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Help 4 Heroes Hamsterley Descent Bike Park

Adam Brayton takes the Elite win at the H4H race at Hamsterley. Full race report inside.

Help for Heroes invades Hamsterley Descent Bike Park for 4X and Downhill.

Words: Justin Revell

Well, despite a little rain and a bit of post-race mayhem (due to a slightly boggy campsite) this weekend 180 riders in the usual DH Categories, including Rippers, took part in the first Help for Heroes Downhill Race at Hamsterley courtesy of Descent Bike Park.   Organised by Jack Bennett, assisted by other members of the British Army Downhill Team, the event was a total success and raised over £2500 for this excellent Charity.

On arrival competitors and spectators alike were greeted by what could only be described as an electric vibe; the track was in great condition, the weather was dry, bright and sunny and the uplift was constantly streaming grinning riders seamlessly from the Main Arena to the start point.   Jack had wanted riders to experience an atmosphere that is normally only associated with larger well established events.   Hence a lot of effort had gone into setting up the main arena and for those that attended, they were exposed to what seemed a seasoned professional venue layout that included Sponsors stands from the likes of Specialized and Shimano, feeding stations and of course the Help for Heroes stall.   This was promising to be a great weekend for all.

Fastest man on track  Adam Brayton

The track itself started from the ramp on the top road and then it was into the woods through rock gardens, switch backs, narrow gaps in trees and then three quarters in, a large table top, which took riders on an initial roller coaster ride that included the bottom half of infamous “Dantes Peak” and Hamsterley’s Main Line.  This top section then neatly (having warmed you up) spat you out, via the road gap at the old cabin into the bottom section; this was where the entertainment began! 

The rock gardens and tight steep rutted descents ending in tight berms tested even the most experienced riders (with many of the lesser mortals tasting plastic fencing and local stone).  But Joe and Craig and their crew from Descent were well versed and had the heart of all riders in mind, so although the track was taxing, you were, if inclined, able to roll everything (even with one foot in the air and your lower regions attached to your top tube – a position many found themselves in!). 

The final stretch included a new fast ‘no brakes’ steep chute, post a rock garden, which housed one of those very crafty inconvenient large rocks that if hit, would bring you to a stand still.  Then it was out onto a berm and soon after back into the sunlight and a tight switchback with off-camber rocks (yes more) towards the final drop and a tabletop finish.   Every rider experienced a fantastic buzz, driven on by 2 minutes (ish) of pure adrenaline, smashtastic fun.   This was fuelled by cheering spectators and Marshalls who lined the course adding to what some described as, almost a World Cup atmosphere that just had riders coming back for more.

For the Rippers – well luckily not the same course, but Jack had spared no expense in ensuring these little devils were looked after on a course that was both testing and fast.  But how to describe it in detail, from a 9 year old’s perspective, ‘it was really really fast and had a 40ft road gap and 20ft drop-offs’, wow, the post practise excitement was such that it was on par with a large dose of blue Smarties – if you have kids you’ll know exactly what I mean!

Saturday practise finished at 16.00 hours but was closely followed by the 4X on the well-established track down to the cabin from the upper car park.  Locals and Pros clashed cranks side by side to secure a place in the 4 man final but it was between racing legend Martin Ogden, Dale Russell, Daniel Bateson and Mike Newbould; Ogden eventually secured the Chequered Flag.

 

A Whip-Off, needing style, guts and height was next to entertain the crowds and entertain it did.   Held on the top section table top of the DH track Liam McDermott took Gold with an impressive 60ft 90 degree whip, but it was over shadowed by what could only be described as, well interesting, as clearly a couple of guys needed to wash their kit for the next day and forgot to pack extras! (see Roots and Rain for the evidence!)

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Sunday was a little more interesting.   The wind and rain had picked up throughout the night and at around 8 o’clock those that had camped, stepped out of their tents and campervans to be met by a grey, drizzly day.   Despite this weather the car park was brimming with activity as riders hastily unpacked kit and bikes ready to grab the first 9 o’clock uplift.  The track, although relatively shaded, had changed overnight and the initial ‘these tyres will be fine’ soon changed to ‘Christ I need Swampies’, for many a rider after their first run.

 

After an opportunity to get in another couple of practice runs the real deal started at 11:30 with the first of two runs for those that could survive.   Juvenile, Youth and Junior led the way with riders posting on their first run a 1:48.055 from Kyle Havard, an impressive 1:34.331 from Callum Havard and Thomas Owens 1:36.486; all eventually securing wins within their respective challenging categories.

 

The Vets were the next to go and Billy Forster who built up an eventual unmatched lead with a finishing run of 1:45.001 secured a win, nearly 5 to 7 seconds ahead of Conrad Slack and Michael Hill.  The Masters was a close finish between Dale Gowling and James Risker, with Gowling taking podium with his second run of 1:36.143, two seconds ahead of Risker with six seconds separating him from 3rd place Phillip Mclaren.  But it was, as usual, within the much contested Senior Category, that the real Battle of Hamsterley was being fought.

The top four James Ramsey, Andy Kipling, Michael Coupe and Ed Thomsett exchanged pedal blows, each at one time or another being within a hairs width of the podium, until victory at last was secured by Ramsey with a 1:32.799, Kipling and Coupe coming a close 2nd and 3rd respectively.   In the Ladies, yet another close match between Molly Pearson, Rebecca Kennedy and Gina Robertson with Pearson ending up on top with a 2:21.749.

As expected though, the Elite and Expert Categories claimed the fastest times of the day where all 4 Elite riders were fighting it out for ‘Top Dog’, where as other UK elite riders where recovering from a hard session on a well-deserved night out for Dan Critchlows stag do, but it was Adam Brayton who took it with a blistering 1:26.069 (which included a lesson on tear-off extraction whilst clearing the road gap) over Emyr Davies and Jack Reading.   Expert came a close second to the days fastest time with only 0.5 seconds separating the winner Dale Russell (1:31.311) from Nikki Whiles, out classing the soon to be ex-Royal Marine Ben Deakin who hobbled in 5 seconds behind (this time with crank ) to secure 3rd.

Full results on Roots and Rain.

So that was it, in sum, what a fantastic way to raise funds for such a worthwhile charity, to say this was Jack’s first race he has organised you wouldn’t have noticed.

The support from Sponsors, Riders, Supporters, Burger Van (Ooh that was a life saver) and the often forgotten volunteers who make this happen, was overwhelming.   Carl from Northern Downhill pulled out a blinder with his excellent Up-Lift and finally sitting in the shadows, the guys

With a massive thanks to all those who helped promote the event via twitter face book and word of mouth we would like to thank everyone for their support and hopefully next year’s event will be a total sell out.

 

Thank you to all the sponsors:

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