Women of Freeride Throw Down at the Sugar Showdown

Jul 11, 2012
by Paris Gore  
Words by Angela Sucich, Photos by Paris Gore.

“If she can do it, I can do it.” Those inspiring words pretty much sum up the spirit of the Sweetlines Sugar Showdown, a women-only freeride clinic and competition held last weekend at Duthie Hill Park in Issaquah, Washington.

Someone said these words when SuperCo rider Gale Dahlager pulled out her bag of tricks and won the pro comp, and also when little 12-year-old Katie Hensien showed all the adults what it takes to win first place in the amateur division. “If she can do it, I can do it” became a mantra of sorts at the two-day event, which was about so much more than just competition.

You can thank these two ladies for making this weekend happen. Buy em both a beer next time you see them.

Hosted by Kat Sweet of Sweetlines mountain bike coaching, the two-day training and freeride competition was the first of its kind in the northwestern United States. Eight pro coaches from across North America - DH champions, slopestyle superstars, IMBI certified instructors - led different levels and multiple generations of women riders through basic skills before progressing to jumps, drops, wall rides and berms. The following day, 45 pro and amateur riders from across two countries threw down their best tricks on Duthie Hill’s Semper Dirticus and Voodoo Child lines.

The Clinic
Pat Clark, a XC rider from the Okanagan, understands the “if she can do it, I can do it” sentiment to her core. During Saturday’s coaching clinic, the 55-year-old followed her daughter, Keara, off a 5-foot drop for the very first time. (That earned mom the NC-17 title, “mother hucker,” for the rest of the weekend.) By the end of the clinic, the mother-daughter team had synchronized their drops in what will probably make a picture-perfect family photo for next year’s holiday card.

Kat Sweet and Lorraine Blancher coach their group of ladies. Two of the most inspirational women in mountain biking right here.

Sugar Showdown coaches Kat Sweet and Lorraine Blancher with their group of students. Other Sugar Showdown coaches included Tammy Donahugh, Gale Dahlager, Angi Weston, Cortney Knudson, Chelsey Henry and Stephanie Nychka.

Three days off from surgery World Cup athlete Jill Kintner showed up to help coach the ladies and give her support. We all wish you the best and quickest recovery Jill

Jill Kintner watches Jen Everhard take a beginner drop.

bigquotesIt always puts things into perspective when you see someone hit a jump for the first time or learn how to pump or really get that moment where they're taking what you say and putting it to use. - Jill Kintner

A surprise spectator at the event - Seattle native Jill Kintner - was impressed with the mother and daughter duo. The World Cup DH racer was just three days out of surgery for a broken arm after a fast run and bad crash at the World Cup in Windham, New York, last weekend, but she decided to come out to the Sugar Showdown to lend the ladies support and some instruction. Though she might not have sent the Clarks down that drop, “they did it perfectly,” said Kintner. “Seeing that kind of thing really makes the world seem a little smaller. That people are doing amazing things every day."

Mother amp Daughter are two of the gals on the Mudbunnies team. Mother Hucker showing her daughter how it s done off the bigger of the drops.
Muddbunnies Keara Clark, 30, and mom, Pat Clark, 55, synchronize their drops. Keara registered her mom for the Sugar Showdown as a birthday present. Next year, Pat is planning to bring Keara’s younger sister out to join them at the event.

The event’s inclusive rather than strictly competitive atmosphere may have helped bring out the best in the riders. The two-day format allowed participants to build up camaraderie during the skills class before competing with each other the following day. That seemed to settle nerves.

Courtney Chelsey and Angi coach the riders on Saturday morning.
How it all begins: Coaches Cortney Knudson, Chelsey Henry and Angi Weston teach bike/body positioning and other basic skills to riders new to freeride. Henry: “It makes me more stoked to be on my bike when I see how much fun these girls are having, and how much they want to go out and rip the trails just as well as anybody else.”

One young rider who is really progressing in the sport is Katie Hensien. Decked out with the GoPro she got for her birthday, the 12-year-old inspired her elders at the clinic with her fearless and controlled flow over jumps and drops. The Sweetlines-sponsored rider was the first one among the advanced students to hit the 5-foot drop, only to seek out a much bigger one on the pro line. But young Hensien is all humility; she led out several riders to help them through drops and other challenging features, only to turn around in excitement and say to them, “Wasn’t that fun?”

Katie is a Seattle local and completely owns it here at Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park. At 12 years old her fluid riding stood out among the 40 adult amateur competitors.
Twelve-year-old Katie Hensien drops into the bowl at the start of one of her amateur comp-winning runs. “I was trying to find my speed and clear the jumps because sometimes I’d case them. So I really tried to push myself and really conquer that.”

But probably the biggest thrill at the Sugar Showdown was the level of participation and support for women’s freeride that these coaches have been waiting years to see.

Bryn and Jill showed up on Saturday to come check everything out. Bryn steps in place for Jill to show the ladies a thing or two about pumping through rollers.
Just three days back from surgery from injuries sustained at the Windham World Cup, Jill Kintner explains to the class how to pump through the rollers using "split-leg squat" technique. Bryn Atkinson showed up as well to help demonstrate.

Lunch time during the coaching session.
Riders take a breather and hang out in the sun between sessions.

Picnic during a break from coaching and riding.
Riders break for lunch. According to Kat Sweet, the only thing she would do differently for next year’s event is “bring more food.” Apparently, mountain biker girls eat a lot of food. “We’re not afraid to eat.”

“We all have fear, and we need to find ways to replace fear with the task at hand,” said Sweet. “That’s what we’re teaching people. We’re giving them things to think about—biomechanically and mentally—so they’re replacing fear with skill. Not only are we helping women progress in our sport, we’re doing it in a safe way, and a really supportive way.”

Stephanie leads out the women in her coaching group.
Race you to the next trail: riders speed off into the thick woods of Duthie Hill Park.

The Competition
On Sunday, the ladies of freeride stepped up their game to compete for cash and prizes as a panel of judges evaluated their performance, tricks and style on multiple features. Former DH and US National team pro Dahlager was the big winner in the pro comp, while Katie Hensien took first among the amateurs. But all the riders were clearly feeling the good vibes at the event. The photos tell the real story, so read on.

The girls started out Sunday with an early morning Yoga session lead out by Stephanie Brown.
The girls started out Sunday with an early morning yoga session led out by Stephanie Brown.

One of the only Pro women on a DH bike Lorraine was sending it huge over all the features on the pro course.
You can’t get any higher than this: Lorraine Blancher gets max elevation on the Semper D wall ride. Lorraine charged just as hard all the way down the course, from start gap to rhythm double finish: “I worked hard to smoothly tweak, whip and transfer my big bike off every feature, and I was stoked--I found my big bike flow!”

This girl sure does love dirt and lots of it.
Wearing her heart on her helmet, Christina Chapetta from Breckenridge, Colorado, mentally prepares for her run on the pro course.

1-hander over the step down. These gals have a good number of tricks in the bag.
“Godmother” of women’s slopestyle, Stephanie Nychka shows perfect form on her one-hander off the Rooster Booster. Nychka tells students that “once you get certain things under your belt, you’re going to hit bigger and bigger jumps, so the next time you come out, you don’t even look at the small ones anymore.”

Tammy was one of the few throwing big tricks of the stunts. X-up over the superco stepdown.
US freeride/slopestyle pro Tammy Donahugh shows everyone how to x-it-up on the Semper D step-down. As a coach, Donahugh concentrates on finding the right amount and right type of information to reach her students: “You can explain the same thing five different ways, and it’s not going click the same way for everyone.”

All the coaches hand made and decorated each race plate the night before the contest each with their own unique craftiness.
It’s always way more fun to compete as a pirate. Each unique racer plate was designed and decorated by Sugar Showdown pro coaches.

Trish Bromley is one of the Whistler locals who came down to see what the Sugar Showdown had to offer. Trish throws some style into the Superco stepdown
Trish Bromley (Tuf Racks Racing), making it look easy on the Semper D step down. On the way back up from her run, judge Billy Lewis overheard amateur riders tell her how smooth she was: "She turned around, thanked them and said, 'It feels really good out there' and then immediately says, 'I can't wait to watch your run.’ I don’t think that kind of camaraderie happens all the time in dudes' dirt jump events.”

Ally went down really hard moments after hitting this hip. After taking a trip to the hospital she made it out just in time to come collect her 4th place prize and medal. Heal up quick Ally
Sweetlines rider Allie Evans goes high on the berm before the roller section on Voodoo Child. Evans showed off bar turns and jammin’ salmon tricks during her first run, then unfortunately had a hard crash on her second. After being checked out and cleared by doctors, she returned to the venue to collect her fourth-place prize.

At World Cup s it s usually tear off s laying in the dirt after a race. Today it was hair ties. Not what you usually find laying in the trail.
At the end of the day, one usually finds tearoffs in the dirt. This weekend at Duthie, it was hair ties on the course.

Diamondback s own Billy Lewis was one of the Pro Women judges on Sunday. Billy was all smiles and stoked to see how much fun all the ladies were having this weekend.
"I felt like the turnout for the event was pretty ridiculous compared to the [smaller] jump jams we have at Duthie on Friday nights, where you might have 20 dudes,” said Diamondback's shredder Billy Lewis who was one of the judges for the pro women. “There were over 40 amateur riders and 20 pro women competing--you can't beat that.”

Chelsey Henry and Angi Weston were some of the judges for the amateur competition. Adding up points to see who threw down the hardest in the am comp.
Judges Chelsey Henry and Angi Westion tally up the amateur scores.

Huddle before the big game: Sugar Showdown host Kat Sweet showing some spirit with her coaches and students.

Your winner of the first annual Sugar Showdown. Hopefully this weekend will encourage others to put on all women s events such as this one. Congrats Gale
Winner of the inaugural Sugar Showdown pro freeride comp, SuperCo rider Gale Dahlager had gone out looking for fun but got caught up in the moment: “You’re so pumped, you can’t help it. You’re like, ‘I’m going to do this—no, I’m going to do that…What trick are you doing? Yeah, I want to do that trick, too.”

Custom made necklaces and a cash purse for the pro ladies.
Dahlager’s money shot: The pros shared a cash purse while the amateurs won cool schwag from generous sponsors that included MuddBunnies, Deity, SuperCo, Gregg’s Cycles, Diamondback Bikes, Platypus, Trek, Lumberyard, DaKine and Keen.

These girls know how to party
And that's a wrap here at Sugar Showdown 2012. These girls know how to finish off a contest just right.

Full Results

Pro/Open Comp
1st Gale Dahlager - Superco
2nd Lorraine Blancher - Race Face
3rd Stephanie Nychka - Kali
4th (tie) Tammy Donahugh – Superco, Native Eyewear, Deity
4th (tie) Trish Bromley – Tuf Rack Racing
6th Lisa Mason – Women’s Freeride Movement
7th Carolyn Kavanagh
8th Kat Sweet – Sweetlines, Team Dirt Corps, Deity, Gregg’s Cycles, Nutcase
9th Isabelle Deguise - MuddBunnies
10th Chelsey Henry – The Bike Hub Racing
11th Erica Lawson
12th Angi Weston - Kona
13th Christina Chapetta
14th Diana Brucculieri – Tuf Rack Racing
15th Cortney Knudson

Amateur Comp
1st Katie Hensien - Sweetlines
2nd Caryn Cantu - Sweetlines
3rd Ashley Kalk – Hoots Inc.
4th Allie Evans - Sweetlines
5th Rosie Bernhard
6th Adrian Hopkins
7th Mariam Appel
8th Keara Clark – MuddBunnies
9th Hailey Starr – Backdrop Sports
10th Ady Bee Lane – Sturdy Bitch Racing

11 and Under Category
1st Kaytln Melvin

“We’re making history,” said Sweet. “I’ve had so much support—an ‘army of rad’ helping me with this event. My coaches and volunteers have been amazing.” And it’s not over yet--keep an eye out for filmmaker Mark Brent’s upcoming film that will feature Sugar Showdown riders pushing their boundaries.

Author Info:
parisgore avatar

Member since Oct 27, 2010
73 articles

  • 5 0
 I've attended two clinics designed and led by Kat, and another by Joan Jones a number of years ago. These women have done more to help improve my riding than words can express. Thanks for the insights. I do encourage anyone who thinks they can ride well to attend a clinic hosted by phenomenal coaches. Well worth the expense in smiles and enjoyment for years to come.
  • 5 0
 This event has got to be one of the best we've ever attended! We went down with our female riders to compete as well as support the growing women's freeride scene. It was so great to see so many women of all ages pushing their riding skills to new heights. The stoke in the air was soo much so that my face hurt from smiling after that weekend. So much fun was being had by all on and off the bike. We met some amazing ladies doing some amazing things in the world of women's mountain biking. We can't wait to make the trip down again next year! Big time Koodos to Sweetlines and everyone involved in putting on this fantastic event, A weekend we'll never forget!
  • 7 1
 "if she can do it, i can do it". i admire these gals, they have heart & balls!
  • 13 3
 balls? Maybe courage....
  • 4 0
 I was going to post on the Giant Air DH post that more women need to get into the sport (7 women in the pro category?) But after seeing this I have high hopes for this becoming a sport for women too.
  • 7 0
 Awesome Event!!
  • 2 1
 agreed^ ...shame, most girls aint got the bottle, total respect to those that do, the mtb world needs more of them....and more of them....
  • 9 6
 I was giving some basic advices on riding technique to beginners on a couple of rides. Women are usualy very good students despite being more fearful. They made a big progress during those rides, two simple reasons for that

NR1 Women do listen
NR2 Women have way smaller ego so they think less often like: "mah it's obvious, I can do this, let's just ride ok?!"

I challenge anyone to show me a beginner male who at the end of the ride keeps his chin up and has some acceptable riding stance. What they do is they get a thought I can do this, think only about speed, brake in corners, want to jump drop offs, and at the end of the ride look straight under the front wheel despie being explained not to do so in the first place.

So the results tend to be: women doing things right but slow, men going fast, sometimes very fast and doing everything wrong.
  • 6 0
 Waki, dopij co tam stoi obok i idź spać.

//Waki, drink all what u have near and go to sleep...
  • 2 0
 WAKIdesigns- I don't think you can say things like that anymore!- if you ever hear yourself saying that 'Girls are this, men are that...' then you might as well be saying 'black people are this, chinese people are that'. I know women with bigger egos than some men- and I know plenty of women who don't listen. Just because you believe you're saying something positive doesn't mean you're not being prejudice.
  • 1 1
 gavlaa... that was my own observation, no prejudice involved. Now when you talk about prejudice and compare that to black vs shite, you enter a dangerous territory. So a lesson of political correction for you: You can throw the worst crap at a white, heterosexual, male catholic - you can call him worst names that would be found racist if used on for example a muslim or a woman. But white hetero christian male, especially from a western country? People will even find it amusing Smile
  • 2 0
 My point was that you are the one entering dangerous territory by making any generalisations based on gender- I honestly see that in much the same way as stereotyping anyone based on their sexuality, religion, age, skin colour etc. The only 'group' of people I have a problem with are idiots- and they come in all colours, shapes and sizes!!
  • 1 0
 buahaha gavlaa, you made my day - I was looking for the thing like your last sentence for last 3 years! That was something I tried to put together when I saw this Respect thing on Euro2012.Apart from that yea you are right to a big extent about my comment.
  • 1 0
 It was awesome to see women just knocking one skill out after another, while grinning ear to ear, and no egos getting in the way. Kat and team, it was a blast to help cheer these ladies on, and can't wait to utilize the awesome progressions of Duthie next time around!
  • 5 0
 This is an inspiration.
More women in mtb = more fun for everyone.
  • 1 0
 Frikin' rad. There are so many things about his article that got me stoked. Seeing women stepping it up is inspiring. Too often I hear of women being ruled by fear when it comes to biking; it is so refreshing to see women shaping their riding with skills, courage, and heart. Duthie looks badass--I will make a pilgrimage when I return home form my overseas stint in New Zealand. I have had the pleasure of meeting most of the coaches at some point in my travels and they are amazing women. Kat and Tammy, beside being fantastic riders, are a blast to be just in their general vinicity! Lorainne was able to communicate to me, in less than 10 minutes, the skills I needed to step my steep terrain riding up another level. I have seen Stephanie pull off the sweetest natural rock wall ride I have ever seen by a female or male. I get to be in Whislter during Krank Worx this year--a break from the NZ winter. If any of you ladies are reading this post, I have a dream of riding in a big train of wonder women down a trail like Freight Train or A-line. While I won't have as much style, I do have BIG BALLS (which have gotten me into trouble in the past). It would pretty much be the high-light of my 24 years of mountain biking.
  • 5 1
 Excellent article...and no girls standing is steaming pools of water wearing full make up. Pinkbike is movin' up!
  • 1 0
 I headed to Duthie before 8am last Sunday to hopefully score a good spot in the main parking lot. No way. All the way down the road and next to the park. Totally overflowing with people headed to this event, to spectate, and ride. Get to the clearing and the girls are getting warmed up and doing yoga in the sun surrounded by big bikes. Beautiful morning in the Seattle area and good people all around. It was a Sweet day.
  • 1 0
 Great to see more girls getting into riding. It's what mountain bike needs if it's going to keep progressing. I think women have a much greater sense of community when it comes to riding and it's generally a lot less about beating each other but more about personal progression, which is probably why these classes go down so well. It's always great to see mountain biking pulling people together and you don't get a much better example of that than this. Well done girls.
  • 1 0
 By far the best biking event I have attended in my 6+ years of riding. Kat put on an awesome event, really well organized and tons of fun. What an amazing group of ladies, all helping each other push their boundaries and improve their riding in a safe and fun environment. Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park was so fantastic, we need more of these all over Canada and the US. Huge props to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and King County. Can't wait to do it again next year!
  • 4 0
 Great article...more like this please.
  • 2 2
 This is an embarrassment to women's riding. Did you see in the results that the 1st place pro won with 'bold T&A grabs and booty grabs'? Are you kidding me? This is how you win a women's event? Can you imagine the top male riders doing the same thing for first place? Sure, chick's riding may be behind the men's, but this is ridiculous. What happened to the best riders, the names we actually know? No kidding this event was one of a kind, haha 'if she can grab her ass, i can grab mine!' Great role modeling for the riders they're coaching.
  • 1 0
 oh man such an amazing weekend... didnt know we were going until 2 pm friday afternoon, and am sure happy we made it :-) thanks everyone for supporting some ladies shredding the gnar!
  • 3 0
 These chics were hitting runs that I still don't dare to hit. Mad props to all of them!
  • 3 0
 i could watch women ride all day no problem. Guys are boring and can do it all but watching chicks progress is awesome
  • 1 0
 There's 60 women on the entire continent who are into aggressive mountain biking, so what do they do? They go hang out with each other at a women-only event, and leave us all behind at the MTB scene sausage festival.
  • 2 0
 Ditto on that GNARSTINA!!!!! post. Sweet I say. That's my girl!!! Awesome photos of an awesome course.
  • 2 0
 any video? i'd love to show it to my daughter. She's always amazed when women are doing these sort of things.
  • 1 0
 There will be very soon!
  • 1 0
 Did that video ever get posted? I don't think I ever saw anything.
  • 2 0
 Sorry I couldn't make it out to the this one Kat Congrats on pront page of pb tho!
  • 1 1
 Ladies, this is awesome! Keep it up, this is the way to promote the sport as a sport for everyone, not just a dude sport. It's gaining momentum and it's exciting to watch.
  • 2 0
 Looks "Sweet"!! Wish I could have made it! Next year...
  • 1 1
 I don’t think that kind of camaraderie happens all the time in dudes' dirt jump events.”
...retarded comment is retarded
awaits the negprops Wink
  • 1 0
 This is cool i wanna sign my wife up! I think she would really have fun riding with other women.
  • 3 2
 GNARSTINA CHAPPETTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 2 0
 Good for the girls.
  • 1 0
 Those hits look pretty large. Very well done ladies!
  • 1 0
 Still so stoked from this past weekend!!
  • 1 0
 Go girls from Tuf Rack!
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 MTB chicks are rad!
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