Girls get dirty on hardcore mountain biking trips
Cyclist Sara Burdon loved mountain biking but hated the testosterone-fuelled culture that went with it — so she set up women-only training vacations in Morzine.
Morzine, in the French Portes du Soleil area, is the hub around which European mountain biking revolves. There are chairlifts to carry bikes uphill, 3,300 metre tracks descending 500 vertical feet, 12 resorts to ride in and numerous bars where muddy floorboards are accepted as standard.
What it doesn’t have is a great deal of women, leading to its nickname “Manzine.”
“I was just bored of trying to keep up with my husband and his mates,” says Sara Burdon, the creator of Dirtgirls and owner of Flow MTB holidays. “And the conversation was pretty rubbish too. I also wanted some skills tuition to help me progress faster. But when I searched for women’s courses, the only ones that were coming up were in Canada.”
So she called in some professional riders to act as coaches, provided a chalet complete with sauna and food, and Dirtgirls was born.
The sheer scale of the Portes du Soleil, which sits in the shadow of Mont Blanc and which marks out its bike runs from green to black, meant our coaches Norco pro Fionn Griffiths and Maxxis rider Jo Petterson had the pick of the terrain for our lessons.
The week started with cornering instruction and ended with jumping. Landing, apparently, comes with practice.
The lessons came thick and fast: rain does not stop, weight distribution is an essential skill, don’t brake on corners, keep your elbows out (but don’t hit trees) and definitely don’t dally or you’ll lose it.
After ploughing down the difficult single track full of raised corners and sharp descents into Chatel, we stopped off at Chez Babette — an atmospheric mountain restaurant full of fairy lights and lace. With Dirtgirls, you get all of the action but none of the testosterone.