2018 was yet another big year for female mountain biking in Ireland. Proving fiercely competitive, we saw race wins and world championship medals won on the international stage, while at home very often victories were decided by split seconds.
In honour of such MTB greatness (and in no particular order), this is our humble salute to those who won big during 2018 and will be aiming for further glory in 2019…
Leah Maunsell – Irish Women Enduro Champion, 3rd Enduro World Series Women Under 21
At 19 years old, Leah Maunsell is already regarded as Ireland’s leading female enduro rider. At the Irish Championships in Djouce, the Kona rider was untouchable winning all six stages to take the title. That 94-second margin of victory is all the more impressive when you factor in that she was also dealing with a leg injury and four fractured ribs. Joining the Enduro World Series at round five, Leah was right on the pace too. Claiming three runner-up results at rounds five, seven and eight, she ended the series with a third place championship medal.
Michelle Muldoon – 2018 Gravity Enduro Ireland Series Champion, 1st EWS Austria Masters 35+
2018 was a year to savour for Michelle Muldoon. The Flow MTB rider took top honours in the Pro Women’s Gravity Enduro Ireland Series and finished runner-up in both the Irish Enduro and Downhill champs home. But claiming Masters 35+ victory in the Austrian round of the Enduro World Series was to become the clear highlight of her excellent season.
In some of the toughest conditions of the series, Muldoon showed true class as she went head-to-head with the world’s best during two big days in the mountains on the Austrian/Slovenian border. Despite trailing her nearest rival by 31 seconds at the end of day one, she smashed day two, winning stages four and five of six to secure the top step of the podium.
Meave Baxter – 2nd Gravity Enduro Ireland Series, 2nd First Tracks Enduro Cup, Ulster Enduro Champion
Meave Baxter is a name synonymous with Irish MTB having carved out a legendary status for herself over the years. And in 2018 she proved she’s just as fast and determined as ever by giving close rival Michelle Muldoon a serious run for her money. For the majority of the year the duo traded stage wins in both the Gravity Enduro and First Tracks Enduro Cup series. More often than not the top step of the podium was decided by split seconds. Claiming a total of five race wins (from both championships) and never slipping lower than second cemented a remarkable year for the Green Bikes supported rider.
However, her support of MTB goes a lot further than between the timing beams on race day. Along with being an avid trail builder, she was instrumental in running the inaugural Cuchulainn Summer Enduro series and is fondly known by many as Doctor Fox on race day at the Red Bull Fox Hunt.
Hannah Harvey – 2018 First Tracks Enduro Champion
Hannah Harvey quietly signed off 2018 as the newly crowned First Tracks Enduro Champion having consistently chipped away at delivering a solid season. Building pace as the year progressed, she beat Meave Baxter by five tenths of a second to win the fourth and final round at Tollymore and with it claim championship honours. There’s no doubt that she’ll be aiming for the top step of the podium again in 2019.
Sacha Bickerstaff – 2018 Irish Downhill Champion
Sacha Bickerstaff made a welcome return to racing for the 2018 Irish Downhill Championships at Bike Park Ireland in July. Despite out of competitive action for a while, she wasted no time in settling back into things. Claiming victory, she proved her raw speed is not in question.
Hannah Mullin – Remember That Name!
At just 13 years of age, Hannah Mullin is a young talent who will soon be challenging her peers in the very near future. During 2018 she won the Cycling Ireland Ulster Enduro Girls title at Rostrevor, topped the standings in her Irish National Points Series Cross-Country MTB series category and finished third at the mini-downhill support race at the UCI World Cup stop at Fortwilliam in Scotland. Joining Green Bikes on Specialized machinery, she’s quickly proving herself as a rider to watch for both at home and abroad.
Women’s Cycling – Get Involved!
Women’s cycling looks set to grow further for 2019. In the Gravity Enduro Ireland Series, First Tracks Enduro Cup and Grassroots there are female categories for those wishing to taste some competitive action, while Women’s Cycling Ireland host numerous ride out days and coaching sessions for those eager to build up their skills. Visit womenscycling.ie for more information.