Forrest mountain bike enduro inspires Warrnambool women

THE increasing popularity of mountain bike riding among Warrnambool females is reflected in entries for the Forrest 6 Hour enduro.

Warrnambool Mountain Bike Club riders Jane Wade (left), Deb Rodgers, Mia Venema, Karen Crispe and Catherine O’Keeffe are among a group of 12 local women contesting the Forrest 6 Hour enduro tomorrow. 150430RG38 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Warrnambool Mountain Bike Club riders Jane Wade (left), Deb Rodgers, Mia Venema, Karen Crispe and Catherine O’Keeffe are among a group of 12 local women contesting the Forrest 6 Hour enduro tomorrow. 150430RG38 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

A record 12 females will represent Warrnambool Mountain Bike Club at the popular endurance event at the Otways hamlet tomorrow.

Eleven are divided into three teams. Mia Venema, Chelsea Fox and Colleen Hughson will compete as the Warrnambool TryHard Ladies.

Catherine O’Keeffe, Kerry Obst, Sue Owen and Jo Coomber will carve up the dirt as the Dirty Angels.

Jane Wade, Amanda Sutton, Rose Owen and Karen Crispe make up Dirt Chicks. The 12th, Debbie Rodgers, is part of a mixed team.

Venema said the surge in interest came on the back of the Warrnambool Women on Wide Wheels (WWoWW) program, which she helps runs.

She said encouraging so many females to sign up for the Forrest 6 Hour marked “one of the happiest moments of my mountain biking life, ever”.

“We’re just putting it out there that it’s not a scary sport,” she said.

“We’re taking the stereotype away that it’s just a manly sport. And we’re making it really social. Women love social sport.”

Venema was rapt to see the development of novice riders such as Crispe, Coomber and O’Keefe as a result of the WWoWW program.

“In the space of a year, riders like Karen, Jo and Catherine have all finished their first-ever solo mountain bike race,” she said.

“They did the Otway Odyssey 15km. In the space of six months they’ve gone from beginners to racing.”

The 12 riders represent more than half of those who have honed their skills as part of the WWoWW program, created about two years ago.

Venema said between 15 and 20 regularly took part, a figure she hoped would increase as word spread — “I’d love to double the numbers”.

“We’ve got a program later in the year that we’re getting the world (24-hour) champ Jess Douglas to run a session. We hope to get a few more from that,” she said.

“She’s one of my heroes.  She’s on my fridge in the lounge room. 

“I think she’ll continue to be an ambassador for mountain biking and women.”

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