Well with bright blue skies and the sun beating down on us, we could not have asked for a better weekend to have the National Champs race. The team arrived on Friday night and set up camp by the river, ready for practice on Saturday morning.
The track at Bala was different to the one used in the Pearce Cycles round a couple of months ago with only the bottom section and the start being the same, the conditions also played their part. Gone were the deep muddy rutts and slippery root sections, replaced by lots of loose dust, lightening fast chutes, flat corners and a new whoops section which seemed to be a hit with everyone.
Practice went well with a few track walks to scope out different lines, it was running real fast and very loose. Expert rider Glenroy Martin, with his all-out loose and wild style, lost it in the corners a few times which also resulted in a set of slightly bent bars and twisted forks! Other mechanicals included Joe Killner's bent brake lever and a bent hanger from Glenroy, though the Shimano Tech Truck was on hand to sort out these issues for us, so many thanks for the help!
After a few runs settling on final race lines, BB gun fights with other teams and a lot of friendly banter, the team decided to hit the sack to be fresh for race day.
It was a 6:30am start for me - couldn't sleep as the midges decided to feast on me! - and it was cloudy with a noticeable drop in temperature. The rest of the team were up by 7:30am and a check of the bikes was in order. Glenroy's crashes the day before had taken their toll as we found that his direct mount stem had some stress marks and a clear crack. Time for a scrounge in the pits! Luckily, top man Nigel Page sorted us out with one and we were back on track for a couple of runs before seeding.
As riders were called for seeding, a few drops of rain started to fall, but the clouds soon started to clear and scorching hot rays were upon us again. Seeding went well, with the most noticeable results coming from Al Warrell qualifying in 1st with a safe but scorching Youth time of 3:40 secs and Darren Evans who also qualified 1st with a time of 3:38 secs in Non-Champs Senior. Race runs were going to be close!
First up was Alfie Killner in his first ever National Champs - his riding has progressed so much over the past year - and he did really well to finish 22nd in Juveniles.
Al Warrell was up next, and after his blistering seeding run, everyone was excited to see what his time would be, not least Laurie Greenland who had put in a solid 3:42 sec run and was sitting in the hot seat, even after an over-the-bars on track! Al put everything in to it and washed out on one of the loose corners by the wooded section, though he didn't give up and pushed all the way to the line to come in with a time of 3:46 secs, enough to give him 4th place on the podium.
Suzanne Lacey had been riding well and her first National Champs and first year in DH has been going the same. She sprinted to the finish in a time of 4:22 secs which earnt her a sweet 2nd place in Senior Non-Champs Ladies, a time which would have put her 4th in Elites!
All eyes were on the Senior Non-Champs men who were now at the start, it was a nail biting wait as rider after rider came down with fast times and as Darren Evans had seeded 1st, he was last to go. He looked absolutely pinned coming out of the woods and hitting the fast rutted corners, he was on full gas to the finish and put in a beast of a time of 3:36 secs, 2 seconds faster than his seeding run and 6.7 secs faster than his nearest rival! The win for Darren was well deserved, unfortunately no National Champs jersey, but a win nonetheless for the man who has been mountain biking for a little over a year!
Joe Killner was looking good on course, it was such an effort in the heat and the demanding track was claiming a few riders who were on the edge of exhaustion, but Killner senior came in with a time of 4:37 secs to claim 5th spot on the Podium for the men's Vets.
Last up was Glenroy Martin, in a mean category mixed with the Elites, Glenroy pushed it all the way but an incident with a tree that took a dislike to him meant he had to complete his run with a snapped front brake lever and ended up in 64th out of 91 riders with a time of 3:50 secs.
The top wins were again had by GT's Gee Atherton, with a time of 3:22 secs, and sister Rachel, with a 3:38 secs. The GT/Atherton Racing dominance continues! Honourable mention goes to the legend that is Steve Peat, who seeded 1st but on the last corner got caught in the tape and lost lots of time. He's still looking mental fast and could have taken it, but it just wasn't to be. But that's racing!
All in all a fantastic weekend with no less than four podiums for Team Aston Hill
. It was great to see the team's friends and all the support and atmosphere. A big thanks to the organisers at Borderline Events and to our sponsors: Madison, Saracen, Decade Europe, Kali, Lovelo Cycle Works, geebeebee media, and to Jaeson from ii10photo.com
for the shots!
See you at the next race!
Mark HarrisTeam Aston Hill