– Jane Van Hof, Founders Racing
Yesterday I enjoyed a “virgin experience”: racing my fat-bike for the first time at the inaugural Skirts in the Dirt mountain bike race! The event, meant to draw more women into mountain biking and benefit the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance, was a super success!Over 125 women came out to Cannonsburg Ski Hill to test their grit on the gravel and trails. Some raced the “Never Ever” category, others tried out the “Weekend Warrior” level, I gave the “Fabulously Fat” category a try, and left the real trail shredding to the “Dirt Divas”, including my teammate, Marnie Tencate.There was even a “Girls on Wheels” free race for girls 12 and under who want to mountain bike!
The day finished up with a “Drag Race” when the guys finally got to don their fishnet stockings, long-haired wigs, sports bras and of course – skirts. Matt Remelts clad himself in requisite attire and rocked out the Drag Race for Founders Racing! The Drag Race raised $410 for the Ghost Bike Project.
Kudos to the event organizers Julie Whalen, Denise Peterson, Jill Martindale and Sarah Jaromin who definitely started something big with Skirts in the Dirt. Racers commented throughout the day not only how extraordinary it was to see so many women and girls out racing, but also that the event drew more participants than co-ed races at the same venue. Clearly, women want to race mountain bikes, gird their loins and gear up to grind out miles with a grin!
During the race, women had four “challenge” stations to complete. First, we climbed a long hill and at the top, we had to draw a bicycle. Then, after another hill climb, we had to eat a saltine cracker and then whistle! Gasping for breath made this a tough one for me – I chewed the cracker a bit, and then mouth-breathed the crumbs all over the volunteer in front of me (sorry, Village Bikes guy!) Finally managing a pretty pathetic whistle, I hopped back on my Pugsly to keep racing.
Next, women came to the “hula hoop” station where we had two options: hula hoop for ten seconds, or jump through the hoop five times. I knocked out five quick jumps and was on my way!Finally, we came to the Velocity station where we tossed rims onto cones – with ($3) cash prize for ringing the one in back. I granny-tossed my ring onto the tip of the cone where it balanced and stayed put, so I geared up the fatty for the final mile to the finish line.
Bike mechanics from Grand Rapids Bicycle Company crafted handmade medals for the category winners. Congrats to Marnie for taking second place in the Dirt Diva division!
The excellent raffle opportunities offered something for everyone – two Cannondale bikes, two Velocity wheel sets, a Yakima bike rack (donated by our Founders Racing leader, Rick Plite), two helmets, and plenty of t-shirts and water bottles.
Danielle Musto, local pro-racer for Salsa bikes, gave a free skills clinic the day before the race to explain proper race-day nutrition and to help perfect mountain biking skills. Danielle is a perfect ambassador promoting women’s cycling! How exciting to see so many Michigan women following her lead, and the lead of the event organizers, in setting aside fear and pretension to enjoy the ride.
A positive vibe pervaded the day. More than just “awesome”, the event inspired, encouraged, challenged and celebrated women and mountain bike racing in a way never done before in Michigan. I cannot wait for next year’s Skirts in the Dirt event!
Photo Credit to Jenny Scott
and Jack Kunnen