Inverness mountain biker Aimi Kenyon is headed for France and the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
The annual event takes place in Lourdes on 26 March.
The Culloden Academy pupil already holds both the Scottish and British junior women’s titles for downhill.
Talking to the P&J as she arrives in France, Aimi says she’s ready for the challenge.
“I’ve never done the World Cup before as this is the first year I’ve been old enough,” she says. “I know it will be really difficult but I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Living in the moment
Aimi inherited her love of cycling from her dad, and won her first competition at the age of nine. She started out with cross-country mountain biking but then discovered downhill racing.
Downhill is a race against the clock, with competitors vying for the best time down a challenging circuit full of jumps and obstacles. Female competitors can reach a top speed of up to 70km/h.
Not that that’s a problem for Aimi.
“I love the adrenaline,” she says. “I feel like everything else in life just goes out the window – you’re in the moment.”
The competition season runs from March to September, and Aimi has a packed itinerary throughout. She calls the P&J from France, where she’s testing out different products ahead of the race.
She plans to compete in the French national race at the weekend, before the World Cup at the end of the month.
The rest of the summer involves various national competitions, as well as World Cup races in Fort William (May) and Leogang, Austria (June).
Go for it
It sounds like a hectic life, especially for a teenager with exams on the horizon.
“It’s worth it,” Aimi says firmly.
Now in S5 at Culloden Academy, Inverness, Aimi is studying for Highers in maths, English, PE, chemistry and human biology. Her exams start next month, and in between studying she’s fitting in gym sessions and biking at the weekends.
“It’s really hard, because I know school work has to go above everything else, but biking’s what I love to do,” she says.
“The school have been really supportive,” she adds. “They put work up online for me when I’m away.”
Like everything else in life, the mountain bike circuit ground to a halt during Covid. Aimi desperately missed her sport during lockdown, but her athletic life has taught her to be resilient.
“You have to learn to get back up,” she says. “You try to overcome the obstacles and carry on.”
And that’s the advice Aimi would offer to other young people thinking of taking up competitive sports.
“You have to stick at it,” she says. It’s easy when trying something new to just give up if it doesn’t go to plan right away.
“My advice is just to go for it.”