Up and coming racer Joni Wirts discusses the ins and outs of being not only new to the race scene, but also being a woman in our sport.
My experience racing is better every year. My first year racing I was single and terrified to go to a race without a support network of long-time friends. I had done two races with a big group of friends, but I couldn’t recruit anyone to go with me to Pomerelle. The only people I knew going were those I had recently met at other races. I mustered the courage to drive to Pomerelle myself with my dog in tow and the comfort of my camper top on the back of my pickup. The night I arrived I shyly choose a spot to camp most distal to the crowd. Later that night my neighbors showed up and took me under their wing for a bit of social campfire hopping – their hospitality far exceeded my expectation.
Sometime during my first and second runs, I was outspoken about a problem I was having with my derailleur. Of course, there were more than enough mechanics milling around to help out. Before long my derailleur was fixed along with a bunch of other problems with my bike that had been discovered. For someone to go out of their during a race to help someone out like that is impressive and only in the Utah Downhill Series have I experienced the feeling of community where people are willing and able to help out a complete stranger.
Now in my third year of racing, I have gained new friends (including other girls who ride downhill!!), traveled to and ridden a bunch of new places and had countless good times. Women’s mountain bike racing is especially fun, partly because women tend to be less competitive and easier going than men. We tend to prioritize having a good time while the men are super serious about everything. Of course, women are still out-numbered in racing so new comers are always welcome!!!
Big congrats to Joni on a hugely successful race season!!! She is the future of female gravity racing in the US.