and having only joined Revolve last year, I was bowled over by how keen everyone is to support Revolve,” says Shailie.
“Aside from timing and mechanics, we approached sponsors to provide spot prizes and Revolve supporters to marshall throughout the day. Especially given the weather, marshalling wasn’t the most appealing way to spend eight hours on a Saturday, but we had a great group of guys and girls show up ready to help.”
Armed with words of encouragement, cameras and even music, the marshalls were pillars of support for the participants as they panted past.
“I’m not a mountain biker, but Revolve means a lot to people that I care about, so it’s a cause I believe is worth supporting,” said Ben Campbell, who manned the carpark for the morning.
Average weather didn't trump any spirits or fun at Women of Dirt. Photo © Pete Marshall
Mission complete... and continuing
Revolve co-founder Ash Burgess, who is an avid supporter of all things mountain biking says she and co-founder Marjolein Cook created the Women of Dirt concept due to the lack of women participating in other local races.
“After attending several six-hour events around the country, we noticed a similar pattern – great race course, heaps of competition and amazing prizes. But one thing was missing....women,” says Ash.
“We asked around and the responses from women were always the same: ‘I don't know if I could do that’. After many cups of tea we decided that this needed to change, and so a women's only six-hour mountain bike event was born.”
She says it’s fitting as it reiterates Revolve’s mission.
“Revolve is a fun cycling club for women of all abilities and skills levels. From first time riders to women racing every weekend, we are all stoked to ride our bikes,” says Ash.
“Women of Dirt is the event that encompasses that awesome blend of fun and competition. With women aged 9 through to 50-plus, some that have ridden a handful of times and others that ride a handful of times per week, it’s a chance to get together, ride our bikes and meet like-minded ladies.”
She says it’s been incredible to see the event grow over the past four years.“In 2010, a women’s relay race was an entirely new concept that we had to explain in detail to anyone and everyone – now it’s rare to find a mountain biker who hasn’t heard of it!”
Makara Peak Trails, Wellington. Julie Moularde racing for the finish. Photo © Pete Marshall
A resounding success
Despite the foreboding forecast, the weather steered clear and Women of Dirt 2014 was a great success, with # teams and solos completing an impressive total of # laps!
A massive thanks to all our sponsors – we couldn’t’ have done it without you!
Originally published in NZ Bike Issue 79, February 2015