Red Bull Hardline is NUTS! After ten years of taking place solely in Wales the organizers decided to mix things up a little with another round at a new location... in a different hemisphere. Whilst Northern Europe was still half asleep under grey skies, Maydena in Tasmania was having a party. Sun (on the whole) and pleasant daytime temperatures meant that it was the perfect climate for the lunatics to take over... and to take-off. 
It wasn’t just the location that made it different, Hardline Tasmania will go down as possibly the day the revolution started. Yeah Ronan Dunne won it (and props to him) but the event was about something much bigger than the fastest times. Something happened at this race, something special. 
When a select group of the best women mountain bike riders and racers on the planet started to take on the terrifying features that littered the course history was being made. Even from thousands of miles away you could feel that something was happening. There was a shift. You see, there has never been a women’s race at any previous Hardline event. 
With six women on the start sheet it was only Gracey Hemstreet and our own INTENSE Factory Racing team rider Lou Ferguson that took to the start gate on race day. Racers had to complete/clear every feature on the course in order for them to qualify to race, and with rain and wind on Friday it meant that not all of the women could tick-off all of the features in time. 
Lou’s race run is at 25 minutes and 15 seconds.
Whilst Gracey deservedly took the win and the title it could be argued that it was Lou that stole the show, and the hearts of everyone who was watching. Two big crashes, which by her own admission took place in relativity easy parts of the course, ruined any chance of her taking the win. But her guts, her do-or-die attitude and her sheer determination to carry on and complete the course have won her many new fans all over the world, especially after she launched and landed the final 25m (75’) double. 
As I scrolled through the comments on social media after the event I kept coming across words like warrior, legend, phenomenal, resilience, dedication, respect, etc. The softly spoken and super chilled-out Fort William transplant, who now resides in New Zealand, seemed to take it all in her stride. Louise Ferguson is ICE COLD! 
Lou is now back at home in New Zealand so we grabbed a few words with her to see what she was thinking now that the dust has settled. 
Lou, that must have been a pretty special time for you out in Tasmania. How do you reflect on it all? 
It’s been great thinking about all the special moments from last week. It makes me speechless. One of the things that stands out is just how many overwhelmingly positive reactions having women at Hardline has created. So many women and men have reached out to Gracey, myself and the other women through social media. I swear it felt like we had the biggest cheer at the finish line and all the men competing were happy to help and support us throughout the week. They were just as stoked as we were to complete the track. 
Even though most of us only witnessed the events via our phones or on TV there seemed to be such a positive vibe coming out of the event, especially between the women, you could feel it. 
I am really proud to be one of the first women to put down a full run at Hardline, but I am also proud just to be part of our group. Tahnee (Seagrave) did so well to pick such a fun, determined and supportive group. We helped push each other all week to complete features, in a really positive environment. That’s something that I struggle to find racing World Cups as much. The group we had are all strong women and I wouldn’t have got there without all of them. I know they all have what it takes and hopefully more women see it as an option to ride Hardline. 
You seemed very calm and relaxed about the whole thing, but the fear level must have been massive. That track is like no DH track we have really seen before. 
When we arrived in Maydena and thought about riding/racing the whole track, it made me feel anxious because it was completely overwhelming. The amount of features, how scary they were/are, unknown weather, the pressure of being the first to do it and ultimately not knowing if I was able to do it. I told my mechanic KC this and he said “focus on one thing at a time, if you ‘re feeling it keep going, if not, just leave it”. That’s the approach I took all week and so did the other women. We just took it one feature at a time, and also took turns doing first hits on what we felt more comfortable with. In the end, it came down to my last practice run and the last feature on track that decided whether I would get to race. Super high pressure situation haha. By that point though, I saw the whole picture and wanted that more than I was scared. There’s no feeling like overcoming a fear and showing yourself you had it all along. 
I am sure it was frustrating for you crashing on the ‘link up’ sections rather than the main features? 
Yep and I’m a little embarrassed, but it doesn’t come close to the feeling of crossing that finish line. I didn’t believe it could happen most of the week. It felt special, and weirdly I’ve had so much positive feedback from persevering with my run. It did cross my mind to stop, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up. 
We have to ask you about your bike. You haven’t been on the M1 very long at all. Not only a new frame for you but also a lot of new components.
It’s been a huge change for me and honestly I can’t compare it to anything I’ve ridden before. I felt at home on it pretty quickly and riding it at Hardline has given me so much confidence. A couple big crashes and it is absolutely fine. Jeff (Steber) gave me an INTENSE sticker that’s on the top tube and I looked at it before my run and felt mega proud to represent such a forward thinking and female supportive brand, who had sponsored riders like Vanessa Quin, Leigh Donovan and Jenn (Gabrielli/Steber) too. 
We know that you didn’t win the race but from the outside looking in (and we might be a bit biased) you seemed to ‘own’ the event in the women’s category. There was so much love and joy for you when you cleared the final double and completed the course. 
Yeah, I feel like all the women crushed it, but I’ve definitely felt the love! It is important to me that everyone can see what women are capable of. I think my embarrassment comes from feeling like l’ve shown women in a bad way, but it seems like everyone has picked up on the opposite. Gracey showed we could do it and I showed we can handle a bit of adversity. All the women who were invited are able to do a full run of that track, I know it. So it’s pretty exciting thinking about going there again, but knowing that we’ll have a full women’s field. 
So what’s next for you, what do the next few months look like? 
I just got back to Queenstown and I’m getting stuck into some training. I’ll be racing Crankworx Rotorua next month and then off to race World Cups in April! 


Hardline isn’t really like any other race, think downhill World Cup on steroids. The big drops and massive gaps need a very specific bike set up. Lou had only been riding the M1 for around six weeks up until this point, so she was still only really getting used to it. With a few tweaks and adjustments to the suspension (rebound 2 clicks from closed/LSC 6 clicks from closed/HSC position 2 on the rear, and 120psi/240psi ramp chamber/rebound 8 clicks from closed/LSC 4 clicks from closed/HSC position 2 on the fork) and a bit more air in her tires she was good to go. 
"I had an amazing week. It was the first proper race for Lou and I and it couldn't have gone smoother. Getting the bike set up for the demanding track was a very rewarding challenge. The bike held up really well despite all the heavy abuse it was taking on course. I'm very proud of how we did as a team and for Lou to complete a full run in finals was icing on the cake!" KC Till (above), Lou’s Mechanic 
Frame INTENSE M1, size Medium, Progressive shock setting 
Shock Öhlins TTX Coil, 480lb spring
Fork Öhlins DH38, 120psi/240psi ramp chamber
Bars OneUp Carbon E-bar, 760mm wide, 35mm rise
Stem OneUp Direct Mount, 45mm 
Grips ODI Elite Flow
Headset Works Components ZS56/56 +6mm reach
Shifter TRP Evo 7 Speed DH
Brakes TRP DH Evo, 220mm rotors 
Seat Smani Prototype DH 
Seatpost Pro Tharsis 9.8 Alloy 
Crankset e*thirteen LG1R, 165mm length
Chainring e*thirteen, 34t 
Chainguide e*thirteen LG1r lower guide
Cassette SRAM X01 7 Speed
Chain KMC
Pedals HT X3
Wheelset e*thirteen Grappler Race Carbon DH wheels 
Tires Continental Kryptotal DH, 23psi Front/26psi Rear 

More info on our M1 Downhill bike.