Set a Goal, Find a Coach, Kick Some Ass

Mountain Bike for Her - - Front Page - Words by Carmel Ecker | Photos by Gina Hopper

Goals. Big or small, they are what drive us for­ward. In ris­ing to the chal­lenges we set for our­selves, we can say we have changed, grown, im­proved. In the case of moun­tain bik­ing, we can say we shred­ded, ripped, con­quered.

The best way to achieve our rid­ing goals is to chal­lenge our­selves with new ter­rain and/or tap into the knowl­edge of more skilled riders.

That’s what the Sil­ver Star Ladies’ Week­end in Au­gust of­fered, and with less than a month of lead-time, 54 riders as­cended to the quaint moun­tain top vil­lage. They came from LA, Cal­gary, the Sea to Sky Cor­ri­dor, Van­cou­ver, the Koote­nays, the Okana­gan, and Van­cou­ver Is­land.

We went for the ca­ma­raderie of other women and the ex­cite­ment of a new rid­ing des­ti­na­tion, but pri­mar­ily we went for the chance to im­prove as riders. We all had goals. I was dream­ing of big air. I felt like my down­hill skills had stag­nated over the past three years. I hadn’t pushed my­self to go big­ger on drops and jumps since I’d be­come a par­ent. But I knew it was time to see if I could re­fine my skills a lit­tle and muster the courage to go off big­ger drops and fly higher over big­ger jumps.

On the morn­ing of the clinic, chat­ter and laugh­ter filled the air as ev­ery­one gath­ered on the lawn in Sil­ver Star’s vil­lage of brightly coloured false front build­ings. There is noth­ing quite like the energy of a group of women moun­tain bik­ers at a skills camp. Even small lo­cal club clin­ics fea­ture hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing, words of en­cour­age­ment, and bucket loads of stoke. It’s the sound of women stretch­ing them­selves and grow­ing their con­fi­dence while do­ing some­thing they love and it’s mar­vel­lous.

Maybe that’s why Ja­clyn Delacroix, owner of Oz­mo­sis Train­ing, says the clin­ics are of­ten as much fun for the coaches as they are for the par­tic­i­pants.

“You’ve got this group of coaches who just want to em­power women who are up and com­ing, who want to im­prove them­selves and be bet­ter at what they do,” she says.

Given that Delacroix had just six weeks to pull the event to­gether af­ter be­ing ap­proached with the idea by Sil­ver Star and the Mud­dbun­nies rid­ing club, she man­aged to at­tract some stel­lar

tal­ent.

In the Face­book page cre­ated for the event, nearly ev­ery coach had a tes­ti­mo­nial of their awe­some­ness from a past par­tic­i­pant look­ing for­ward to the week­end.

Among the nine coaches was Penny Deck, who has 15 years of Trek Dirt Se­ries coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind her. Jaime Hill not only coaches but has also raced the World Cup down­hill cir­cuit for the past five years. Carolyn Ka­vanagh has been kick­ing ass in Whistler for the past 12 years and com­pet­ing in slope style events since 2008. The list goes on.

In spite of the ex­pe­ri­ence and skill of our coaches, the week­end was sur­pris­ingly cheap, which made it easy to sign up.

Try­ing to keep the clinic as af­ford­able as pos­si­ble, Delacroix charged just $115 for the week­end. That fee in­cluded a day of skills coach­ing with lunch and din­ner pro­vided, plus a me­chanic at our dis­posal (cour­tesy of Van­cou­ver’s Dif­fer­ent Bikes). With our two-day lift pass, we got a sec­ond day of DH rip­ping with a new set of rid­ing bud­dies and Liv was there with a fleet of demos for our ex­clu­sive use for the whole week­end. Plus, there was a tonne of swag. The deals don’t get much sweeter. “Ev­ery­body went deep into their pock­ets for us to get this off the ground,” said Delacroix, who tapped into her in­dus­try con­nec­tions to bring ev­ery­thing to­gether.

Af­ter the coaches in­tro­duced them­selves, we broke into groups ac­cord­ing to skill level and learn­ing in­ter­est. I aligned my­self with the women who wanted to work on jump­ing – get­ting big­ger air and more hang time. Our coach was Lynne Armstrong, a Scot who now makes her home in Pem­ber­ton, B.C.

I had se­cretly hoped she would be my coach when her bio showed up on the event’s Face­book page. The at­tached pic­ture was of her do­ing a back­flip, which told me she kinda knows a thing or two about get­ting big air. She also founded Air Maiden, the UK’s only fe­male free ride event. This woman loves to jump and she’s damn good at it. Who bet­ter to learn from?

Af­ter a warm-up run, we headed for the jump park, where we found four dirt jump lines to prac­tice on. But be­fore we started launch­ing

our­selves into the strato­sphere, Armstrong took us back to ba­sics and had us prac­tic­ing J-hops on the flat. Mak­ing that arc with your bike in the air is key to get­ting height and hit­ting the tran­si­tion prop­erly, she said. It was a great warm up and gave us all a solid foun­da­tion to work from.

When we grad­u­ated to the line of small table­tops, she en­cour­aged us to ap­proach each jump slowly and prac­tice our take off with­out get­ting too much air. Most of us man­aged to con­tain our ex­cite­ment for a cou­ple runs be­fore she told us to let loose and see if we could hit the tran­si­tions. Armstrong watched as we each did our thing and on our way back up the hill, she of­fered con­struc­tive feed­back. As each of us found our groove, she told us to take the next line and then the next.

“I’m gonna whoop louder the higher you go. I’m the whoop-o-me­tre!” Armstrong yelled as we all queued up for the third line.

She even sug­gested we try do­ing some­thing with all that time we were spend­ing in the air. So we did. We started do­ing lit­tle bar turns, tried to kick our back ends out to the side a bit. They weren’t the most ex­cit­ing ma­noeu­vres to watch, but it sure was fun to do. I had never con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity that I would have the pres­ence of mind to ex­e­cute any­thing in the air and still land both tires on the dirt, so I was ec­static with this kind of progress.

The smiles got big­ger and big­ger as the morn­ing went on. By the time we left the dirt jumps, ev­ery­one seemed ready to rock out ev­ery jump on the moun­tain.

A few of us had al­ready been to Sil­ver Star and had some de­mons to slay. Armstrong was happy to walk us through our fears. Fea­tures that had scared the pants off us for years sud­denly be­came van­quished foes.

“It’s awe­some!” Armstrong said at the bot­tom of one size­able drop we ses­sioned. “You guys are fac­ing all your de­mons.”

When ev­ery­one re­turned to the vil­lage at the end of the day, it was clear from the sea of smiles that goals had been met. It’s un­likely that ev­ery woman met all of her goals, but talk­ing with the other riders, it seemed we had all im­proved in some way.

One of the women, San­dra Ger­rard, had signed up for the clinic in spite of her trep­i­da­tion about down­hilling.

“I was scared like I never rode a bike be­fore! My stom­ach was in a lit­tle bit of a knot be­cause I didn’t know what to ex­pect as I’ve never DH’d

be­fore,” she said. “When I see DH’ers dressed in all their body ar­mour, it makes me think that this is a dan­ger­ous sport,” she said. “It put me off for years to try and at­tempt it.”

A Van­cou­verite who spends a lot of her time rid­ing cross coun­try trails in Squamish, Ger­rard says she didn’t re­al­ize that down­hill skills could ben­e­fit her cross coun­try rid­ing, but what she learned about body po­si­tion and cor­ner­ing will make a big dif­fer­ence on her home turf.

“I DEF­I­NITELY achieved my goals and my coach Ja­clyn Delacroix was su­per amaz­ing at ex­plain­ing and de­mon­strat­ing how it should be done,” she said. “In my opin­ion, the coach is key to learn­ing new skill. If the coach doesn’t know how to ex­plain it in de­tail step-by-step or demon­strate it, it can be chal­leng­ing to learn.”

Ivy Luis, a 20 year vet­eran of the sport who en­joys all as­pects of moun­tain bik­ing, wasn’t quite as glow­ing about her day, but said she was happy about her progress.

“My jump­ing is get­ting closer. The train­ing was awe­some!”

She still has a bit of fear over “stomp­ing at steeper lips,” she said, but they be­came a lit­tle less scary by the end of the day.

Luis spends most of her time on cross coun­try trails be­cause that’s what’s most ac­ces­si­ble at home in San Car­los, Cal­i­for­nia, but her fever for big air was clear through­out the day of coach­ing as she eyed up ev­ery stunt and ped­alled hard to get the speed she needed to clear them.

As the clinic was a pre­cur­sor to a hol­i­day in Whistler, Luis was us­ing Sil­ver Star as a warm up with hopes of im­prov­ing her jump­ing tech­nique be­fore hit­ting the likes of A Line.

Ev­ery­one seemed ex­cited about their progress and when I caught up with Delacroix af­ter din­ner, she said the feed­back she’d got­ten so far had been very pos­i­tive. As an or­ga­nizer and coach, she’d met her goals too.

“I wanted ev­ery­one to have a good time and I wanted ev­ery­one to learn some­thing and think about what they want to do next year,” she said.

When asked if there would be a sec­ond an­nual event, she of­fered a re­sound­ing “Hell yes! Con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of women that have al­ready been ask­ing me, ‘Is this go­ing to hap­pen next year?’, I’m go­ing to go with yes.”

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