Proving Grounds to host first-ever women's freeride contest

tA rider flys high at the Proving Grounds contest in 2019
A rider flys high at the Proving Grounds contest in 2019 (Image credit: Proving Grounds)

The Proving Grounds freeride mountain biking contest is set to take place near Bend, Oregon next weekend, and it will the first competitive event to host a full field of women freeriders. 

The competition first ran in 2019, and Casey Brown was the sole woman to compete alongside the men. But this year, there will be a field of eight women including riders like Hannah Bergemann and Gracey Hemstreet, in addition to Brown. 

That means that Proving Grounds is the first-ever women's freeride event. 

There have been other freeride events for women such as Red Bull Formation, which has been heralded as a women's version of Red Bull Rampage. However, Formation uses a non-competitive 'progression session' format. Proving Grounds is a competitive event with judged runs, a podium, and a $21,000 prize purse that's split equally between women and men. 

"I'm so stoked it's a full category, Brown said in a video promoting the event. "That's exactly what I was hoping for. We need to build this side of the sport. How do we do that? You just need to put yourself out there and take some risks, and hopefully, it pays off. In this case, it totally has." 

"There are so many young girls coming up," Brown said. If we give them the tools that they need it will grow the sport so much on that side. That's what we are trying to do, just hype it up." 

The event combines elements of both big mountain riding and slopestlye to create a course of huge man-made jumps and drops designed for full-suspension downhill bikes rather than hardtail dirt jumpers. There are multiple lines so riders can choose whichever features best match their riding style. 

The course is located at the Oregon Dirt Park, about 35 miles outside of Bend, one of the premier mountain bike destinations in the Northwest United States. 

The weekend will kick off with a jump jam and best trick contest on Friday followed by the main event on Saturday that will use a two-run format. Spectator tickets are available on the event's website. 

Proving Grounds Women's Rider List 

  • Casey Brown
  • Hannah Bergemann
  • Sam Soriano
  • Cami Nogueira
  • Harriet Burbidge-Smith
  • Ming Goetz
  • Gracey Hemstreet
  • Brooke Anderson
Ryan Simonovich

Ryan Simonovich has been riding and racing for nearly a decade. He got his start as a cross-country mountain bike racer in California, where he cultivated his love for riding all types of bikes. Ryan eventually gravitated toward enduro and downhill racing but has also been found in the occasional road and cyclo-cross events. Today, he regularly rides the trails of Durango, Colorado, and is aiming to make a career out of chronicling the sport of cycling. 

Rides: Santa Cruz Hightower, Specialized Tarmac SL4