National Champs 2008 words and photos by “The Duck”
Bala, well actually LLangynong to be exact, is exactly how a Downhill MTB venue should look. Spacious, well planned parking area, catering wagon, beer, booming sound system and a 6 foot road bridge drop into the finish. Throw in a very well fast and flowing course, some big named riders and you’ve got the National Downhill Championships 2008.
Saturday. The weather was miserable in places, definitely that wet kind of rain that makes you, er, wet. It also had the ability to make parts of the course surface like ice. If you’ve not been to this venue before, it starts with a fast, wide section with a couple of bus stops, berms and road crossings then drops into a forest rooty section. Incidentally, this entry into the forest section on the Saturday practice was causing mayhem as deep ruts built up within the slate forcing the unwary into a submerged tree stump and then promptly into a faceplant. The course continues along another road then into a final forest section before flowing across two fields with drop offs and doubles before finally launching you up the ‘new for 2008’ road bridge and into the finish. It’s a very wide course and you a great choice of lines all the way down.
The practice and uplift was sort of working but very much in fits and starts. A lot of riders would come down together in a big bunch every 20 minutes or so rather than a steady stream which caused a bit of a problem getting a decent clean practice run in.
Towards the end of the seeding runs the track was drying out very nicely, becoming very fast in places and the sun was out. The Duck had to use sun cream.
The atmosphere was electric and the crowd could barely contain their excitement.
After Saturday, the top 5 seeding for Sunday looked like this:
1 ATHERTON Gee 2:52.857
2 PEAT Steve 2:58.679 +5.822
3 BEAUMONT Marc 3:00.551 +7.694
4 DONOGHUE Neil 3:02.473 +9.616
5 CUNNINGHAM Ruaridh 3:04.564 +11.707
1 ATHERTON Rachel 3:21.352
2 MOSELEY Tracy 3:24.487 +3.135
3 GASKELL Helen 3:37.778 +16.426
4 CURD Katy 3:42.331 +20.979
5 CANN Calamity Jayne 3:50.431 +29.079
Rachel A moments before sticking it into a tree.
Sunday. Weather was good on the whole, drizzle here and there but no major worries.
Practice was running smoothly and the course was holding up well in the majority of places. One particular small berm in the first forest section however, was causing problems as it was now being totally broken up on it’s exit and causing front wheels to wash out. I watched two riders almost come off here and then Gee Atherton came through, realising the corner had changed he pushed his bike back up the hill for another go at it. Then we both witnessed Rachel come through at massive speed, lose the bike from under her and carry the full force of a tree impact on her left leg just above the knee. Lying in a heap, her brother was the first on scene swiftly followed by Extreme Medics who injected painkillers then carried her off in a stretcher, then eventually to hospital via the Air Ambulance. I never did find out what she actually did but she was hobbling about later on a pair of crutches.
The racing started. With Rachel out of the game Tracey Moseley did the business for the Elite Women. Jessica Stone beat Monet by just over a second. Fraser McGlone put nearly 13 seconds between himself and the next rider in Juvenile, Josh Bryceland obliterated the Juniors with a 2:54 and would have come second had he been in the Elite category. Damon Smith was top of the Seniors with a 3:08. The Grand Veterans can’t remember where they left their bikes……….
The battle was on for the Elites and when it was announced that Steve Peat was 4.5 seconds up at the split, the crowd went bananas, then went bananas again when he put in the fastest time of the day at 2:50. If you were a banana salesman then you would have run out as Gee Atherton stuck 2 seconds on Peaty at the split on his run but then lost it on the grass with the finish line almost in sight and cruised in looking a little dejected.
So, there you go, the Event was well attended by both big names and spectators, Steve Peat, Marc Beaumont and Neil Donoghue took the top 3 spots, The Duck had a good time (although he chatted to Monet’s mum, Marshall 4 and a horse photographer!?! for far too long when he should have been concentrating on other things) and a well known riders tent blew into powerlines and blacked-out half of Wales.
The Butcher will be back shortly.
Full results here at Pearce Cycles.
British National Downhill Championships Report