Bex Baraona has had a pretty good season this year.
Finishing the Enduro World Series ranked 7th overall she was the highest ranked privateer in the pro women or mens categories. Being a privateer, she was without the support of a team covering the logistics and allowing her to focus on the racing. She had to manage all of that as well as other commitments, yet with all of that she attended each stage of the EWS this year.
I first became aware of Bex when I saw her in a Tom Caldwell video where she was absolutely hauling through some pretty slick and wet trails. Fast forward a year and she has launched herself at the Enduro World Series and made a pretty sizeable impression in her first year.
With the 2017 season already firmly in her mind she is raising funds to pay for the logistics of another full year of racing. To do this she is having a pretty special raffle (more on that later), so I fired across some questions for her on the past year and her thoughts on the current state of women in enduro.
Congratulations on your 2016 season, where there any particular stand out moments from the year?
EWS Round 5, in Valberg, was hands down the best race weekend for me. It was my best performance during the season with consistent 3rd-6th stage finishes, ending the race in 5th. Hell of a feeling when the current world champ, Cecile Ravanel, taps you on the shoulder and congratulates you for getting 3rd on the previous stage. Mint!
You raced at every stage this year, how important to the overall ranking is attending each race?
It is pretty important, not only for your overall result but also it helps you progress as a rider. My performance increased race on race and I’d say that was mainly down to learning at each round and feeling comfortable at the different venues.
Racing as a privateer is big commitment, how did you balance the demands of training and racing with your other commitments.
I was lucky in 2016 as I was a student, the training facilities are great, student finance is even better, but mainly it just allowed me to be flexible. However, I was in my final year so it was quite stressful to get my dissertation written and my exams passed. For me, university was more important at the time, as I had one shot to do it, so my training really suffered come exam period.
In the top 20 there are no privateer men but in the top 20 women there are 8, is it harder for women to get signed to factory teams?
I think the women are starting to get more recognised. I suppose it is all proportional, there are usually 300+ men and only 50+ women, so it makes sense that less are sponsored. That said, I think a lot of brands and teams are missing some amazing exposure and marketing by not sponsoring a female on a team. I really look forward to the day when I find a team as excited as me to promote the products, test and develop and ultimately win races and prove the equipment to be world class.
Are women at the pro level of enduro currently under supported by the factory teams?
I think there is a good number of supported women, however, I do think the EWS should require all affiliated teams to have at least 1 woman on the team- it would be great to see some guidelines and involvement from the top on the issue. In terms of salary and support, well that is given…you sell more bikes for the brand=you get paid more. I think the athlete has to find their strengths and roll with that. Are you a lifestyle athlete? A competitive athlete? Or a quirky/unique athlete? There is no problem with who you chose to be in the industry, I just know that I want to win races.
To fund her 2017 season Bex has calculated that she will need somewhere in the region of £20,000 to attend all the races and the support needed. By no means a small sum of money, people buy houses with deposits smaller than this.
Whilst sponsors are more than happy to support with products and in kind services, few are willing (or able) to put their hands in their pockets and provide cash funds. To raise the funds needed to attend the full season is one of the biggest challenges for any privateer. To raise her war chest Baraona is having a rather special raffle.
A fixed ticket raffle with only 200 tickets available at a cost of £50 each, now that sounds a lot for a raffle ticket until you see the prize list. 101 prizes ranging from tyres, carbon wheelsets and a Transition Patrol race ready bike. So with a slightly better than 50% chance of winning, there is more than enough incentive for those who don’t even enter a Euro millions rollover.
More importantly you will be supporting and helping one of the UK’s most talented young enduro riders. Hopefully she will sellout her raffle and fully fund her EWS campaign, and hopefully, win the podiums and factory support she deserves.