Twelve women have set off from Marrakesh as part of the inaugural Atlas Mountain Race, so Beccy Waters took some time to get to know some of them. Who are they and what does it take to take on a race like this?
Quinda is here at AMR2020 for her first ever bike race. Her experience includes a four month solo trip around Europe which will bring high levels of independence and she is no stranger to solitude. Her background in off-road riding is limited as is her experience in mountain environments, having grown up in the Netherlands. With a career as a creative, she’ll be well-versed in problem solving and brings an attention to detail that will have been useful in her planning for the race. With a passion for fashion and art, we can expect to see her looking effortlessly chic at all times.
Jackie brings the most off-road experience to the start line in the women’s solo category. As a former holder of a pro-licence in US Downhill/Enduro racing, she is one of the most skilled descenders in this race. Her palmares includes the Cape Epic, Leadville 100 and Rebecca Rusch’s Private Idaho. Jackie’s only experience in ultra racing is her unsuccessful attempt at SRMR 2019 and she comes to AMR with trepidation at a second attempt in an ultra. That being said she claims to be much better prepared logistically for this race.
Jackie lives at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah and when she’s not organising MTB and cyclocross races, you’ll find her on two wheels or two skis somewhere on a mountainside. She claims that she’s become less competitive over the years but with a background in enduro racing we’ll see how true this is as the race unfolds. With such a strong off-road background Jackie will be one to watch, especially if the weather is mild and AMR becomes more of a simple off-road ultra as opposed to a mountain race.
Tough by name and nature, JT is a Rockies girl who’s spent the past few years dedicating herself to anything adventure-related. She writes her own rules for life and has challenged herself to run across a mountain range on every continent, with four of the six already ticked off it’s an understatement to say she’s an experienced mountaineer. Her highest cycling accolade is her title of the only female finisher at the inaugural Silk Road Mountain Race in 2018 and is also the only one of the solo female line up at AMR2020 to have finished the Silk Road. The Silk Road is higher, longer and, at least on paper, harder than the Atlas Mountain Race, however, if the mountains throw all they can at the racers during the next 1,145km we could see this race become a war of attrition and less of a pure bike race, which would play nicely into JT’s hands. With two DNFs at the Transcontinental in 2017 and 2019, we know she’s yet to prove herself in a purer cycling discipline. She identifies more as a runner so when all that hike-a-bike comes, she’ll be in her element.
Andrea’s background in cycling has progressed over the past few years from leisurely touring to bikepacking trips to the Transcontinental 2019 to AMR2020. She’s a confident rider with a cast-iron stomach, something that could come in very handy with the few options for food racers will have. Andrea has spent the best part of two weeks in the Morocco acclimatising and while not doing a route recce, she will have picked up some smarts from her time here. Andrea cites her biggest challenge in this race to be sleep; she’s not a naturally easy sleeper and could face difficulties at night if the mountains aren’t peaceful.
Andrea is comfortable in mountain environments, is a TCRNo7 finisher with a penchant for adventure but is yet to combine all three of these in a racing environment.
Jule is a German racer with a history of fixed gear races and road racing. Based south of Munich she spends much of her training in the Alps and has completed multiple race simulation rides during winter as her preparation for this. In the past she has completed solo bikepacking trips off the beaten track and will not be shy of racing somewhere new, however, the sheer remoteness of this race will be a new challenge for her. With a background in Red Hook Crit racing we can be sure to see a fighter in Juliane but with no experience in ultra racing she’s somewhat of an underdog in this race.
She’s strong, competitive, positive and confident. In theory she has all is needed to excel at a race like this but is yet to prove herself. She has been plagued by the ongoing issues from a broken pelvis in 2016 from a cycling crash, since having learnt to walk again she’s faced a long road to recovery and an even longer one to come to the start here.
Shona is one half of the pair who run a specialist bikepacking and cycle-touring bike shop in Manchester, UK. Over the last 15 years, she's been touring in Iceland, Spain and importantly for AMR2020, Morocco. She completed the inaugural SRMR in 2018 with partner in life and business, Rich Naylar. She happiest in the mountains and is no stranger to mountain environments which should put her in good stead for this race.
Former professional road cyclist, Scotti Lechuga has jumped in the deep end of ultra-distance racing alongside her partner Ernie. While they have two twin boys to keep them on their toes, they each find time to push their limits as riders. Scotti and Ernie were the first pair back on last year's Silk Road Mountain race finishing in the top ten overall.
While little more is known about Scotti's experience in the mountains beyond Kyrgyzstan, one thing's for sure: if she can perform half as well as she did during SRMR, she'll be one to watch for the duration of AMR2020.
Fitting micro-adventures into the mountains surrounding her home in Seattle, Armanda fills her and her dog’s spare time either on bike, foot or rock climbing. With a career as a scientist we can expect her to have covered much of the tiny details in this race.
Both Armanda and Kristen have a background in off-road riding and will bring a considerable strength to their pairing from the amount of riding they do together. They are both based in Washington and are American born and raised, which means they will have an advantage over many of the Europeans in this race due to their time spent in more remote areas.
Look back on the race that was to find out how these courageous women fared.