Grass roots is a strange term. We have Senator Albert Jeremiah Beveridge of Indiana to thank for it, who said in 1912 of a political faction “This party has come from the grass roots. It has grown from the soil of people's hard necessities". In our case those necessities are to race, have fun and make the most of our beautiful surroundings. The grass is Peaty’s Steel City DH
This year was the 4th edition of the annual event which was both the biggest and the best to date, but it has lost none of those grass roots which make it such a special and unique occasion. I've written previously
about the history and raison d’etre of the race so let’s cut to the chase. This year the majority of entries were sold out in less than 10 minutes. There were 800 cars in the carpark. There were 2000 people in the woods and the bar had served 1500 pints by 4pm. This really is the biggest little race around, but why is it so popular? Is it just that Steve Peat is such a draw, such a hero to his local community? Then why would 3 lads travel all the way from Germany just to race? Why would people travel the length of the country just to watch? I think it has to be more than that.
As one of the organizers this was by far the most relaxed I have been at any of the races, once everything was up and running there was just the odd fire to fight (not literally thankfully). I was able to step back a little and see what everyone else normally sees for once. I saw streams of families walking in to the woods and down the trail armed with picnics and smiling kids. I watched riders aged from 10 to 70 race along a track as fast as their abilities would allow. I witnessed Peaty chatting to anyone that wanted a photo or something signed leaving a grin across all faces. And, possibly most importantly, I felt the sun on my face as it shone through the branches of the tall trees of Greno Woods warming everyone and making life much much easier. This race has a different feel to any other I’ve ever been to; it’s created by those that volunteer to make it happen and enjoyed by all those that attend.
It began in the car park in Farmer Jacks field, were registration happens. This year every racer was given a Steel City pint pot filled with stickers and Clif bars; so they started smiling. Everyone then had their portrait taken before being bombarded with offers of race merch, raffle tickets, Flat Cap espresso and a special blend, PeaTea. The race is all about being the best around and raising money to build and maintain trails in Grenoside woods. We try to get wallets open as often as possible, which is not always easy in Yorkshire. Practise began at 9 and there was already a long queue to roll down the custom Yorscaff Start ramp. MIJ are on hand to take care of timing and they run a very tight and professional ship but racing doesn’t begin until a few hours later. The track was built a couple of years ago by locals BikeTrack and paid for by money raised by the race itself. Since then they’ve been back a few times to further improve and maintain the trail. Trail advocacy group, Ride Sheffield, also coordinated a team of volunteers who helped out in the weeks leading up to the race.
The volunteer marshals who line the track came prepared with deck chairs and noise making equipment; they are there to enjoy themselves as well as keep everyone safe. The most noise arises at the ‘Jolley Gap Jump’ named after Rob who marshals this spot every year and leads the assembled crowd in coordinated and encouraging heckling. This year he had another burden on his shoulders as he was judge of the Totally Insured ‘biggest crowd pleaser’. This awarded £200 to the rider eliciting the biggest reaction from the crowd. It was won by ‘Shorn Bean’ who had been eyeing up the gap jump all day and finally picked up the courage in his race run to send it. Dressed as an oversized can of Heinz baked beans in a costume the size of a large dustbin, this was no mean feat. Unsurprisingly this resulted in a bit of a moment which he managed to control unlike the crowd who Ooo’d and then Wow’d as he rode it out. He was racing as a can of beans to enter the fancy dress contest which was themed ‘Sheffield Legends’. This was won by ‘Yorkshire Tea Lass’ who’s silver spoon outfit and tea pot bike combo won the hearts of the Cotic judging panel who awarded her a Bfe frame for her work. The other prize awarded went to Kat Crompton who’s ‘best crash’ gained her attention from Woodhead Mountain Rescue and a day’s coaching with ALine to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The race ends in a big bomb hole which makes the perfect finish arena. It is lined with stands, food stalls and exhibitors but filled with spectators milling around and cheering as each rider sends the final drop. The racing action was compared by Tobi Parodi who did a great job keeping the crowds informed and entertained accompanied by music played by KRad on the Monster sound system. Combined they kept the bomb hole a buzz probably assisted by Bradfield breweries ales.
The racing itself was frenetic. The standard of the field was hugely varied which is at the heart of grass roots races; popularising racing amongst the young and the first timers and ensuring they have the best experience possible. That way, they will want to come back again and ideally race somewhere else too. This year we had over 50 women racing in a field of nearly 300. We reckon that is a record for a race of this type, certainly in the UK. The swell of local ladies wanting to race even brought Mrs Peat out of retirement and she showed that she’s still got it with a podium finish. All the winners were awarded prizes from our generous sponsors but also a unique medal designed and made in Sheffield by the creative genius’ from Tado. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else.
This comes back again to the community aspect of the race; the support we receive is incredible. We’d raised over 2000 quid even before the race had begun. Santa Cruz UK and On-One bikes donated a frame and a bike which we auctioned off giving us a great head start. Our raffle always goes down really well and it’s no surprise with star prizes of a week’s free holiday with Trail Addiction or a Cotic frame. All the graphics which were featured on the Tee’s and throughout the event were designed by racers, Rich Norgate and Luke Heliwell, the D&G of graphic design. It’s the people that really make this race happen. We organizers, Steve Hardcastle, Henry Norman and myself, Nick Hamilton, put the pieces in place but then it’s a matter of lighting the blue touch paper, stepping back and enjoying the spectacle in all its glory.
Despite a pro field featuring several world cup racers it was the big man, Steve Peat, who walked away with the lion’s share of the £500 Avanti prize cash and a weekend in a mini countryman. His characteristic knack of carrying speed and finding the down side of every bump saw him win with a very comfortable 4 second margin on a 75 second track accompanied by the loudest cheers of the day. Will anyone ever be able to step up and take the kings crown? With his son Jake coming of age next year perhaps we will see a Peat filled podium for fastest family?
If you were there on the day and have photos and videos you can still enter the competition
which is open until 1st June. Our sincere thanks go out to everyone who made this race possible and was a part of such a special day. Our hope is that your enjoyment of the day and the lasting effects it will have on the woods is payment enough for your generosity. This is Grass Roots racing.Steelcitydh.comFacebook.com/SteelCitySeriestwitter.com/steelcityseriesMen's ResultsAvanti Pro Men
//1st, Steve Peat - 1:15.160
//2nd, Eddie Masters - 1:19:413
//3rd, Freddie Oxley - 1:19:878
//4th, Sam Dale - 1:20:300
//5th, James Swinden - 1:21:432Wide Open DH Ripper Men
//1st, James Elliot - 1:41:911
//2nd, Joe Mumford - 1:45:601
//3rd, Luke Mumford - 1:48:369Lizard Skins[/L]/ Royal Racing Juvenile Men
//1st, Jordan Beighton - 1:35:112
//2nd, Ryan Gledhill - 1:37:937
//3rd, Sam Taylor - 1:41:861Uber Bike Youth Men
//1st, Oscar Monk - 1:32:231
//2nd, Richard Brown - 1:32;914
//3rd, Jake Monk - 1:43:493Kenny Junior Men
//1st, James Hurst - 1:25:086
//2nd, Adam Dawson - 1:26:086
//3rd, Marco Wood-Bonelli - 1:27:953Polaris Senior Men
//1st, Robert Campbell - 1:24:832
//2nd, Sam Robson - 1:24:833
//3rd, Anthony Henry - 1:25:464Bike Garage Master Men
//1st, Adam Taylor - 1:26:342
//2nd, Chris Pearson - 1:26:622
//3rd, Steve Wager - 1:27:214Hook It Veteran Men
//1st, Scott Turtle - 1:27:546
//2nd, Jason Dickinson - 1:29:230
//3rd, Julian Duxbury - 1:31:689Flare Clothing Women
//1st, Emily Horridge - 1:32:866
//2nd, Carrie Poole - 1:35:687
//3rd, Adele Peat - 1:37:660Flare Clothing Open Women
//1st, Adele Carter - 1:48:637
//2nd, Katy Sunter - 1:51:804
//3rd, Hannah Saville - 1:57:563
For the full results, check here: www.rootsandrain.com