Ramsgill. For those who’ve been racing since the late nineties this name will conjure up images of a pretty legendary Rav4 course (the precursor of the BDS) and of course ‘that’ road gap. Unfortunately that hill wasn’t the location of the Yorkshire Champs. Firstly because there are recurring land ownership/permission issues there and secondly because that hillside is now devoid of trees, having been recently clear-felled. So it was to the hill opposite that we journeyed for the Champs, over a decade since downhill racing was last seen in the valley.
Carl Davison is the man behind the Northern Downhill Series, the first series to be up and running in the area since the NAMBS, and has spent a lot of time over the past few years scouting out hills in the north for racing. He’s been doing a great job of it too, the series having earned a reputation over the past few years for having some tough courses. Some less tough too but they’ve been a means to an end and have still produced some great races. This weekend saw the first visit to the opposite side of the valley in Ramsgill and it was to a much more open trail than we saw first time round all those years ago.
Starting pretty much at the top of a moorland means you’re pretty windswept off the start line which thankfully transpired into a tailwind for most of the track. For UK riders think a Moelfre in miniature. For the rest of the world the track runs its course down a knotted and gnarled grassy hillside fairly typical of the Yorkshire dales. Crests, dips and fades, a bit of bog, a few rock and lots of fast, drifty turns summed up the order of the day. Off camber fades especially made for fun at speed, more so once doused with overnight rain. There weren’t many sections where line choice really made much difference, in the main there was a clearly defined line, and only the first few turns really left riders looking carefully at the options. Even the stream gap with its metal kicker which at first looked exceedingly sketchy proved to be well judged with added incentive to hit it in the form of the aforementioned rock and mud littered stream.
With 167 entries this was the biggest NDH event ever. As with all these events the atmosphere was chilled (no place for primadonnas at these events), there was plenty of opportunity for catching up and drinking of beer and there was plenty of riding. There was uplift on the go with Carl’s custom trailers which help stop damage, a major UK bugbear, and a standard flat farm trailer with copious carpet to protect the bikes as they were stacked. But to be honest the hill was such an easy push many riders could have happily saved some money and just pushed. Indeed as we all had to do come Sunday once the steep field became too much for the tractors to climb fully loaded after all the overnight rain. No hardship, it was ten minutes and warmed you up nicely.
Onto the racing and we’ll cover off the race results as well as the separate Championship titles. And that of course all starts with Juveniles. Thanks to the fast and relatively untechnical nature of the course the times were tight. Andrew Dorritt took third with a 1:34, Brad Swinkbank a 1:33 for second whilst Rowan Carpenter took the win just four tenths up and on the same second. Youth saw Liam McDermott take third on a 1:30 just over half a second down on the 1:29 of Robert Pickard. The win was snatched with over a one second margin by Peter Hook on a 1:28.
In Junior all three on the podium did so with runs under 1:30. Mike Newbould just scraped under that with a 1:29 and a second down on the 1:28 of James Wilson. Billy Matthews took the win with a 1:27 which placed him right in the midst of the Experts.
Calum Mcritchie took to the third step on a 1:28 in Senior. Jamie Scott was just six tenths up on a 1:27 and took second which left James Risker to take the win having broken the beam on a 1:26, good enough for eighth place overall on the day. Into Masters and Mark Weightman was another of the riders to break one and a half minute barrier with a 1:29 which placed him third. Second went to Russ Clark on a 1:29 but the win went to Russ Harland who quite frankly blew the hill apart with his 1:25 which put him fourth overall. Lee Podmore was third placed in Vets with a 1:35, Pete Hoggan second with a 1:31 and ex-Expert Darren Howarth on the top step having broken the beam on 1:28.
With seven women racing this was also the best attended NDH from their side too. With a combined category it was Janine Wolstenholme in third with a 1:53, Esther Sands second on a 1:48 and Elite Angela Coates the win on a 1:41. Also worth a mention was Youth rider Emma Whitaker who took the womens championship title with a 1:56 having only narrowly missed out on the main podium.
Tom Kelly took third in Experts and broke the 1:26 barrier by a mere tenth which let James Swinden slip through onto the next podium step with a half second advantage. It was Liam Little however who took the win, and with it fastest time of the day. His time was 1:23 and a clear one and a half seconds clear of the next fastest man. In the Elite category Brad Illingworth took third with a 1:27, some Pinkbike guy second and Alex Florian the win having crossed the line on 1:25. Yorkshire champions:
Womens: Emma Whitaker
Expert: James Swinden
Juvenile: Rowan Carpenter
Youth: Robert Pickard
Junior: Billy Matthews
Senior: James Metcalfe
Master: Chris Lazenby
Veteran: Richie Molloy
The next round is Alwinton on the 25th September after a venue change from Carlton Bank. This is steep, technical and true NDH territory. It's also set in a fantastically picturesque area of Northumberland. Entries are filling up quickly so if you want to race it, get your name down now to ride one of the most technical northern tracks. Entry forms available here
Full results available on Roots and Rain here.
Thanks to Tom Towers
for providing the pictures.