So after a long abnormally warm winter riders were all raring to go for Round 1 of the Halo British Downhill Series at Combe Sydenham, Devon. The last national was held here in 2004, and the top 3 elite riders on the day were Gee Atherton (2:45.012), Dan Atherton (2:45.071) and Neil Donoghue (2:47.769) respectively. So with a long 8 year gap in racing, the Number 1 Downhill Series in the UK was back to race.
When we turned up early Saturday morning, and despite the ever-present cloud cover, the pits were already in full swing with throngs of riders, Mums, Dads, and dogs wandering around waiting for the tractors to appear and take them up the hill. Having not enough time to walk the track we got the pit sorted and kitted up with bikes to go up and hit the track with our box fresh Identiti Mogul bikes.
From the bottom the hill looks pretty small but it soon becomes apparent as the tractor goes up the fire road that there is a lot more above what the eye can see through the tree line. The track features 3 sections; the swoopy top woods, the flat out jump section through the middle field, and the more technical lower woods, a track for all and the crowd definitely loved the diversity of the course as they thronged and gathered the whole way down the trackside top to bottom.
With the usual ‘cattle cart’ style uplift there was a little delay early on Saturday and then a system kicked in and there was a consistent flow of traffic through the uplift field of tractors and riders going up the hill, and with the rain holding off all day the course dried out and gave more traction and confidence as the day went on. This showed through with the smiling faces of the riders at the finish area and in the pits comparing lines and how loose they just got coming down in some of the tight turns or down the last stepped rocky section that caught a lot of people out. With one rider being air lifted from the bottom of the middle field after a particularly nasty crash, and a potential punctured lung.
On Sunday morning people were hiding away keeping warm from the icy cold night before, the coffee/bacon sarny queue was long as ever with people wanting a hot drink and some warm food before going up for the short but sweet practice, but the sun was out and most riders opting for 1 or 2 runs to get lines dialed and save energy for qualifying and racing later, which was needed for the pedal sections of the bus stop/fire road at the top and the fast middle field.
Youth riders kicked seeding off in the morning and by lunchtime all categories had finished qualifying with a couple of re-runs due to crashes and a small delay due to a lady rider down.
Once finals came round the track was dry and up to speed with riders pushing it the jumps in the middle field soon became too small with many people landing to flat at race speed. None the less, the crowds were loving it, and the sunshine brought cardboard signs, horns and cheers. It was definitely an exciting part of the track to ride through. As the riders descended on their final runs of the season opener the cheering grew louder and the riders faster until the number 1 seed Marc Beaumont hit the track as the sun lowered in the sky. It was obvious people wanted him to push it and keep his number 1 position from earlier in the day and he proved his worth riding into the finish 2 seconds up on his seeding time taking the number 1 place with Josh Bryceland and 2nd and Brendan Fairclough in third.
1 4 BEAUMONT Marc GT Factory Racing 47.68 1:47.694 2:25.976
2 5 BRYCELAND Joshua Santa Cruz Syndicate 46.27 1:49.298 2:28.902 2.926
3 7 FAIRCLOUGH Brendan Scott 46.03 1:50.874 2:30.035 4.059
4 13 SIMMONDS Matthew ChainReactionCycles.com/Nukeproof 46.57 1:50.441 2:30.426 4.450
5 28 THOMAS Richard 46.75 1:50.291 2:30.458 4.482
6 19 BRAYTON Adam 45.74 1:52.337 2:31.198 5.222
7 3 PEAT Steve Santa Cruz Syndicate 48.25 1:50.532 2:31.660 5.684
8 12 SMITH Joseph ChainReactionCycles.com/Nukeproof 44.94 1:52.708 2:31.896 5.920
9 26 BRAITHWAITE Tom Hope Technology 45.45 1:52.522 2:32.082 6.106
10 17 REID Ben Dirt Norco Race Team 45.05 1:52.381 2:32.441 6.465
1 603 CARPENTER Manon Madison Saracen Downhill Team 42.45 2:06.036 2:51.960
2 602 ATHERTON Rachel GT Factory Racing 41.09 2:05.754 2:52.594 0.634
3 604 STONE Jessica Trek Bikes 34.95 2:14.565 3:03.585 11.625
4 611 COATES Angela 34.74 2:24.146 3:17.421 25.461
5 606 WAREHAM Emma LeisureLakesBikes.com 39.60 2:24.594 3:17.759 25.799http://www.sportstimingservices.com/modules/shop/images/BDS%20Combe%20Sydenham%202012.pdf
Next round of the Halo BDS
Saturday and Sunday 12th/15th May 2012.
Halo British Downhill Series Rd 2
Aonach Mor access road