Somerset local Ace Woodley popped down to Combe Sydenham at the weekend with his camera phone to have a gander at the round one Saracen BDS track.
Words and photos:Ace Woodley.
New year, new title, “Saracen British Downhill Series” kicks off in under two weeks time down in Somerset at Combe Sydenham country park.
As I was passing through, and it being not to far from the main road I nipped over for a look about. I have seen some photos on Facebook from FB friends, so know the track is open, I was hoping to find a few push up riders there, but scored lucky and it was a uplift day, so about 30 riders on shuttle duty.
Had a quick chat with Don on tractor duty, and Dave on disco duty, most likely the last pre-race uplift was this weekend and only a couple have happened due to the uplift road being hit hard throughout the winter. This suffered some slips and washouts, and has taken a lot of time to clear and widen and regrade the damage.
Check out Don’s website for info on uplift days, www.kustombikes.co.uk the track is in good order and all the work that was put into the field section last year to armour and weatherproof it has paid off.
As the uplift was in full swing I walked up taking some photos as I went. The bottom woods, fairly dry, the open field section was dry and dusty and running fast, even the middle woods were dry. A bit frozen in places but running fast, the bus stops exits/entry points are a bit muddy, to be expected though, and the top woods a touch greasy but running well.
Compared to the mudfest enduro on the Quantocks a few weeks back, and taking into account the weather, I was surprised at how dry the track is right now. The main lines have seen some rider action and had the winter cobwebs blown out, even the sun was out.
Helmet Cam from Will Weston a week or so before this uplift sesh. The top few corners were too icy to ride so Will starts his run further down the track.
Some photos then, going up the track to the middle woods, starting with Jay Williamson from Wideopen mag and the Gawton Gravity hub, Jamie the editor was also lurking about. Jay jumping into what will be the finish area on the 13/14 April.
As the riders came down in big groups, I grabbed some shots, walked up a bit more, waited for the next group, etc. lots of waiting. The 3 above are the mid field double, after that is the double-double, I made it up to the tables before the next group appeared.
Jay again getting the pre-race practice in. Next is the gap jump exit berms.
Years ago someone nailed a sneaky one through here (I never saw it and can’t remember who did it) due to the taping someone was able to jump and straight line the berms, skipped the first and landed in the exit of the second. There used to be a V-slot through a tree at the bottom of the field, sure that was Dan Atherton that nailed that one. The taping was to an oil drum and you had to go round a tree, if you clipped the oil drum with the bar end and were a bit agile like Dan…he skipped a corner (didn’t cut the course) and jumped through a fork in the tree instead, nuts!
Something close happened when I was racing few years back, some of us worked out due to taping the chicken run* was faster than the main line, come race runs, giving it some, steaming into what was going to be a fast bunnyhop corner cut, turned into a panic brake as a big branch with tape had shut off the short cut.
*a while ago I got told off in a nice way for using the term “chicken run/line” I think it’s now officially called the “alternative line” or “wide line” Might even ask an official type on the correct term in use.
A large group in holding pattern and two riders winding down to them, this was the natural stop point, as riders unsure of the upcoming gap watched others go first, they shouted down to some people watching asking about the wind. The field jumps can be tricky in high cross winds, it’s not unheard of for riders to take off and miss the landing due to wind drift, although nothing will beat Dan Fisher’s human torpedo over the then big table. He overshot it without a bike, damn lucky to walk away that day.
Next two are riders running into the gap jump, didn’t get any photos of riders sending it today (find last years reports) but did find WideOpen Jamie on what I suspect to be a loaner Saracen, which neatly ties in with them being main sponsor and all that.
OK, still in the middle woods and for track photos as far as it goes I got along the bus stops and down to the rider uplift drop off without seeing anyone. People think it’s weird when you start taking photos of the ground, but for you tyre geeks out there, every little bit of information helps. Still a touch of ice in the ground, but running well, if it’s really wet and it soaks into the middle wood then this is where most will crash. It takes ages to drain out and dry off and the mud…from memory…gets slick like clay, the bus stops and field always used to run well, more wet than muddy, but I see more people (and me) get a blinding start then lose it all in the mud in here.
I walked up and over to the drop off point and hitched a ride back down in the Disco with Dave, going by the pen marks on the back of Dave’s hand, they where well into double figures for runs, and a few hours of uplifting to go.
I had a look through the entry list over on www.britishcycling.org.uk to see if any names jump out, as expected Manon Carpenter and dad Jason are in, keeping with vets class, no Nigel Page racing, Alastair Maclennan from Fort William is in (last years vets podium them 3 ). A name that stood out was Ludovic Oget ? in elite, then I see in G-vets Philippe Da Silva, same team. Philippe used to race the south west winter series so we are used to having a pile of Euros rock up to our local races, makes things more interesting.
Stand outs for me are Sam Hill (obviously!), so some flat pedal thunder to come there and Tahnee Seagrave. I don’t know that much about her, but hear she is not afraid of getting air, and could be a bit wild and lairy on the track and could well put some blokes to shame.
So, team GT/Hope/Santa Cruz & SPS/ Dirt Norco/CRC/Saracen a healthy dose of world cup racers, quite certain I can say that last years turnout from spectators took the BDS by surprise, hopefully this year even more as it’s being looked on as a mini World Cup in the south of the UK, fair few locals go up to watch the Fort William WC race, so to have something close to home again is kinda special.
www.gravity-racing.co.uk should take you to the BDS home site.
So if your down south on April 13/14 grab a cow bell and air horn and see how the pros race.