Diva Descent: Interview with Sarah Muir

Sarah Muir is the person behind Diva Descent. An event aimed at women. The downhill race is still in its infancy, 2012 saw the second race for Diva, in what will hopefully be a long running event, with perhaps a race series in the future.

This year’s race was held in Hamsterley forest in County Durham. Hamsterley forest boasts a wide variety of choice for the downhill and cross country rider alike. Even downhill champion, Danny Hart enjoys spending time there when he isn’t racing.

The 18th-19th of August saw 40 women descend upon Hamsterley for a weekend of coaching and downhill racing. Most were a far cry from the likes of Danny Hart, but spirits were high and the girls were motivated and ready to go! Everyone came away having made new friends, learned new skills and wanting to try another race or two!

The weekend was split into two parts, with practice on the Saturday and race on the Sunday. The twist to the Saturday involved coaching with four brilliant coaches who shared their knowledge with the riders. The coaches for the weekend were Helen Gaskell, Sarah Newman, Aimee Dix and Bex Reilly, all four coaches have a vast amount of experience in competing, with varied riding styles and plenty of tips to share with the girls.

I caught up with Sarah to find out about Diva Descent, and what she had planned for the future:

Where did the idea for Diva come from?

The idea came following me taking part in Air Maiden, the first all-women event in the UK, with a focus on Freeride. I couldn’t believe how much I improved in a weekend and how many friends I made along the way. That along with recognising the low numbers of women entering Downhill races made me realise that there was an opportunity to create an event which focused on getting more women into Downhill.

What are your plans for the future?

I started Diva Descent with no expectations of its success or the direction it might take. The response however has been phenomenal and continues to amaze me! The aim for the future is to continue to organise the coaching events, races, holidays and uplift days and hopefully expand into Europe and beyond! I have recently opened the uplift organising up to any woman in the UK who wants to get involved. This has proved to be really successful with rides taking place across the UK. There are other plans on the horizon but keeping all cards close to the chest at this stage.

Will future races follow the same format of coaching and practice on the Saturday and the race on the Sunday?

Yes this format has proven to be really successful and gives the girls a chance to really sharpen their skills before putting them to the test in the race. It also gives the riders a chance to work with top UK female racers and coaches and learn more than just bike skills but also how to mentally prepare for a race.

Are you pleased with the outcome of this year’s race?

Apart from the rain which we can do nothing about, I was delighted with the outcome of this year’s race! It was awesome to once again meet girls from across the UK and see them go home with huge smiles on their faces (and not too many injuries thankfully!). Thanks to Carl and his team at Northern Downhill (especially his lovely mum), the weekend ran super smoothly and I look forward to working with them again in 2013.

As an advocate for women mountain bikers everywhere, what do you hope to see in the future for women who want to compete?

If I had been asked this a couple of years ago it would have been to see the main race organisers in the UK doing more to encourage women to start competing. This is now slowly starting to happen, however with the Moelfre Milestone organised by Borderline events and the forthcoming collaboration between Naked Racing and Diva Descent at the 661 Mini Downhill. It is important that we work together in the aim of encouraging more women into the sport and I look forward to working with British race organisers in 2013 to provide a steppingstone for women into racing Downhill.

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Could 2013 be a new high for women and downhill? It will certainly be interesting to see how things progress thanks to the likes of Diva Descent, Air Maiden and collaborations between established race organisers and women event organizers around the UK and further afield. With more women choosing to compete in downhill it’s great to see more people organizing women specific events. Hopefully with the rise in women specific events more and more women will choose to get into the sport, even if it means it’s just for fun and not to compete.


Update on Dates for 2013 from Sarah:

I can confirm that I am single handedly going to be delivering the FIRST EVER women’s DH series!!

The details are still being finalised and will continue to be worked on over the next couple of months. There will be the opportunity to get yourself some BC points and help you on with your racing career.

For now I will give all the information I have so that you can make sure that if you enter a women’s event in 2013, it’s Diva Descent.

The dates:

May 25th – 26th Innerleithen – COACHING WEEKEND
July 27th – 28th Hamsterley – RACE ROUND 1
August 24th – 25th Forest of Dean – RACE ROUND 2
September 28th – 29th Wales tbc – RACE ROUND 3/DIVA DESCENT 2013 FINAL.

These details are subject to change but I’m hoping all date changes are now complete. Stay tuned to the page and website for announcements.