Micayla Gatto and Michelle Parker are standing high on a ridgeline in the Utah desert. They are talking about fear. Parker, 32, a backcountry skier, and Gatto, 31, a pro mountain biker, have spent many hours just like this, contemplating high-risk, big mountain lines. Gatto, one of a select group of women mountain bikers invited to the inaugural Formation event, sponsored by Red Bull, is preparing to drop in.
Once she does, Gatto will shimmy through a narrow section of jagged, staircased rocks, speed down an exposed chute, where the terrain falls away to wide-open air on either side, and hit two massive jumps. As she rides into the jumps, Gatto won’t be able to see her landing. She will simply have to trust her skill to see her though safely. Jumps stomped, Gatto will rocket down a high-speed exit. With the help of her dig crew, Gatto has spent the past four days building and testing her line. Now, it’s time to go for it.
The brainchild of freeride veteran Katie Holden, the inaugural Formation took place last week, October 8 through 13, in Virgin, Utah. The week-long camp offered six of the world’s most daring female mountain bikers a chance to ride the intense desert terrain made famous by Red Bull Rampage—in the fifteen-year tenure of the invite-only, extreme freeriding competition, only men have qualified. Other influential female athletes such as Parker, endurance mountain bike racer Rebecca Rusch, and Olympic medalist and U.S. downhill national champ Jill Kintner, also came to dig and support.
Holden, 34, envisions Formation evolving into an event that offers women a similar challenge to Rampage, but has its own distinctive character. “We don’t need to copy Rampage in a cookie cutter way,” she said. “It’s about taking the best of what the men have done and putting our own twist on it. We have to make our own path.”