The city of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth will provide a stunning backdrop to this weekend’s Red Bull Foxhunt, a unique women-only mountain bike race featuring Britain’s three-time world champion Rachel Atherton.
On a purpose-built circuit in the Pentland Hills, 150 riders will start from Caerketton Hill and attempt to complete the 2.75km downhill course ahead of the chasing Atherton, who hopes to catch them before the race finishes on the 18th hole at Lothianburn Golf Club.
It is a task ideally suited to the 27-year-old, whose career was almost ended by a serious shoulder injury after she collided with a truck while training in California in 2009. Last year brought further setbacks as Atherton lost her world title by just 0.008secs and then found herself on a hospital drip in South Africa followed by six weeks in bed battling glandular fever.
Patience, positive thinking and acupuncture did the trick and she returned this summer to enjoy the most successful season of her career, winning six World Cup races out of seven – including Fort William in June – before regaining her world crown in Andorra earlier this month.
“I’m really surprised how well I’ve done this year,” she admitted. “I trained hard but not as hard as usual. When I cross the finish line everything hurts and I can barely stand up, but then I take a week off I’m taking fewer risks now and rarely ride on the limit. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I don’t waste energy or panic.
“Edinburgh was such a good weekend last year, so I’m very excited about the return of the Red Bull Foxhunt this weekend.
“It’s a unique opportunity for female mountain bikers to race at an epic location with an awesome atmosphere. I didn’t make it past all of them last year, so I need to take it up a level this time.”
The attractions of the event from a sporting angle are obvious, but the race will also raise much-needed funds for the “Wings for Life” organisation which carries out vital research into spinal cord injuries.
Practice takes place on Saturday with the race itself getting underway at 1pm on Sunday.