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.
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.