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Female freeriders want a shot at a top mountain biking competition

Freeride mountain biking focuses on tricks, style, and technical riding in a rugged landscape.
John Wellburn/Red Bull Content Pool
/
Flickr Creative Commons
Freeride mountain biking focuses on tricks, style, and technical riding in a rugged landscape.

News brief: 

Casey Brown remembers watching the Rampage mountain biking competition for the first time in person when she was 17.

“I was just like, ‘Look at those lines. Look how incredible the riding is. I want to be part of this event one day,’” Brown said. “Rampage day [has] always been more exciting than Christmas for me.”

Yet, the event – which has been described as the “pinnacle” of the sport of freeriding – has never invited women. And that trend isn’t changing this year, so only men will perform jumps, flips and other stunts in a majestic setting at the edge of Zion National Park.

Brown is among the bikers pushing for inclusion in Rampage, which is hosted by energy drink company Red Bull. She said she’s heard lots of excuses over the years for why she can’t join – despite having ridden many of the lines at the competition grounds before.

“Everything from, ‘Women are going to crumble under the pressure of the crowd. The women are going to be scared of the helicopter,’ which cracks me up,” she said.

“They're afraid of what the women's riding is going to look [like] compared to the men's. But I know from conversations that the real reason is because they don't want to make Rampage look like a weaker event than it is.”

Brown admits there are logistical considerations to expanding the competition to include a women’s category. That includes the expense of a larger broadcast and unstable wind conditions affecting safety for a longer period of time.

Red Bull has written that, “while the event has never excluded women, none have qualified either.”

It also said in a recent statement to an Outside Magazine affiliate that the competition simply includes the 18 best freeriders in the world, and that it is exploring a women’s category at Rampage in the future.

Brown said that the event needs to evolve and that better representation at Rampage would encourage more people of all backgrounds to take up mountain biking.

“I think the risk of not having a women's category is potentially higher than the risk of having us in there,” she said. “It's not like we're encouraging people to hop off cliffs … Just get on a bike and go for a ride in the woods.”

Red Bull canceled Formation, an event designed to promote female mountain bikers, earlier this year. Rampage is scheduled for Oct. 15.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.