Heavy rain fell on Llangollen overnight presenting riders with a much more greasier and challenging track for race day at the Rose Bikes British Downhill Series last Sunday. The paddock quickly became a hive of activity and the uplift was in full swing to get riders a bit more practice before they were up again for their timed seeding run. Curious to know how steep this course is? The official course POV video
gives you a glimpse of what riders, from Elites to Junior Men and Women had to endure.
Unlike last year when we saw a raft of riders turning away at the mere sight of the top section, this year riders stuck to their guns although some were eventually forced to watch from the sidelines after some heavy crashes in the during practice on Saturday and on Sunday morning, including GT Factory Racing's Rachel Atherton who hurt her wrist in practice on Sunday, and Morvelo Factory Racing's Laurie Arthur who crashed so hard he ruptured his spleen and is now recovering in hospital. FMD Racing's Tahnee Seagrave, who was already feeling unwell on Saturday with a stomach bug, pulled the plug on her race run in an effort to get well in time for Fort William World Cup (and don't forget, there's still time to donate to charity
for a chance to win a bike at Fort William!)
Other random stories were being made at the race too, such as New Zealander Tyler Brooker who had made it half way around the world to Wales to race in preparation for Fort William in a few days. Tyler had a surprise visit from his long-lost brother who he hadn't been in contact with for several years. The BDS brings lots of people together, but this one was pretty special.
Back up on track, riders were getting their practice and then later before lunchtime, their timed runs in. It was overcast and there were some light showers but the track was beginning to dry up. In the top woods, the track was slightly sheltered from the rain and damp but the exposed hillside section's slate-infested switchbacks turned into mini-ice rinks. This section only really started to dry out halfway through seeding, and new berms were either being created or destroyed as the grip began to return. If a rider's body wasn't battered and bruised enough, their bikes were taking a beating. Luckily for the Junior Women, they had Rachel Atherton's mechanic on standby, whilst the Silverline Tools stand had their mechanic working for free to fix non-Elite riders' bikes. On the whole, riders were relishing the opportunity to race on such a world-famous track that is raced on no more than twice a year (one of them being for the BDS), although for the Elites, many were blocking out the fact there was a World Cup in a few days time in order to fully focus on the track in front of them.
By the times the Elites came down for their seeding runs, the NX2 Hecklers' Drop section was in full swing with music, cheers and mobile phones at the ready. This spot on the hill was the spot to be in if you wanted to watch riders weave their way between tight trees, 90 degree turns and drops, although it was pretty hard going for spectators to get up there in the first place.
- Finals -
Keeping things consistent, BMX superstar Kye Forte from Team Wideopenmag took this third win of the season in NS Bikes Master Men, beating John Brain by 5.228 seconds. In Spank Junior Men, Steve Peat Syndicate rider Frazer McCubbings took his first national-level win in this category over Team CHR rider James Purvis by only 0.284 seconds, followed by Team Wideopenmag's Charlie Hatton who was again, only 0.991 seconds behind first place.
Other category wins included those from Shaun Richards from Team Crank Brothers in X-Fusion Expert Men, Morgan Tyrrell from Bike It in DMR Juvenile Boys, Matthew Walker from the Madison Saracen Development Team in Marzocchi Youth Boys (his second win off the back of first place at Fort William), James Carr in Shimano Senior Men, Mark Weightman from Team Leisure Lakes in Dainese Veteran Men, Richard Binns in Hookit Products Grand Veteran Men, Hazel Wakefield from TRG Racing in Flare Clothing Women, and Rona Strivens from Cairngorm CC in Atherton Junior Women.
Over to the Elite Women's category, and come race run no one knew whether Rachel was competing or not but soon enough riders were making their way down the hillside. Although Emmeline Ragot was in attendance with her fellow MS Mondraker Team, she didn't race, so there were just five Elite Women gunning for the top step. From New Zealand, Veronique Sandler riding for Deity/Giant Bikes/Loose Riders, took fourth spot in front of Jessica Greaves from Saddleback. Meanwhile Canadian Casey Brown from Bergamont Hayes was the fastest of her peers through the speed trap but lost critical time in the second sector and could only manage third place.
Rose Bike's Katy Curd had a strong run but it wasn't enough to steal first place off Madison Saracen's Manon Carpenter who came down the track in 2:37.275 minutes, 9.573 seconds in front of Curd and 22.240 seconds in front of Brown.
By the time the Elite Men race was on, the track was dry and blown out in several places. It was a test of strength, determination and luck for these last riders down. Back from his big injury at the World Cup in Lourdes, MS Mondraker's Markus Pekoll could only manage 40th but we're pleased to see him back racing. Other notable finishers included Vanzac Racing's Matt Walker in 32nd place, 2014 BDS overall winner Marc Beaumont in 22nd place, Madison Saracen's Matt Simmond in 14th place, Joel Moore from Muddy Bum Bikes in 12th place, Adam Brayton in 7th place, and Innes Graham who qualified in 27th place successfully finishing in 6th place.
Santa Cruz Syndicate rider Josh Bryceland made amends on his race run after qualifying 19th in earlier in the day thanks to a crash in the woods, by sitting in the hot-seat for a long while with a time of 2:11.561 which would eventually see him in third place. MS Mondraker's Danny Hart who qualified in 4th place had an incredible run; at home on the steep and technical section, Danny was super-fast in the top section but couldn't quite keep the pace in the second section and came down with a time of 2:10.878, taking the hot-seat from Bryceland but only by just over half a second. Next up on the hill was Gee Atherton, but he had a poor second section where things were getting really washed out, and only managed a time of 2:11.867. Welshman and Team CRC/Nukeproof rider Joe Smith was the penultimate man down and had an incredible first and second sector, wiping 1.427 seconds off Danny Hart's final time. Joe sat in the hot seat whilst the last man down, his team mate and fellow countryman Mike Jones took to the track. Mike had a terrible first sector in the steep woods and was instantly twelve places back. With an impossible mission of trying to make up the time, the win was handed to Joe Smith, his second BDS win since Bike Park Wales last year.
- Race Results -
- Bonus Prizes -
Mudhugger Fastest Time of the Day: Joe Smith // CRC/Nukeproof
Works Components Fastest Through the Speed Trap: Marc Beaumont // GMBN Scott Bikes
Ride Portugal Category Winner: Kye Forte // Team Wideopenmag
Photos by The Hills Are Alive and The Grip Media.
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