UK North East Champs - Kielder

Oct 24, 2012 at 13:56
by Alasdair MacLennan  

Pics from Kielder NDH Northern Champs - Copyright Ian MacLennan 2012

When it comes to finding new venues and building new race tracks in the UK perhaps no organiser is more prolific in doing so than the bunch at Northerndownhill. With several venues to their name already they set their sights on Kielder a few years ago, running a test event on an existing piece of track back in 2010. However, they were always honest that the real goal was to be allowed access to the full hill which they believed to be capable of holding a four minute plus course. Work started on this course early in 2012 and we were lucky to see it during the progression from blank canvas to race ready. Seeing what we did filled us with excitement and not a little nervous anticipation of what a monster it could turn out to be.

Fast forward to October for the race and thanks to some serious efforts from just a handful of bodies, the track was ready. This is the largest expanse of forest in the UK, and Kielder and October usually means rain and bitterly cold weather. Luckily, the rain disappeared early on and the cold seemed to stay at bay, once the sun came up from behind the hill, melting the overnight frost off the cars and vans and leaving a more pleasant place to go riding bikes.

It’s fair to say that this new course was a challenge for many, with the wet ground and ruts doing nothing to aid them. Carl and the rest of his crew have never been ones to shy away from building a testing track for their races and there was a definite continuation of that theme in this Northumbrian trail. Rocky, rooty and rutted with some steep chutes and more line choice than you could shake a stick at certainly did nothing to flatter riders. Because of that, it was interesting to hear the varying comments as riders came down the track. Some riders who should have had no problems, seemed to be struggling and were content to blame the track - while others who were struggling and perhaps a little out of their depth, were happy to say how much they loved and relished the challenge.

Pics from Kielder NDH Northern Champs - Copyright Ian MacLennan 2012

Reduced numbers on Sunday showed just how much of a struggle many found the rocks and roots to be, but the general consensus seemed to be that the track was a real gem and exhibited huge potential for further development. While still needing work to improve a few speed sapping sections, it really was an incredible achievement for a course built with just a handful of workers.

The Pinkbike opinion? We need more challenging tracks like this, maybe even more so after Masters winner Mark Weightman commented ‘it feels like some of the XC riding I do’ - a comment that left most riders within earshot questioning his sanity, especially when some of them had resorted to walking sections of the course! One of the many great things about downhill is the variety of trails you have a chance to ride and race. One week you could be on a European mountain with dust, high speed, big jumps and a chairlift; the next weekend, turning up to a windswept hill to ride a slower and infinitely more technical offering. Variety is the spice of life and seeing a venue such as Kielder brought online, certainly spices venues up in the north of England. As it stands now, it’s a work in progress, but Rome wasn't built in a day and what’s on show is a more than stellar effort. It’ll be great to see this course develop as a venue as, even with the remoteness, it could easily become a viable National Standard track.

By the time racing rolled round there were certainly lower numbers of riders left, whether that be because the track had scared or scarred them. Jack Tennyson was the first to step on the podium in Juveniles for third place, Ross Swinton taking second place with their times 5:45 and 5:09 respectively. However, the most impressive action came from James Purvis who is absolutely one to watch in 2013; he won with a 3:32 - a winning margin of over a minute and a half!

Pics from Kielder NDH Northern Champs - Copyright Ian MacLennan 2012

Ben Mitchinson was third in Youth with a 4:47, second placed Brad Swinbank ahead by nearly a minute on a 3:50. Given the relatively large gaps between the times of other riders the 5.5s to winner Lewis Murphy could almost be considered slim. In Junior Liam McDermott took third with a 3:33, James Wilson slipped into second just a tenth up and Ruaridh McRitchie took a well-deserved win on a 3:20 thanks to a flat out first run. Perhaps it was the reputation which put off more girls from entering but the solitary entry of Rhona Stewart put some of the guys to shame by actually racing on Sunday!

Dave Ingleby in Veteran took third with a 4:13, pipped to second by Ian Horton on a 4:10. Dave English has been racing for years and as a result is a familiar face at races but this proved to be his first win with a clear margin of 19 seconds on a 3:50 time.

Mark Gibson took third in Masters on a 3:51 but the two riders most worthy of mention are Phil Grimes in second and Mark Weightman who took the win. Phil is one of the main men behind the track and rather than practice spent all of Saturday digging and sorting out problem areas, areas which only became apparent after a number of riders had helped ride the track in which was a commodity unavailable in the trails development. The winner, Mark, produced the petulant run on his XC bike, having broken his DH bike in practice.

Andy Kipling in Seniors put in a 3:20 for third while a name from the past, Lee Kermode, took second on a 3:15 and Matt Hakes the win on a 3:11. With the Expert category all that remained, Nick Turner was third on a 3:38 thanks to a first run that was a full three minutes quicker than his second. On the middle step of the podium was Steven Turnbull on a 3:22 while Calum McRitchie took the win with a 3:08.

Pics from Kielder NDH Northern Champs - Copyright Ian MacLennan 2012

There’s no denying that massively technical and challenging trails such as Kielder aren’t everyone’s preference, but they definitely have a welcome place on the calendar and it was fantastic to see the efforts of the NDH team come together for such a wild monster of a track. How much it develops in the future will arguably be down to how much effort is put in by volunteers over and above the current team. This would all help the trail become more rideable for a greater spectrum of competitors, without removing the inherent challenge offered to more able riders. We await these developments with baited breath.

More race images here.

Full Results

www.northerndownhill.co.uk
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42 Comments

  • + 16
 The track was great, i helped build it, and i still came last, seen by a number of spectators with about half a.tree hanging out the front of.my helmet, can't wait to.ride/race it again!
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  • + 6
 Hi. As one of track builders I'd just like to point out there's as much again above that track that time didn't allow us to develop to a race able standard. Hopefully if we get a bit more help that'll be ready for next year! Get your wellies nshovels out!
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  • + 3
 looks like the UK version of the 2011 national gravity usa cycling championships at Beech mtn,NC..got really rooty, rutty supper slippery greasy off camber spot,s made it very fun,but also very difficult to link fast race lines.. going hard in the mucky muckSalute
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  • + 2
 I can see the weather conditions were brutal.. I wish I could slide a bit with you guys.. because where i`m from there won`t be no automn this year.. We`ll go just straight from summer to winter because we`re expecting snowfall this weekend. It`s not like we live in the arctic circle.
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  • + 1
 It looks like an amazing track and it's great that tracks are pushing the envelope and offering new challenges but I think a really great track offers something for everyone - it's a little concerning if no women turn up and half the race doesn't come back after practice! Still, it's a new track and sounds like they've got more awesome work planned so massive props to the trail fairies and hope to make it up there to give it a shot one day.
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  • + 1
 Looks like the NE is seeing some of the same "love of Mother Nature" that he NW is aye Wink ... SLOP PY!!!!! Aye, not mention how ROCKY those trcks out east are... A big "good on ya mates" to all those guys who got out there to race for love of riding even though some lesser folks would have just "called it on account of weather"... Great report, much respect and thanks to those riders for giving us PBrs something to read and look at. Keep charging guys, it'' dry out in another year or so aye Wink ahahahahahaha.
  • + 6
 You do realise this is in the UK right...
  • + 1
 Judging by the number of 'aye's in the post, I would say The Medic is from our NW, not America's! Wink
Conditions here remind me of my first ever DH race, which I brilliantly came last in on my new BigHit that was built in a rush, and the only 24" tyre I could find was a 3" Kujo. Not the best... I stacked a couple of times, and ended up on my behind more than a couple of times after failing to stay upright in the mud! Good times Smile
  • + 1
 .... Yeah color me embarassed... I did NOT realize this was a Uk race aye. You're not wrong though, I am from up north (Inverness/W.Daviot) but was raised in the OTHER NW here in Oregon... WOW, I guess SOMEONE (me) should take a WEE BIT more time to read everything instead of just getting sucked into the pictures Wink Either way, hats off for charging through the slop.
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  • + 0
 It should be noted that the only critic above, jackgolfgti, had a hand in organising a race event recently. They had to borrow number boards and radios!! So for him to criticise any set ups a bit much. Went away because he's no skill maybe?
  • + 0
 Or perhaps he forgot his wheels
  • + 1
 Yeah just so you know I organised a race and had every thing in place such a radios but opted to use carls as he offered to lend them and it was 1 less thing for me to worry about, as for borrowing number boards I don't remember doing that all that happened was 10 number boards where miss placed and Carl gave me a pile of Ndh boards which I didn't use as I had spare heroes boards in reserve and to say it was my first race I had run it didn't effect the riders they where all on track. I didn't lack skill for Keillor at all I lacked enthusiasm in a massive way that it was a long ride from the finish to the uplifts and from the drop off to the start line to then ride what is a track best for enduro type racing, my decision to go home was made in joint with a lot of other riders who felt the track wasn't ready and also not a dh track, also I did forget my wheels all 3 sets oh well.
  • + 2
 also SHAUN i see you didn't enter the heroes at hamsterley so there for your going off relayed information that you didn't realise what the story was about radios its not like i forgot them it was arranged with carl to borrow his and use mine as reserves, and the number boards was due to a miss count on sat morning making some boards misplaced but didn't effect any riders. if you had been there im pretty sure you would of been impressed. SO as you didnt attend you dont have a leg to stand on when trying to make comment. and be careful to mention peoples lack of skill as it seems the last race we both attended at the same time i beat you
  • + 2
 Too much of a ride to the uplift, you having a laugh? It was 1/4 mile along a tarmac road, I've ridden across parking lots bigger than that to get to a chairlift! It's a work in progress but the very reason it was what it was came down to a lack of riders to bed it in, and a lack of hands to help build it.

Rather than trying to shoot people down for their efforts maybe you could offer your help or time, or constructive criticism? Just shouting on an open forum 'I didn't like it, it was crap' isn't a particularly mature way to deal with your dislike of something. If you don't like it and just want to be disruptive or destructive then that's your perogative but surely, offering constructive criticism in a private environment if you have something to offer of that nature, or offering your time and effort in coursebuilding, that's a better outlet for your energy?
  • + 1
 Unreserved apologies for making comments based on incorrect information. You did indeed beat me at Scarborough though yours is a daylight seeding run time whereas mine is a darkness race run. Compare the 2 seeding times and were more or less on a par 1:29.3 and 1:29.4. At least I'm assuming because you've only 1 time you didn't get a race run in the dark
Again I apologise for making a comment that was wring
  • + 2
 bitching over,,,,,,,,,, Al is right i should offer my help first but as i said i do recognize Carls efforts but for me on a personal note i didn't like the track or the parking and uplift situation. i did enjoy parts of the track
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  • + 4
 Gutted I missed this track. Next year
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  • + 1
 dez69.pinkbike.com/album/race-photos Here's a couple of my pictures from the race, just if anybody wants to see if i got them... Smile
  • + 1
 Bloody hell! Thats a rock garden.
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  • + 1
 maybe jaame should man up a bit, mud over dust any day, getting loose is what its all about. I hear tennis is a nice dry sport?
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  • + 3
 Ha ha! Thats my dirty arse rocking a boiler suit! Thx Alasdair and PB!
  • + 1
 you might start a fashion trend off with that boiler suit....lmao!! cant wait to try the track on an uplift day Smile
[Reply]
  • - 1
 Rode the full track a few weeks ago, could be a good track in a few years with a lot of work. More corners and flow would be a good place to start, not surprised a lot of people left the event. That said fair play to the builders/ organizers not an easy project, especially with being short handed on a big ass chunk of hill. Will come up and ride again in a few years time. At the risk of sounding any more harsh than I already have, Alasdair MacLennan has IMHO given the track (not event as I was not there) a very forgiving write-up.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 why no pics showing how knarly the track was?
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  • + 1
 Haha I'm not sure I put anyone to shame with a time like that, track would have been amazing in the dry!!
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  • + 2
 Great report, some sections on that track were insane
  • + 1
 Yeah, the NE is so very different from the NW (where I'm from) in that it doesn't have the elevation, but that sure doesn't make the tracks any tamer aye... those rock gardens are INSANE, then add mud (if the term "mud"even does that slop justice aye) and watch the carnage insue... Gotta give some much deserved respect to those guys and gals (was a there a Womens race???) who were balls out and tough enough to ride those tracks... Well done yall. Everyone who started a race that sloppy and technical is a winner in my book aye. Cheers guys, keep on rippin, no matter WHAT the weather is doing to our trails...
  • + 1
 I'm an idiot... I thought this was a NE US thing... My apologies to the UK riders for this mistake... Still, bloody rough track and sloppey conditions. Good on everyone who raced in this stuff aye.
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  • + 2
 makes me wanna go for a ride in the UK! looked like a sick track
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  • + 1
 sloppy looking track.. NICE Big Grin
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  • + 1
 Good to see that the racers had a nice dry and sunny event !
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  • + 1
 Any1 have video footage of this race??
  • + 1
 There's a headcam, if you search in videos
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