Saracen British Downhill Series – Round 3
BDS Round 3 under way in Innerleithen, Scotland. Round 3 of the Nationals is the first bus stop on the journey to Fort William and the first World Cup. A great time to see if you are up to speed and pretty much warm up for the big one. But even with the World Cup around the corner, the pressure is still on and the rewards are just as great.
Weather of the weekend was stunning and the trail was a shiner. A great mixture of techy, rooty sections, into flat out dust shoots, tight knuckle smashing trees and an array of senders and gas to flats. Tim Williams did a really good job on the track. Hats off! One of the better tracks to be taped out at Innerleithen.
If only the same thing could be said for the now infamous Innerleithen uplift! A two mile road ride, followed by a coach ride, followed by a hike to the top. I guess there were some tired legs come race day and the red flags were out in force, with a number of riders holding up proceedings… Well perhaps, or maybe it was just the infamous Innerleithen trees getting in the way.
Which pretty much sums up the whole weekend, victories, sunshine and red flags. Once again the team is furthering to come together, work out the creases and start to put down some solid results. Team manager, Will Longden, even felt the duty to put some time in the saddle and show the young guns how to race bikes. He donned the kit and made for the hill.
After the trials and tribulations of Fort William, even though good results were had, there were improvements to be made. Not just the riders looking for vital seconds, team mechanics Alex Lovett and Ric Keates were switching to new tubeless methods ready for this weekend. Not like they haven’t got enough to do already, both Alex and Rick put in a valiant effort working on five riders bikes between them, no easy feat. No major mechanicals throughout and the bikes were running well but washing and checking bikes, tasked in with lugging turbos around and erecting the team pits, it can be a busy life. Top job boys!
Practice went swimmingly and no real issues. Learning the track was not the easiest though. With Innerleithen having so many options of tracks, it’s easy to get confused with an older one along the way, with multiple lines and random features in odd places to throw you off, it made for an interesting practice. This doubled up with the long uplift meant for a lot of people hiking the track to scope out lines on foot. Most of the riders managing to score five runs each all day.
Race day and the weather was prime. Spot on really! In all honesty, we could have been in New Zealand for all I knew, especially with the influx of Kiwi’s and American’s getting some pre WC training in. Seeding went well and with most riders hitting top 5 seeding places we were game on for races.
Racing came, the crowds were about with a great turn out of rowdy spectators lacing the bottom section of track. Almost a mini World Cup vibe was going on, as voice of the BDS, Toby Pardi put it. (Who I must say, put on another great show!)
High hopes into racing and after a few on track delays it was under way. Will Longden first to come down, and even though he hasn’t raced his bike in a good few years he was still on pace, putting down a quick time and into the hot seat with two still to come. One of which was Dave “Bull Head” Wardell, team coach who was also on form! Three men later and Will managed to hold onto 3rd place. A podium for a man who hasn’t ridden a bike in months. A testament to Will, clearly the boy still has skills!
Manon next down and having what seemed, a quiet, chilled weekend, still managed to turn it up when it came to race runs. Putting down a great 2nd place just in behind Rachel Atherton with only a second in-between! The third 2nd place in a row now for Manon in the Saracen BDS and she’s determined to go one better next time around.
Phil Atwill was up next and after two punctures in race runs at BDS 1 and 2, he was madly keen to make up for lost ground and go hell for leather. Like he said “the overall is out the window now, so i’m just going to give it some – win or fall off trying!” This boy has some determination. A slight hiccup in his race run, where a rider red flagged in front of him, meaning a re-run, put him in a good place to see what he had to achieve. Pressure was a little off after seeing rival, Taylor Vernon’s time down after a spill on track but still had to put down a quick one and what a stormer he had. Slaying the re-run and putting down a time that challenged the Elite mens top ten, 7 seconds up in his field putting him into a well deserved winning spot!
Once again, “team test Stig” Jack Geoghegan, put down a storming effort, sliding into another 1st place in his category putting Madison Saracen on top of the box again.
Elite mens! What a stacked field for this round. Everyone was here, most of the top dogs from around the world were gracing the small village of Innerleithen with the weekend seeing the likes of Sam Hill, Steve Smith and Brook MacDonald lace the pack, making it a slightly daunting task! After a great weekend of riding, Sam and Harry both had a feat for the race runs and put down solid times. Going sub 2.40 and with no major mishaps put them in good stead, but wasn’t enough to grace the podiums. “I feel like i’m riding a bit too cautiously, just need to get a bit wild” was the comment from Sam Dale, but feeling confident on the bike and fit as ever, he is sure that the hard work will pay off into good results.
On the whole, another great weekend and storming weather but once again, some really good points to work on and roll on Fort William World Cup. Bikes washed, kits off and the final task of dismantling the awning, with the stella help from loose hands and riders around pit area, (cheers for the help!) we were off. Packed up and Fort William bound!
Photography: Laurence Crossman-Emms