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Interview: Jess Blewitt on Hitting the Big Sends at Red Bull Hardline 2022

Sep 12, 2022
by Nick Bentley  

We managed to get a quick chat with Jess Blewitt, the first-ever female rider at Redbull Hardline. Now we did have to drag Jess away from signing autographs and she was clearly in a bit of pain from a nasty fresh injury so it was a short catch-up but for sure the first of many for this extremely talented rider.

First of all Jess, we can't ignore your injury. What is it you've actually done?

I already had a plate in this collarbone from my crash at Snowshoe last year and just broke part of the bone off of that again.

Where on the track did it happen?

So they call it the Renegade, it's the metal ramp into the step up.

When was that?

So that was on Friday.

Other than your injury, how's your week been?

It's been really good actually. I really enjoyed it, even though that's probably one of the gnarliest things I've ridden. Just like slowly ticking things off and I actually had a really good time. All the boys were super supportive and everyone just helped out where they could.

So did you enjoy the big features of Hardline compared to a downhill track?

I mean, I love my downhill. I love my big jumps, drops, you name it. So combining the two together, it's just my kind of track. It's what I enjoy doing.

What have you found the hardest feature?

I don't really know, because everyone kind of said like, lots of different things were harder than the other, and then I'd hit it, and I was like, 'oh, that's fine'. Then someone else would say this one's hard, and then it's fine. But I almost want to say just the tech stuff. So further up when you first stepped into the trees there is that tech section and then you go off that rock drop. I would say that tech section to that rock drop is probably the gnarliest, it's just so slippery.

What feature have you enjoyed the most?

Probably the drop after that Renegade.

Image Credit Red Bull Content pool.
Image Credit Red Bull Content pool.

How did it feel being named rider the week?

That was pretty cool. I was pretty stoked on that. I didn't actually expect that one but yeah, obviously big ups to the boys for voting for me on that one.

It's been a really good year for you: loads of podiums, top 10 finish in the overall at the World Cup despite a crash and a DNF at Fort Bill. How are you feeling heading into next year? Are you excited for what's to come?

Yeah, I'm super excited actually. I mean, I worked pretty hard in the offseason last year, obviously after my accident and then came back just expecting some like top 10s, nothing too big like podiums, and then ended up podiuming. So I'm kind of keen to just, well, obviously get the shoulder sorted first and then rehab and then just get straight into it again, and come back firing next season.

Do you think you'd be riding more Hardline and Formation next year as well?

Yes, I decided this year to go to Red Bull performance camp rather than Formation but I would like to go back to Formation depending on timing but probably will link up this year, we'll see. I just enjoy all of that, just Formation, Hardline and downhill racing.

What we noticed at the World Cup is, as with women riding in general, it's a massively growing area for mountain biking. How does it feel to be part of that and see it happen?

It's a pretty cool feeling. I mean, obviously, a lot of us girls now we're trying to push for the younger generation so that when they all get to our age, there's something for them to go to. If we started now, we can get the process going because it's not always like an instant thing. So yeah, it's just cool to see heaps more chicks kind of stepping into it. Whether it be freeride, downhill, enduro, there's just this way bigger field of like women.

What do you think could be done more to increase female participation?

I think it kind of depends. So like some events, it's always hard to get into because a lot of people want to know how someone rides before they invite them or it's always that risk kind of thing. But there's risk in everything, but yeah, I think that's kind of where it starts. Then obviously, how many people they can have so there's always that problem of like more men, not enough woman. So, they then have to start reducing the number of men and add more women to level it and it just depends on what I guess the event wants to do. But I think we'll see that happen as it becomes a level field.

Do you think we'll see more women at Hardline in future?

Yeah. There were already a couple of girls that, as soon as they heard that I was keen, were kind of speaking to me like 'yeah, it was also keen on that'. Like, we were kind of questioning you know, 50:50 on it, but I think now we will.

What's next for you?

Rehab. Yeah, I was going to do Crankworx but won't be doing that one. So yeah, will just be rehab and then back into our National series that starts next year.

Are excited to get back home, it's been a long European trip?

Yeah and nah. I mean, I do enjoy being over here now, New Zealand's quite far away, but yeah, obviously still love New Zealand. It's a good place.

Any thank yous you want to put out?

I would say a big thank you to GT, the whole crew that supported me this year and going forward. All the brands supporting me, Red Bull helped me get into this, the Athertons too. And thanks to Mum and Dad.

Author Info:
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Member since Nov 28, 2019
302 articles

  • 163 2
 Props for a top rider, so stoked on the ladies starting to be included in the big shows. Hope next year she’s has company.
  • 23 1
 I was hoping Seagrave (ie Tahnée, not Kaos!) would join (obviously once she's healthy again). She rides for RedBull and also did Formation in previous years.
  • 11 81
flag swellhunter (Sep 12, 2022 at 7:06) (Below Threshold)
 @korev: I'm more interested in seeing what Robin Goomes or Cami Nogueira can put down than Tahnee, etc.. Not saying the WC riders cannot perform there at all - just saying that IMO women like Hannah, Casey, Cami, and Robin etc.. are more dialed to that type of stuff.

I think Dan needs to sit down with Red Bull for 2023 and make a course with ride arounds on the biggest features (but built in a way so each is a time penalty) so the women can, with realistic expectations, put down full runs. I'd say the new stuff needs ride arounds but Jess was pretty much showing that the progression would be that they could clear the rest (the last big gap is a hard pull for them but it's been shown that already can be ridden around). There's no doubt to me that the top tier Formation riders would clean everything except the on/off and two massive gaps. I think Jess would have cleaned the Road Gap and bottom jumps by the end of the week - had she stayed healthy and clicked off those it would have been even more of a game changer in terms of women that really want to go next year but I think most know they can do them.
  • 52 3
 @swellhunter: I don’t think any of the women you mentioned would be happy to take park in Hardline by riding round the features. I also don’t think anyone would enjoy watching that. That’s a really bad idea.
  • 28 1
 @swellhunter: ‘hardline’ not ‘multipleline’ let’s keep it that way
  • 83 3
 She is a effing beast. Gonna show her insta to my 2 yo daughter instead of reading bed time stories
  • 10 0
 YES! Now! We! Are! Talking!
  • 11 0
 Watched with my daughter too. Eyes wide
  • 5 68
flag Extra300L (Sep 12, 2022 at 9:48) (Below Threshold)
 I am genuinely curious as to why someone would impart the mindset of this type of risk taking upon your own flesh and blood? Just a question. Everyone knows a serious injury is a matter of when not if. Why would you actually guide your kids into that kind of physical risk taking?
  • 116 0
 @Extra300L: i hate my kids
  • 52 0
 @Extra300L: no but, seriously, it’s not like I want her to go for 50 ft jumps at 5 (or 20 for that matter). Just want to show her that there atr girls doing this and also doing ballet or whatever they want to do
  • 14 0
 @amonta: yup this. its a nuanced discussion threading the line between 'look how awesome this girl is' and 'I don't necessarily want or need you to do this for my approval'. At some point they make the decision for themselves. And realistically there are years and many many many miles (and crashes) between a 2yo and this level of riding.

However bedtime stories > insta.
  • 11 0
 There's a big debate at the moment about kids and risk, and an argument that we are making things too safe meaning that they grow up unable to assess risk properly. I think it might be Germany where they are making play parks more risky so kids grow up with better risk orientated decision making?

Kids learn and they learn quick. If @amonta has a kid who decides they want to try jumping a bike, after being introduced to the fact that it's something that other people do, that's all good. They can start small and work up like everyone else. He's hardly throwing them off a cliff... (yet...)
  • 1 65
flag rubberbutter (Sep 12, 2022 at 12:33) (Below Threshold)
 Also, be sure to show her your post: “I hate my kids”. Impressionable as a kids are, she’ll grow up hitting big jumps and hating her father.

Never heard my parents, or anyone’s parents for that matter, make that “joke”.
  • 10 1
 Rubthebut, kids don’t understand irony or sarcasm. Your parents should let look at the PB comment section alone
  • 25 0
 My 5 year old daughter and me have been getting up early to watch the recent race live feeds.
Then this Saturday, after BK finished his hardline run, she asked me: "Can we watch the women's runs now?". There was some sadness and disappointment as I told her that at Hardline there is no female competition.

This needs to change, and I have a feeling that next year, there's going to be several women following Jess' lead.
  • 41 6
 She'll be on Atherton bikes soon I reckon.
  • 67 0
 Enjoying those Continental tires
  • 6 0
 @shortcuttomoncton: which are hooking up so well!
  • 17 0
 If Jackson can shred that hard with his smaller size I don’t see why any female with enough grit,fitness and skill can’t do the same.
This game is mostly mental.
Smash it Jess! Shred hard!
  • 5 0
 I'm pretty sure I could lick Danny Hart lol...yet lose to him by an hour on a wet downhill track.
  • 19 0
 Legend in the making
  • 15 0
 Massive props to her, it will be exciting to see what she can do on the world cup circuit in the coming years
  • 10 0
 It was awesome to see her hit all of that stuff, and super cool to think there are little girls in love with this sport watching someone like them show up in huge ways. Was super bummed she didn't get to ride more. In another note, PinkBike made another post about how one of the other riders crashed and broke their collarbone. Not many people saying similar topics about that rider as they are on Blewitt. This is a dangerous sport, and events like this and Rampage are a mixed bag for us. We love watching the big hits, but we also hold our breath just wanting the riders to survive.
  • 11 0
 It's been great to watch Jess going so big, heal up strong and come back even better
  • 7 0
 She easily stomped every jump ive seen footage of. She didnt get to race, but she already proved she's capable. Jess is going to be fun to watch over the next few years!
  • 4 0
 To her be keen to get an invite to Hardline is awesome in itself. To do the features she did before her crash is bloody awesome.
  • 5 0
 Fair play. That first insta vid is quality...Really shows the size of the hits.
  • 7 0
 Huge respect.....
  • 2 0
 Real curious who else is considering Hardline next year. Robin Goomes? Tahnee Seagrave? Casey Brown? Considering I didn't really know who Jess was until this year I'm sure there are some other capable women off my radar. I'm still curious whether Jess was the first woman to get an invite, or the first to accept it. Either way, hopefully we get a couple women next year!
  • 4 0
 Robin would be my pick. So good watching all the new riders come through and smash it. Might be a bit biased as a fellow kiwi though :-)
  • 1 0
 @rcwellie: @Robin_Riding_Hood rules! I would also not be surprised to see Vali step up in a couple of years -she does have a crazy streak
  • 7 2
 "for those about to die, we salute you"
  • 3 0
 I love Brooke and George, but of all the Kiwis who crashed out of Hardline last week Jess made me the proudest! Leading the way.
  • 3 0
 Awesome stuff. Those camera angles were killer and showed a good angle of how big the stuff was, scary shit .
  • 3 0
 You couldn't pay me enough to even try! Thank God there are badass who do try
  • 4 0
 A massive 'hats off' to her. Super impressed with her attitude......
  • 5 1
 Jesus those hits are savage. Looking smooth Jess, next year!
  • 5 0
 What a sender
  • 3 0
 I send Nothing by comparison. Total respect for JB and all the up and coming women.
  • 14 15
 what ive been asking myself all of hardline week: jess ticked off one huge obstacle after the other…no offense but come race day is it really realistic for her to hit the 90fters? or did she plan to do all the other gnarly stuff and go around these for a full race run?

and what happened at the ramp?
  • 8 19
flag Ellswjoker1 (Sep 12, 2022 at 6:27) (Below Threshold)
 There were men who didn’t hit the 90s in their race runs for various reasons. Based on what you are insinuating, should they have been asked to leave?
  • 6 3
 @Ellswjoker1: How did you interpret that was his insinuation?
  • 9 1
 @Ellswjoker1: ehh, nope i was just curious what would have been her plan for raceday if not injured. I would be superstoked and mad respect for jess if she finished a full race run but rolled around those 90fters…
  • 9 22
flag shortcuttomoncton (Sep 12, 2022 at 8:00) (Below Threshold)
 I know this is probably very unrealistic from a dig perspective, but it would be great on the women’s side if they had slightly lower-consequence go-around options for some of these massive features, but they just take longer and add time. So in theory you could still take a B-jump-line into the woods and skip around the 90-footers. Of course for Men’s you pretty much guaranteed not to win if you don’t directly hit all the gnarly pieces, but that might allow more women to participate in the first place. Maybe one day….
  • 19 4
 @shortcuttomoncton: dumb down the course so women can ride it? How about ask the women of they want to ride an easier course.
Imo if you can't ride the same course you shouldn't be there.
  • 5 5
 @d-man: yup
  • 3 14
flag singletrackjamaica FL (Sep 12, 2022 at 9:36) (Below Threshold)
 @d-man: I don't think the course should be dumbed down but chicken runs/alternate lines would be a good thing. You aren't going to win if you don't hit everything but for any rider a pedal slip or sketchy landing can make the next big jump impossible. If they can skip a feature and still keep moving to build up speed for the next section then the racing would be entertaining. The riders with mistakes would still be competing against each other. They wouldn't need for the road gap because it's easy to start from the wooden bit and build speed. But if you f up the on /off or the first 90 footer it's hard to keep going. It would allow the women to race and progress as the ones willing to hit everything would win but others can still place.
  • 2 0
 @singletrackjamaica: I think they should have a chicken line just so injured riders can get down. You just can't ride it to be in contention for the win.
  • 19 5
 @singletrackjamaica: this is not a development race, it's a red bull extreme event for pros. Win or go home until next year, no participation ribbons.
  • 4 6
 @Ososmash: if you're injured take a ride down in with first aid .
  • 4 12
flag singletrackjamaica FL (Sep 12, 2022 at 10:36) (Below Threshold)
 @d-man: yeah true. Maybe they need a separate event for women, just like the have Rampage vs Formation. And they need to invite riders who are going to hit the features and not waste limited spots are people who aren't likely to.
  • 21 3
 I don't give a single fuck if she doesn't hit all the jumps and drops. Hardline is super gnarly and i have the utmost respect for anyone that sends or chooses not to send any of those features, but specially for Jess.
  • 4 0
 @Ososmash: Yeah, Bernard Kerr rolled around the 90 footers after eating it pretty hard at the top of his run so it looks like they had ride arounds for the big stuff
  • 4 4
 @Ososmash: why would you sponsor a chicken line race? Why not just invite better, braver riders? Where’s the incentive to improve otherwise?
  • 1 0
 @DBRG: I just said "you can't ride it to be in contention to win." i.e. the line shouldn't be there for riders who are racing. It's there for the sprained wrist or whatever to get to a pickup point.
  • 10 0
 Didn't both Casey and Robin hit the 90 footer at Dark Fest? Doesn't seem unreasonable that a female rider could hit all the Hardline jumps.
  • 4 0
 Every athlete must assess the risk on their own, women can assess it as well as men. No one forces anybody. And I seriously doubt it is too much for a women and even so, they will decide for themselves. No one forces anybody here. Women will care for themselves much better then you can, so why bother? Women mtb will develop and we will see more and more women riding on the highest level. Besides, why would you watch someone riding chicken lines in tv? Sport is really entertainment business, want to earn, give emotions and make a good performance.
  • 6 1
 @Ososmash: you’re insinuating women can’t do it. Which is false. Only men that are capable of completing the course are invited and it will be the same for women. There are a few women currently at that level and there will be many more soon.
  • 1 1
 @DBRG: What if you are are on a race run and are rolling down on a flat? Just send a 90' cuz go-arounds are for chickens? dafauq man
  • 1 0
 @singletrackjamaica: And a 3rd event for You? LOL
  • 1 0
 @stubs179: I am not insinuating anything. Obviously that didn't come off. I literally meant what I said. There should be a chicken line (that disqualifies you from the race) for riders that crash out, but still need to get down to a pick up point.
  • 2 1
 @suspended-flesh: if you flat you're done, Pull over and watch.
  • 4 4
 Such an opportunity...but She Blewitt


serious note though, just rolling out the start hut and making it over the first big hit is an achievement in itself

Bring on next year!
  • 2 0
  • 2 0
 Hitting the big sends
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