Race day of Round 2 of British Cycling's Shimano British Downhill Series kicked off with what looked to be a warm, midge-free day. Fort William attracted a good turn out of spectators, many of whom were local to the area and had come to see what all the fuss on the side of their mountain was about. They weren't going to be disappointed. There was a huge field of 356 riders, of which there were 77 riders in the Elite Men category and 12 riders in the Elite Women category. With the course only a week or so fresh from its season opening, the mountain side was already busy with riders getting extra practice in a few days before the official start of the race weekend. Unfortunately, CRC Nukeproof's Nigel Page went down hard on Friday whilst the course was open to the general public to ride. He spotted a couple of riders on track and braked hard to avoid them and crashed and dislocated his shoulder taking him out of the event before it had even started.
What makes the Shimano British Downhill Series so special, particularly when it comes to the round at Fort William, is that national level riders of all abilities and ages are able to pit themselves against the best of the British riders on the World Cup circuit and also a selection of some of the best international riders that most of us mere mortals dream of riding with or against. The pit area at Fort William was awash with Elite teams, national teams, grassroots teams, privateers, teams from the military services and groups of friends eager to get up on the mountain and put their practice to the test.
Would the weather stay reasonable though? The track had been running super fast all day yesterday for practice but it rained throughout the evening and turning into light drizzle in the morning of the race which meant the wood section was even tougher on riders and bikes than the previous day. Deep ruts were forming in this section and would only be churned up more and more as the day progressed. With the weather relatively fair in the morning, seeding runs and race runs up until midway through the categories was fairly straight forward.
Then the heavens opened with disastrous results for some riders as the washed out track was revealing more and more sharp tyre-destroying rocks. The weather conditions didn't put off the spectators though as even up at the top gondola station, the area was packed full of fans, intrigued locals and whoever else was in the area - eyes fixed on the big bikes and muddy riders who had come to take on the mountain from as far afield as Australia.
- Junior Men -
The seeding run for the Juniors was turned upside down for GT Factory Racing's Taylor Veron, who despite qualifying first earlier in the day with an impressive time of 5:05.022 - 8.974 seconds ahead of second placed qualifier Alex Marin Trillo in the Giant Factory Off Road Team - managed to crash in his race run causing damage to one of his brake levers and as a result, only managed 6th place despite clocking the fastest time in the category through the speed trap. On the other hand, Laurie Greenland who was placed 5th in qualifying came down the mountain fastest with a time of 5:11.464, 3.036 seconds ahead of Drew Carters and 4.1 seconds ahead of third place rider Alex Marin Trillo.
Scottish rider Neil Stewart in the FMD Team managed a solid 4th spot on the podium having taken 15 seconds off his qualifying time when it came to his race run. Neil is certainly someone to look out for at the World Cup in Fort William next month, especially after a very successful World Cup in Cairns, he was looking rapid this weekend and will only just get faster riding on the World Cup circuit.
- Elite Women -
With Rachel Atherton deciding not to race this weekend and instead concentrate on getting better after coming down with a bug whilst out in South Africa, it was going to be a tough call on who would take the win in the Elite Women's category given Lapierre Gravity Republic's Emmeline Ragot was on form with her new bike and Madison Saracen Factory Team rider Manon Carpenter was back from her second place podium spot in Cairns. Seeding was relatively straightforward for all riders except Manon who was classified as a DNS, meaning she qualified last. Meanwhile, Emmeline took the first spot in qualifying, leaving a 12.242 second gap over Tahnee Seagrave from FMD Racing, and a 19.897 gap over Gstaad-Scott rider Emilie Siegenthaler.
Although it had been raining lightly all morning, the heavens really opened up whilst the Women Elite category riders took to their race runs. Manon was out of the start gate soon after the non-Elite Women riders, meaning that she soon caught them up and was therefore unable to have a clean run at the bottom section of the race after having clocked the fastest time in the category through the speed trap. I'm not sure anyone would have wanted to be in the position of the riders being caught up as having an Elite rider chasing you down must be a pretty frightening experience. Despite this hiccup, Manon successfully took second spot and sat in the hot seat at the bottom of the track for a good while whilst her competitors came down the track unsuccessfully trying to improve on her time. Tahnee and Emilie both suffered from the difficult conditions on the track and only managed 5th and 4th respectively and Morgane Charre from the Evil Vengence Tour could only manage a time of 5:52.599, 23.525 seconds back from Manon.
Back out on the mountain, Emmeline was clocking up the milliseconds on Manon's race run and although only second fastest through the speed trap, she managed to push to the line leaving only 3.874 seconds to spare to snatch victory from Manon with a final time of 5:29.074. It's hard to tell whether a clean run from Manon would have secured her the top step of the podium as Manon and Emmeline's intermediate times were so close (and Emmeline maintained the edge even early on) but with the rain increasing in its intensity by the end of the final runs, it was the gaffer-taped bike ridden by Emmeline Ragot that came out victorious on the day, leaving Manon eager for a rematch at the World Cup here in a few weeks time.
|The new bike is working well. I still need to get used to it but it's a good bike and I like it. We did a lot of testing this week as we didn't have a lot of time to ride a lot especially for me, as I'm at school most of the time. I thought the track would be a lot more slippery for my race run, especially in the woods but it was OK. I didn't think I would be able to improve the time from my seeding, but I did so that was great. I'm really looking forward to coming back here to compete against everyone next month. - Emmeline Ragot, Team Lapierre International|
- Elite Men -
A quick glance at the seeding results for the Elite Men's category and you'd might think you were looking at something from a World Cup round as the Elite Men's field was stacked with international riders, many of whom were using the national race as a test for the World Cup next month but it was obvious that many were here purely for the track which had all the elements a rider could ask for - fast, flowing trails at the top, open to the elements and intermixed with rock gardens and stunning views, to the motorway-like section at the bottom which allowed riders to open up and hit the gas all the way to the finish line.
Giant Factory Off Road Team's Danny Hart took first place in qualifying, followed closely by Sam Dale of the Madison Saracen Factory Team with 3.466 seconds to spare. Sam was even more closely followed by Team Lapierre Gravity Republic rider Loic Bruni with only a five-tenths of a second gap. Overcoming the jet lag after only having arrived on Thursday, Specialized Racing DH rider Troy Brosnan took 9th in seeding, with his fellow countryman Sam Hill from CRC Nukeproof only managing 17th.
Danny Hart was almost 5 seconds ahead of GT Factory Racing's Gee Atherton who could only manage 4th in seeding. Unfortunately, Steve Peat was unable to make the race itself, opting to compete in the Scottish Six Day Trail also being held in Fort William the same weekend. Peaty did manage to find a bit of time to pop in to do a practice run before heading off on his motorbike. Although Loic had set a seeding time, he had come off earlier in practice, hurting his shoulder and come race time, he opted to remove himself from the competition and rest up instead. To make matters more complicated, there was an issue with the timing device, meaning a back-up timing device had to be installed which caused some confusion for the riders waiting to head back up to do their race run.
By the time the fastest of the Elite Men started to come down, it was obvious that many had suffered in the wooded section which had been turned over by riders in the previous categories, and as the Elite Women's category beforehand experienced, spiced up by fast flowing rivers making their own descent down the mountain side. Despite the rain, Sam Hill managed to gain several places on his race run, finishing 7th with a respectable time of 4:51.990 and so too did Santa Cruz Syndicate rider Josh Bryceland who secured 4th place with a time of 4:48.722 but it was Matt Simmonds who sat in the hot seat for a long while with a race time of 4:47.782 as riders struggled to fight through the rivers, mud slides and ruts the size of bikes. Sam Dale was only able to improve his qualification time slightly, meaning he was bumped into 6th place after having seeded second. With Loic out of the picture the last two riders on the track were dropping in and Matt Simmonds was on the edge of his hot seat. Gee Atherton stormed down the track after his team mate Marc Beaumont who had successfully secured fastest through the speed trap on his race run. Gee flew down the woods and little to no thought seemed to be given to the stirring ground under him. Gee was fastest at the intermediate and pelted down the motorway track as fast as the rain could fall on him. Gee crossed the line with a 1.560 seconds gap in front of Matt Simmonds and there was just one rider left - Danny Hart.
But it wasn't to be for Danny as his luck ran out in the first few minutes of his race having lost air in his back tyre. Through the wood section, things went from bad to worse as shortly after, as he then lost all the air in his tyre and crossed the finished line with a completely flat tyre some 10.6 seconds behind race winner Gee Atherton. Immediately congratulated by his super-fast team mate Marc Beaumont, Gee had again put is mark on his 'home' track in anticipation of the World Cup in June.
- Technicals Aren't Just For Riders -
The timing company later sent Si Paton, Race Director, Shimano British Downhill a message to apologize and explain what had happened.
|On behalf of our timing team, I would like to apologize to yourself and all riders for the inconvenience and frustration that our delays caused you yesterday. You all deserve a smooth, uncomplicated service when you contract us to manage the event timekeeping, and the 40 minute delay incurred was unacceptable. We believe that you deserve an explanation for the delay which occurred when a critical software error whilst preparing start list for Run 2 left us frantically analyzing the issue and attempting to resolve it. Unfortunately the team could not rectify the problem swiftly and thus set about setting up another database in order to continue with racing. I'm sure you know that technical problems are aspects of any business, but that does not change the fact that your schedules and plans were irreparably altered. We can report that this issue had no effect on the results or timing data and although we are still not able to access run times for a handful of the riders in the Expert Class for the seeding run we are working hard to resolve that and ascertain exactly what caused the problem in order to rectify this and return to provide the professional level of service we strive to provide to the Series and riders. Once again, a full apology to yourself, riders and staff for the delay. - David Jones |
- Official Results -JUVENILE - Sponsored by DMR
EDWARDS Kade, Atherton Racing 5:41.557
BIRKETT Luke, We Love Mountains 6:02.036
KERR Henry, Stone Galore 50.49 6:02.575
BEATY Adam, Keswickbikes.co.uk 6:05.794
GALLOWAY Callum, Highland Bikes Racing Team 6:13.083 YOUTH - Sponsored by NS Bikes
HATTON Charlie, Flyup Downhill 5:20.488
WALKER Matt, Madison Saracen Development Team 5:29.760
SEAGRAVE Kaos, FMD Racing 52.55 5:34.753
TENNYSON Jack, Madison Saracen Development Team 5:36.051
BATE Conor 5:40.755GRAND VETERAN - Sponsored by Nuflex
MACLENNAN Alastair, CRC/Nukeproof 5:51.076
STUTTARD Howard, Ride On 45.80 6:26.087
ABBOTT Richard, Aston Hill MTB Club 7:32.402
SHERIDAN Thomas 7:43.045
DOCHERTY Jonathan MuleBar 7:55.666VETERAN - Sponsored by Dainese
WEIGHTMAN Mark 5:42.200
YOUNG John, Moray MTB Club 5:42.545
COBB John 5:49.042
BOYD Steven 5:59.131
GREENLAND Ben 6:01.249MASTER - Sponsored by Marzocchi
KIPLING Andrew, We Love Mountains Racing Team 5:24.352
FORTE Kye, Wideopen Mag/Red Bull 5:25.937
HUGHES Stu, Decade/Commencal 5:29.234
TITLEY Andrew, Bad Ass Bikes/Intense Bikes 5:32.165
HAINES Daniel, Eddie Chaffe Racing 5:33.231WOMEN - Sponsored by Flare Clothing
SKELTON Becci, TRG Racing 7:03.544
BARNES Beverley 7:04.121
SCALLY Sandra, Hervelo Cycling 7:55.018
ATKINSON Maya, Gawton Gravity Hub/Hammoon Cycles 8:17.191
STRIVENS Rona, Diva Descent 8:29.793SENIOR - Sponsored by Spank
HOLOWKO Alex 5:34.593
SHIELDS Bradley 5:34.645
BRADFORD Danny, Banjo Cycles 5:38.402
SUMMERS Lewis, Perth City Cycles 5:39.241
PETERS Zach, GAS Downhill Racing 5:40.704EXPERT - Sponsored by X-Fusion
MACHIN Elliot 5:09.792
BLAIR Lachlan, West Highland Wheelers 5:12.899
EVANS Darren, Aston Hill MTB Club 5:12.968
MATHER Brad, Empire Cycles 5:13.110
GULLAND Morgan 5:13.416JUNIOR - Sponsored by Outdoor Tech
GREENLAND Laurie, Trek World Racing 5:11.464
CARTERS Drew 5:14.500
MARIN TRILLO, Alex Giant Factory Off Road Team 5:15.564
STEWART Neil, FMD Racing 5:16.063
DICKSON Jacob, Orange Dirt World Team 5:16.619ELITE WOMEN - Sponsored by Schwalbe
RAGOT Emmeline, Lapierre Gravity Republic 5:29.074
CARPENTER Manon, Madison Saracen Factory Team 5:32.948
CHARRE Morgane, Evil Vengeance Tour 5:52.599
SIEGENTHALER, Emilie Gstaad-Scott 5:54.123
SEAGRAVE, Tahnee FMD Racing 5:54.393ELITE MEN - Sponsored by Schwalbe
ATHERTON Gee, GT Factory Racing 4:46.222
SIMMONDS Matthew, Madison Saracen Factory Team 4:47.782
BEAUMONT Marc, GT Factory Racing 4:48.281
BRYCELAND Josh, Santa Cruz Syndicate 4:48.722
BROSNAN Troy, Specialized Racing DH 4:51.319Bonus Prizes:
Ethic Watches Fastest Time of the Day: ATHERTON Gee, GT Factory Racing
Works Components Fastest Through the Speed Trap: BEAUMONT Marc, GT Factory Racing
Rose Bikes Biggest Winning Margin: EDWARDS Kade, Atherton Racing
Full race results are available via Roots and Rain
- Next Time -
The next round of the Shimano British Downhill Series is at Ae Forest, Scotland on May 31st and June 1st.
Keep up to date in the run up to the event by following the Shimano British Downhill Series on Twitter
and interact on Pinkbike in the run up to the race on the forum