It was another great year of the Dark Horse event at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort, where spectators were treated to incredible views, perfect weather, and got to watch some of the best mountain bikers in the world.
The Dark Horse event is unique because it’s meant to be competitive, but most importantly it’s meant to foster progression in women’s mountain biking. Progression in the sport can come in a few different ways. In this event, progression came from creating a welcoming space where athletes of varying ages and from around the world could compete. Riders also had the opportunity to test their limits and try new tricks onto the big airbag. It wouldn’t be a true competition without a bit of judging, which is exactly what the riders did for each other. Rather than have a panel of judges, the riders themselves judged the event, to keep it positive, inclusive, and progressive.
Local legend and professional mountain biker, Casey Brown, hosted the event while continuing to ride with her peers.
“It’s been good. It’s been a really good week, lots of progression, and lots of girls just riding together and riding with the community. And that’s the really important thing to have,” said Brown.
The course had three parts to it. The riders started off with a big drop in right off of the top. From there, they went into a berm to carry their speed in to the first jump — a massive feature that shot the riders up into the air for the whole crowd to see. Landing the jump, the riders would then continue on down the course to the third feature, which was another big jump with an even bigger landing, or a step-up.
After their runs, riders would hop off their bikes and start the climb back up to the top. As she walked back up the hill Gracey Hemstreet talked about her experience on the course.
“I grew up jumping, so it’s always easy to come back to,” said Hemstreet.
Growing up on the Sunshine Coast at Gravity Park, Hemstreet has been hitting big jumps like the ones for the event since she was nine years old. Lately, she competes in downhill, but the transition back to jumps is natural for her.
Of her fellow riders, Hemstreet said that “everyone was super cool,” making the event fun for her.
Down at the bottom of the hill –past the step-up– was a big airbag for riders to try out new tricks. As the event went on, some of the riders went down to try it out. Hemstreet attempted a few backflips, generating a huge roar from the crowd.
While on her way back up to the top after jumping into the airbag, Kristin Van Horne from Nelson, B.C. explained what her goal was.
“No foot cans –besides that one– I’ve been consistently getting back to my pedals and then I’ve been taking them to the mulch,” said Van Horne.
Next to the airbag was an identical jump that had a mulch landing. All in the name of progression, the mulch helps riders who have mastered a trick over the airbag, but haven’t nailed it down on dirt yet.
After a great day of riding and advancement, a winner still had to be declared. The winner –and Dark Horse of the event– was 15-year-old Erice Van Leuven of New Zealand.