Clitheroe’s Rachael Walker is out to take on the world as she flies out to South Africa at the weekend for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 1.
The former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School pupil works and races for the bicycle component manufacturer Hope, based in Barnoldswick, and hopes to qualify for the final of the first World Cup of the season on April 13th in Pietermaritzburg, near Durban.
Rachael flies out on Sunday to begin her preparations.
She competed at the World Cup in Canada last year, finishing 18th after qualifying in 15th, and is aiming to finish in the top 20 to reach the final, which would be a big achievement against full-time riders.
Rachael studied at Durham University and was in London as a corporate lawyer with Addleshaw Goddard LLP, before returning home to follow her dream.
She said: “I liked the job but had a moment when I realised I had a few years to pursue my interests, and wouldn’t have a chance again.
“I was told by people I was riding with that I should have a go at downhill.
“I did a few races and I was hooked! I still do legal work at Hope, managing teams and marketing, but I get to ride more now.
“I’m not a full-time professional, so I’m up against elite girls in South Africa, so to qualify for the final would be amazing.”
Daredevil Rachael admits the sport is a big thrill: “It’s like downhill skiing - you’re up against the clock.
“But training for it is difficult - the nearest tracks are in Newcastle, Scotland and Wales.”
The World Cup series continues to come thick and fast, with Rachael set for the second stage in Cairns, Australia between April 24-27th, before the event moves to Fort William, Scotland on June 7-8th.
Leogang, Austria is the next venue the following week, and from July 31st to August 3rd, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada is the host of stage five.
Stage six is between August 7-10th at Windham, USA, before coming to an end between August 21st-24th at Méribel, France.
She was on the podium last weekend ahead of her trip toSouth Africa.
Rachael, 29, was competing in Scotland in round one of the Scottish Downhill Association at Innerleithen, where she finished in second place.
While Rachael competes around the globe, back home it is a big year for Hope - the second-most successful British manufacturing company in the cycling world - as they celebrate their 25th anniversary, and hope to win planning permission for a 200m Velodrome at the site in Barnoldswick, a shorter track for sprinters to match ones in Manchester, London, Glasgow and Newport.
There is also a Tour de Lancashire planned in the area to coincide with the Tour de France, which begins in Yorkshire and will skim parts of East Lancashire.