Hard Times and High Times at the Red Bull Hardline
Tom Caldwell was our man on the mountain for this year’s Red Bull Hardline. He takes up the story…
Photos: Chris Griffiths and Louise Riozzi (Paused Motion Photo)
Video: Tom Caldwell (Caldwell Visuals)
For the second year running the Red Bull Hardline returned this past weekend perched upon an infamous Welsh hillside to decide who’s got the biggest balls in order to conquer the absolute monstrosity, which was born from Dan Atherton’s mind. With a very limited amount of riders (15 to start with and only 8 making it to finals) it was clear that this wasn’t your average track. Dan sadly crashed out in practice damaging his shoulder, and when Gee Atherton goes around a feature whilst filming a headcam, you know it’s serious business! Lluis Lacondeguy literally just said no, that’s how bad (in a good way)it was.
Huge BMX style dirt jumps, step up’s, step downs, one big old road gap plus gnarly technical downhill in-between features… this was a combination for something completely next level in the mountain biking world. This was the first year Hardline was opened up to the public, with floods of people hiking up the hillside, tickets selling out fast, and an extremely long queue for the home-made pizza stand. The atmosphere in and amongst the pits was something different. It was chilled, friendly, with no pressure and the vibe was nothing like a World Cup weekend (albeit very muddy – but this is Wales, remember). Check out the video below for an abundance of hucks, whips and insights into the weekend… oh and also a flock of old women!
What can you say about Gee Atherton? Ruaridh Cunningham described him as the man amongst boys this weekend – effectively guinea pigging everything and showing everyone else how it’s done. The crowd favourite also showed everyone that he isn’t all about the racing, styling the step up’s to the crowd’s contentment. He however faced tough luck again this year with yet another mechanical, ripping his tyre off high up the course, and having to walk to the bottom, then rolling (or sliding) to the finish with his rear wheel locked completely. Not the best day for him, but the headcam run he did earlier in the week showed he’d have probably taken the win if not for the mechanical.
Alex Bond is a complete wild man. Riding Dan Atherton’s bike, wearing Bernard Kerr’s old kit and sending everything just like the big boys. He’s a hard nut and a good’n at that. Bondy mentioned that the jumps here aren’t anything like your average jumps. One miss-calculation of line or speed and you’ll case and flip over the bars, which he sadly did in his race run. Sessioning the jumps is one thing, but doing them slap bang in the middle of your race run is a different story. Bloody good effort Bondy.
Where the hell did Craig Evans come from? Hoped–up World Cup racer and now the biggest sender to come out of Steel City (OK, maybe besides Peaty)? He was crowned the ‘Pencil King’ this weekend, and for good reason, but the whip he threw on the final jump of his race run certainly made up for it. Rear wheel higher than the front and clipping the tree. Craig came down 6th, which was still a valiant effort on what people were saying was the hardest track in existence, just making it down is a big feat.
Has Dan Atherton gone too far? Hands up who saw Reece Wilson’s scrub photo the other day? Everyone? I thought so. This guy is insane. He’s not even 20 and he’s had the best style all weekend, plus the fact he said you could make all the features bigger and they’d still be good to ride. We certainly didn’t have him down as a complete freerider-hucker but I tell you what, his genitals must be massive. I’m surprised they didn’t pull him down out of mid air. He mentioned that the whole event had more a chilled sessioning vibe than a race vibe, and he hit the nail on the head. This guy has a bright future.
Mr Adam Brayton said he had so many brown streaks that he’d burned through his boxers and pants and that there was a straight hole through now (a pleasant mental image I know). The hucker from Keswick had no problems this weekend on the outrageous features however, popping higher than anybody else on the big step-up and then throwing the best air manoeuvre of the weekend, an impressive four fist pumps mid air on the final jump. A 4th for him on the day and he was buzzing with it, he’ll be on a high all the way to Christmas.
Stoppie masterclass Bernard Kerr seemed more low key than usual this weekend, that was until he started throwing toboggans over one of the biggest jumps, which the crowd, huddled along the ridgeside, absolutely loved. He pulled off an impressive 3rd place and showed he can handle loopy Welsh downhill at the same time as Fest Series sized jumps. He was certainly a crowd favourite, with possibly every spectator yelling his name and having seen him on their mobile device sometime or other on his front wheel. Nice one Bernard.
For ginger ninja Joe Smith, this was practically his back garden. Feeling more at home than pretty much everyone else, you could tell he was having a ball. Sideways wherever possible, and I don’t know about you guys but that’s what we like to see out of the ever more serious racing scene. He excelled in the relaxed vibe and knocked out a second place. And that’s with slamming his face into the catch berm of a 40-50ft step down. A cracking effort from the Welshman.
And so, Ruaridh Cunningham, a complete underdog and what we’d call a massively underrated rider. Arguably the biggest balls of the weekend and certainly a surprise for the humble lad from the Scottish borders. He didn’t look the most confident in practice, but do not let that fool you! He followed Gee up the take-off of the Renegade Step–Up and noticed Gee shake his head and say ‘No chance’. It was at this point Rauridh took a massive sigh of relief, realising he didn’t have to do it too. Maybe this calmed his nerves and enabled him to focus on everything else that could potentially steepen his head angle by 4 degrees. However, out of the blue, the Unior Tools/Trek rider knocked this one out of the park. They certainly don’t mess about in Scotland.
So that was it for the second year of Red Bull Hardline. utter lunacy once again and an event that will no doubt turn into a crowd favourite. It’s a one off, what do you even class it as? Whatever it’s classed as, it’s pushing the sport to and beyond its limits, and that’s what we like to see, progression. See you next year, over and out.
PS. We need more pizza vans next year.