Freia Challis | The Era of The Slayer


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Photos by Fifteen BMXNavada Photography | Charles RobertsonAbi Taylor

Freia Challis | The Era of The Slayer


Follow Freia on Instagram

Follow Julian Allen on Instagram 

Photos by Fifteen BMXNavada Photography | Charles RobertsonAbi Taylor

If we had to pick one, just one, out of all the extremely talented and blisteringly quick ‘Challenge’ racers out there, to set the world on fire in the years to come … one stands out in our eyes! One that just seems destined to dominate at the highest level … we’re looking at Great Britain’s Freia Challis, aka, ‘Freia the Slayer’. Easy! The three-time Challenge World Champion is already recording lap times that should make all Elite Women sit up and take notice. We’re not naïve enough to think lap times can translate between classes when the first pedal cut off exists, but Freia’s lap times on the international stage are intriguing!  When she won the last UEC European Cup round at BMX Sarrians, her lap time would not only put her in first place in Jr. Women, but U23 Women too. And Elite? Well, her time would have put her on the box … in second. In Sarrians that weekend, everyone raced off the 5m hill because of the wind … intriguing huh? Freia is still only 16 … too young to race Championship classes, but she’s taking notes, ‘I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look,’ she told us, ‘times allow you to see where you are with respect to the track, but each race scenario is very different, I still have a lot to work on both on the track developing riding skills and my strength in the gym, which will come with time as I get older. I always just want to keep enjoying all the training I do and keep developing and push myself.’

Freia Challis - Nantes 2022 - Charles Robertson

Freia first got on a bike way back in 2013, and was hooked straight away, ‘It was my older brother, Hayden, that first started going to Braintree BMX club for coaching and then started racing. I was just 5 years old then and went along to the track with my family, taking my little purple bike with me. One day I went around the track on it. Jools saw me riding and said to mum and dad that I should have a go.’ Julian Allen, or Jools, who is still her club coach at Braintree BMX, could see the potential from the beginning, ‘By the end of the first year there was something obvious about her competitiveness. She just wanted to go fast and be like the big kids’, he told us.

It wasn’t long before Freia’s aspirations moved beyond regional racing, and in 2014 she got on the Cyclopark gate at the British Championships, before ever racing a national round … she made the podium, ‘I lead the final, finishing 2nd after a mistake on the second straight. After this I believed if I put the hard work in, continued enjoying riding my bike and the process, I could keep developing and ride at a higher level.’ A year later she crashed while leading the World Championship final in Zolder, ‘I was devastated’ she remarked.

Freia Challis and Julian Allen - Nantes 2022 - Charles Robertson

Four years later Freia returned to Zolder, the scene of the crash, for another World Championship attempt, and the whirlwind began, ‘I was over the moon to fight the demons and take my first world championship title.’ It was 2019 and Freia was 11 years old. Then Covid raised its ugly head, and the whirlwind came to a grinding halt. ‘There were no challenge class World Championships. For me it was two years of training hard, developing on the bike skills to become the best bike rider I could be. Working on weaknesses and improving each skill so I could go into the next race season the best I could be.’  It’s very possible that the two-year isolation from big races during the Covid era may just have been the catalyst for what was to follow. Despite the number 1 on her plate rolling into the French cauldron of Nantes for the ’22 UCI World Championship, no one really knew what to expect. Bar some Euro racing, the reigning World Champion was essentially an unknown, everyone was. ‘It was her first defence, so there was a little bit of pressure, but we had covered all areas and done our homework on the competition…or so we thought’ coach Jools remembered, ‘A couple of weeks earlier, Freia crashed while battling with Louise Boisson for the lead in the Euro final. Louise had slipped through the net in our homework and threw a curveball at the plans we had, but it gave us a little time to iron out some little issues and headed to the worlds confident we had it covered as long as it all panned out on the day. Freia had been firing all day in Nantes, with both the French girls Louise and Camille Brouchier looking like the top contenders. In the main, Freia showed what we had been cooking and put together an almost flawless lap. I don’t mind admitting I broke down. An instant relief and an enormous sense of achievement. She may not be mine by blood, but its close.’ Standing in the middle of the track that day in Nantes, we may just have watched Jools more than Freia during the final lap. 100% invested does not come close to describing the joy, and maybe relief, that flooded onto the track from the stands that day. ‘She’s a fantastic problem to solve and a real pleasure to work with. Always critical of her performance and constantly looking for improvement in all areas. Sometimes this can stand in the way of just enjoying the process, but she’s not one to just go through the motions for fun. Everything is geared towards winning the next race and that dream of the Olympics. As a little one, she could be a nightmare as she just wanted to jump and manual everything and skipped things like the basics of cornering, but over the years she’s learned to take time to ensure the fundamentals are on point at all times to ensure the big things become small things.’

Freia Challis - Nantes 2022 - Fifteen BMX DSC01948
Julian Allen - Nantes 2022 - Fifteen BMX

It was Caroline Buchanan who inspired Freia when she was planning her assault on World BMX, ‘I still admire her today for what she is achieving in progressing women in sport and making a career for herself after BMX’, but now Freia has someone closer to home to look to for inspiration, ‘I have also been lucky enough to be able to ride with Beth, both when I was younger and still today, training up in Manchester and racing against her at some nationals. This has been a highlight of last year and this year racing on the track with a rider I’ve looked up to since I started in the UK national series. My first time lining up on the gate with Beth in a race was so surreal, someone I’ve looked up to for so long I finally get to race on the same track in the same race with. Emotions of being next to her on the gate is a mixture of nerves and excitement, being on the same line up to your idol. A rider like Beth, the Olympic and World Champion, being behind her in a race definitely pushes me and pushes my limits. I’ve known Beth for a while since starting at Braintree BMX Club, she has always helped and given me tips to improve a jump or a specific skill and to this day being in the pens with her, she takes time to speak to me and a day that stands out was the European Championships when she hyped me up before a race, I remember it to this day.’

Beth Shriever Freia Challis - Abi Taylor
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When the 2023 UCI World Championships rolled around both Freia and Beth turned up ready, unfazed, and stamped their authority on the Glasgow track, taking the titles back to Braintree and Manchester. Even an early celebration over the last Glasgow jump in the final for Freia, an unclipping, and an almost crash, wasn’t enough to close the gap for the second place rider. ‘I think it was more down to getting a bit over excited before crossing the finish line,’ Freia recalled, ‘For me winning at the home Worlds was a massive achievement.’ We suspect all celebrations will be postponed until after the line in Rock Hill …

Rock Hill is indeed the goal this year! Freia and the team leave for the USA this week, aiming for the fourth title in a row. Then she goes to Verona a few weeks later to defend her UEC European title, and then she intends to wrap up the UEC European Cup series for the year, where she has yet to drop a round. All this while navigating her school GCSE exams! Clearly Freia is busier than the average 16-year-old, but it’s the potential of what’s to come that’s ultimately intriguing …

Freia Chalis - 2023 UCI World Championships - Navadanet

In 2025, Freia, will finally be old enough to race the Championship Class, and that’s the plan, ‘I have raced a lot of Euro Cup races the past two years to gain experience on different tracks and I’m excited for next year as I’ll be older enough to take the step into junior women and start racing off the 8-meter race hill.’ Freia has been working towards the future with Braintree BMX and British Cycling. She’s currently in her second year as part of the ‘GBCT Olympic Development Squad’ under the watchful eyes of Marcus and Kyle in Manchester, and is dialling in the 8m hill and all it’s complexities. ‘We try and get to Manchester once or twice a month through the winter,’ she told us, ‘it’s more difficult during race season as it’s such a long drive, about five hours each way, I wish we had an 8-meter hill closer. I still have a long way to go to improve my consistency and speed, especially over the first jump. It would also be good to get some experience on other 8-meter hills.’

Freia Chalis - 2024 UEC Round BMX Sarrians - Navadanet

For us the question now becomes, how long before she jumps to the Elite ranks, we already know her lap times are already comparable. There is after all, the main goal, LA 2028 and Olympic glory. ‘I have had a dream of racing at the Olympics since I was about 7 years old. I will be 20 years old in 2028 and it is a goal to try and be competing at the LA Olympics, but there is still a long way to go, and anything can happen in the next four years. We don’t currently have any plans beyond going to junior next year, I need to gain experience racing off different 8-meter hills and see how that goes as well as continue to develop as a rider and improving my strength. Each year I gain more experience and just want to continue the process …’

The era of ‘The Slayer’ is coming …

Freia Chalis - 2023 UCI World Championships W1 - Navadanet


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