Rachel Atherton in Pentlands ‘fox and hound’ race

The Red Bull Foxhunt in full flow in Northern Ireland last year. Picture: Sebastian Marko/Red Bull
The Red Bull Foxhunt in full flow in Northern Ireland last year. Picture: Sebastian Marko/Red Bull
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WORLD champion mountain biker Rachel Atherton is set to take part in a “fox and hound” downhill race in the Pentland Hills where she will pursue 200 female cyclists.

The 26-year-old professional will headline the first women-only Red Bull Foxhunt next month on a purpose-built track starting at the top of Allermuir Hill.

Atherton, the current UCI downhill Mountain Bike World Cup title holder and world champion, will chase a pack of amateur mountain bike enthusiasts along the 2.8km course.

She will give the “hounds” a head start before attempting to pass them all before they reach the bottom.

It is the first time the event has been held in Britain.

Atherton, who is training in Canada, said: “I am so excited about Red Bull Foxhunt. It is an opportunity for UK female mountain bikers to come together at an epic location, with an awesome atmosphere, to see if any of them can let the brakes go and hold me off long enough to not get caught.

“Knowing the skill level of the ladies, I know I will have my work cut out.”

Around 80 women have signed up for the race, with spaces for another 120 still available.

Riders will compete in a time trial on September 27 to determine starting positions for the downhill chase held the following day.

Claire Connachan, a ride leader for women-only cycling club Belles on Bikes in Edinburgh, said: “There are some great trails in the Pentlands for mountain bikes right on our doorstep.

“I’m sure a lot of mountain bikers will want to take part as Rachel Atherton is such a big name. It’s an amazing opportunity to ride alongside her. She’s such an ambassador for the sport and is helping women’s cycling to get much move coverage and traction.

“It’s a good twist that Rachel will be chasing them as I’m sure there would be too much pressure if they were chasing her. With Rachel involved, I suspect most of the women taking part will be experienced mountain bikers but I’m sure it will also attract people just getting into the sport.

Ms Connachan said many women can feel intimidated competing at an event alongside male cyclists.

She added: “With men it can be more about times and going as fast as possible. Although many women want to record good times, they also want to have the social aspect so events like this are ideal.”

Atherton began riding BMX at the age of eight and mountain biking at the age of 11.

The race will raise money for Wings For Life, a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation.

Bikers who want to register to take part can go to to www.redbull.co.uk/foxhunt.

alan.mcewen@edinburghnews.com