Race Report from the Weekend…
ITV West news, Friday evening. A piece went out on the up-coming mini downhill race in the Forest of Dean. After spending all of Tuesday filming, I think we managed to come up trumps. People seem to be quite impressed with it too, so that’s all good really. Friday night however, the celebrations came. A bunch of mates and I had decided to go out and hit the town, with the intention of spending Saturday riding, just to get in the groove for Sunday. As per usual, the vodkas came out, the (normally dire) nightclub (if you can call it that) had some wicked tunes going, and Saturday came all too quickly. With hardly any sleep due to copious amounts of red bull, I suddenly found myself pushing up the hill.
One run down and the vodkas hit me again. The bike was left at the bottom and I decided to walk up with a cup of tea and a spade, to watch some carnage and help Chris with marking the track – another funny experience. Just to give some background, there had been monumental speculation over which track was going to be used, and the speculation ended up being half right. When marking a part of the track that we’d deliberately not ridden, Chris was quickly told by a rider that he was marking the wrong track! Saturday afternoon flew by quickly with a couple of laughs about marking the “wrong” one, and before we knew it, the light was drawing away. I thought I’d quickly sign on so i could get straight on it in the morning. Everything was going swimmingly until someone came towards me flailing their arms exclaiming that I was number one. Chris and Billy (Trailstar) had decided between them (both blamed the other person!) that it would be great to put me into the Pro-Am category, and get me the prestigious number one plate, something I’m definitely not likely to see again in the near future!
Riding the 5” travel Orange Blood seemed like a good choice on the day, probably as good as any, a big travel bike on the course that’s just over one minute in the dry gives no advantages. If anything, being able to pedal through the gloopy mud would be a good thing. After binning it near the top in practice, I had two painfully slow full runs, just due to the amount of riders on course proving logistically challenging. 300 riders on a course with an average time well under 2 minutes meant riders everywhere.
The track conditions were worse than I’ve ever seen. The recent end-of-the-world-like weather meant the layer of grease on the track must have been at least 6” deep in places.
The pressure of riding in Pro-Am was starting to get to me too, and I decided to go easy in my first run, get down the track and bank a good time, so my second run could be balls out to try and get in a good result, with an OK one to fall back on if everything goes wrong. Chilling with a cuppa after practice, not much seemed to be happening, and being last man down on our first runs, it was a bit pointless being up there early just to stand around and get cold. Word came down that the race was delayed by an hour due to the timing equipment not working, so another cup of the finest forest brew came out to keep me warm. After spending all morning trying to stay out of the cold, I headed up for my race run half an hour after my original time, only to hear when i arrived at the top that I’d be waiting for another hour.
After riding some of the other trails to keep warm, I did end up pretty freezing by the time we finally got to ride down the hill. Word had gone around that due to it being too dark in the woods (at 2 o’clock) the race had been cut short to a one run shootout. Tactics came into play again, and after debating with myself for a while, I thought that I needed to pull something out of the bag to get a decent result. Balls out it is then. The track conditions were totally different to earlier in the day, and after a top section that was OK, I hit a funny but of sandy slop, got a squirm on, went into a rut, and had to kiss the bike goodbye. And the result. I picked myself back up, sat on the saddle, and pootled down to the bottom. 1:50.1.
Not good at all, but looking at the timing sheet afterwards, it looks like a safe run staying on the bike paid off for a lot of the riders.
There were some comedy times put in too because of the dodgy timing system, apparently caused by a local (probably pirate!) radio station, with local rider Glenn Stewart clocking in a mind boggling 13hours 4 minutes (he did get a re-run!).
Some stand out times now though. Ralph Richardson in senior hit a 1:24.99, which came out as fastest time of the day. Ben Deakin clocked in an amazing 1:26.9 riding a hardtail! Will Jones finished a cracking year with a win in Pro-Am and a 1:26.6, getting prepared for his move up to the Expert category next year. Some of the Rippers managed to tear it up even in the awful conditions, with local guys Charlie Hatton in 3rd and Seth Barrett in 5th.
Even though there were some unforeseen hiccups, the Mini Downhill ethos of having fun blasting down the hill with your mates was still more than apparent. Even though it was carnage with the Rippers, they all still had massive smiles on their faces at the bottom. Chris’ race organisation is second to none, and these technical hitches happen to everyone.
It’s a shame that the race had to be cut short, but lots of things came together to cause it. Unfortunate and unavoidable, sometimes that’s just life! Can’t wait ‘til the next one now, hopefully the rain might lay off a bit beforehand too!
Thanks to Jon Ashelford for all the Photos. www.JonAshelford.co.uk