Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day with some female fire power from the Atlas Mountain Race!

I R I S is born out of a desire to create something discerning, bold and of the best quality for women. And although it’s still a solo project, I’m constantly surrounded by women who inspire, support and empower me. In the past month, I have been closely following the few women taking part in the Atlas Mountain Race. So I would like to share some quotes of them, in the light of International Women’s Day, and hopefully they’ll inspire you as well!

Andrea Seiermann: “The Atlas Mountain Race was an incredible experience and racing with some very inspiring women was one of my favorite parts of it. There was a strong sense of camaraderie between the few women in the race. It was always a highlight to run into them on the race course and we cheered each others’ dots all the way to the finish line. I hope all the other strong women out there will join the next edition of the race.”
Quinda Verheul: “The desire to do these races and becoming part of this community, sometimes I wonder if it has to do with proving to be as strong as the others; the will to prove myself as a woman that can race and ride among strong male cyclists. Do I want to prove that I am different? Do I want to step out of the social expectations, or is it just general interest in ultra cycling. I hope it’s just the cycling.”
Kristen McCune: “I think one thing that’s really sticking with me was the support and encouragement from other racers. Armanda and I came into this race having NO idea what we were getting ourselves into, with bikes loaded down with way too much gear and little understanding of how we would fare in such an event. Fellow racers were so kind and supportive, and seemed to really take the time to share their own knowledge and experience. The community feeling of the race made it OK that we were so new or that we scratched – everyone was so welcoming!”

All these pictures are taken by the Lian van Leeuwen. Knowing her from the Rotterdam cycling scene, I can tell you that she isn’t just an incredible photographer but also a pretty badass cyclist herself, always in for a good challenge on two wheels!

Lian: “Being a woman behind the lens at the Atlas Mountain Race made me definitely feel connected to the women racing this challenging event. Even for the mediateam the experience was intense: long days in a 4×4 chasing riders over rough terrain, 2-5h nights, a diet of stale biscuits and being mentally ‘on’ 24/7. But we didn’t cope with cramped muscles, tired bodies (OK maybe a little), heat exhaustion and uncomfortable nights on rocky grounds.

What I love about endurance racing is that it’s the ultimate equalizer. Yes, power will help you get there sooner, and these women are all strong athletes. But competing in multi-day endurance events is most of all a mental game. Can you pick yourself up and dust yourself off in bad times? Can you keep on smiling? Make no mistake: men can do that too. And I captured a lot of their smiles during the race as well. But seeing the women I encountered along the way made me very proud to be one. Because it’s still not an equal playing field to some parts of the outside world. And only by getting out there, we can change that. You are all a big inspiration, ladies. Keep on being that. “

Thanks to Lian for these pictures, and the ladies above for sharing their thoughts.

Here’s to all of you who dare to choose your own route.

Thanks, Iris