Meet the privateers - the lifeblood of the British Downhill Series
The unsung heroes of British downhill
A large chunk of the current British success on the World Cup circuit can be put down to the BRITISH DOWNHILL SERIES. It is without question the most competitive domestic race series in the world and has bred generations of top racers.
Words and Photos: Simon Nieborak
However the BDS would be nothing without the privateers. The amateur racers who shell out their hard earned cash to race at remote tracks around the country just for their love of the sport. It's their commitment and dedication that keeps the series ticking over and makes them the unsung heroes of British downhill.
We went to meet a few of them at round 1 in Ae Forest to see how their race weekends panned out and what keeps them coming back round after round:
Laurie Arthur rides in the Expert category and has been racing in the BDS since 2014. He finished 10th at Ae Forest
Trucking up to the first national race of the year is always a cool feeling! I had mixed thoughts about the off season - I was coming back from an injury that meant a lot of time off the bike so I was worried about what was ahead for the season to come.
Having said that, it's always exciting to get somewhere with some fairly long tracks. Makes a change from home, with 40 second tracks being the max.
Ae Forest has been busy lately with three races in the last three weeks - an SDA race, national enduro, and now national downhill races. Weather wise, the last two weeks there have been... interesting - greeting us this weekend were the boggiest of conditions!
Waking up in the dry and having to dive out into the heavy rain and trying to bash out practice runs in the wet along with standing in uplift queues in the rain was a grim thought. But then it's the same for everyone!
I managed six runs on Saturday practice. I headed up on the first uplift because I was pretty keen to get out and throw myself down the hill to warm up. Riding was so fun. The track was pretty straight with not many corners, just flat out and rough. This made things pretty wild and it was more like surfing down most of the track, either drifting, or being airborne. Decent. Right good laugh with good people.
Sunday was race day and again I woke up to heavy rain! I managed two solid runs in the morning before qualifying though.
Qualifying came and I had a good run going but ended it at the big double. There was a pretty wild, muddy and rooty right hander, which was a drifter. I didn't want to dab a foot and get my cleats full of mud so hit it full commitment, feet up. I saw a high high line in the corner after it and hopped up onto that but I got a bit carried away and ended up too wide into the steps and stalled. I had to hop the steps on the far right from a track stand and then had to pedal hard to the double, snapping my cranks on the landing.
I didn't want to drive seven hours back home without doing my race run so had to search around the shops, stalls and ask friends for a spare set of cranks. Luckily for me, Harry Molloy from Solid Bikes was there to save my day, lending me his cranks due to an off ending his weekend.
I was knackered come the race after rushing around searching for bike parts. It was pretty stressful but managed to sort out my bike in time and get up the hill in time for my run! I had a good run, nothing mega wild but good enough to place 10th in the Expert category and had a heap of fun whilst doing so.
It's great to be back in the top 10 and in the mix after a season ender last year. I was ranked 5th overall in Expert until I ruptured and lacerated my spleen half way through the season.
All in all it was a top weekend catching up with people I've not seen since last season, and seeing new faces around the race area is always cool!
Cheers to everyone who's made the weekend a good'un and everyone who helped me out. Also massive thanks to my sponsors Morvelo and Mulebar for everything they do.
Anita Gellatly - Laurie Arthur's parent
Laurie's sister Francie told me a few years ago that I should support him better so he could develop his great riding skills beyond the mtb, bmx and skate park scene - he's spent his life on a bike. So from that moment we've gone wherever possible to riding events like local races, BDS races, some uplift days and enduros.
As a landscape painter and photographer I'm always really keen to have my camera with me - I walk up to the top of every track to check it out and spend most of the day high up taking pictures of the riders and the land and chatting with other folk along the way, including other photographers.
Race weekends are a great mixture of contemplation and suspense. I just love the way everything else in life pales to insignificance becoming totally unimportant.
I always want Laurie to do really well and am gutted when he has mechanical problems - like when his crank snapped right in front of me here. He always appears pretty cheerful however serious things are - like last year he carried on riding with a ruptured and lacerated spleen. Never appearing bothered whatever the situation, always a big grin on his face...
Spencer is the father of Harrison Fawcett who has moved up to the Junior category this year. He rides for Gawton gravity Hub and finished 23rd at Ae Forest