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The Fastest First Year Juniors… In The Wet

With the hardtail boys contemplating a future of loose teeth and chocolate wheelsets after just half a dozen runs on the 1:04, this was a return to business, that being the quickest way to get a two wheeler down a coiling run through a rock field quarried by monks and prisoners over many centuries.

dirt issue 66 – august 2007

Words and Photos by Steve Jones

Rain on this occasion didn’t stop the clock, and lets face it, things will probably never be quite the same since Sam Hill’s demolition of everyone else who thought they could ride bikes in Champery earlier last month. It seems now only old man Peat, the lone thirty something in a world top forty made up of those who learned their trade in juniors, that can do something about the youth from Perth.

In this country we have arrived at a point in downhill racing whereby the odds are pretty much stacked against anyone making inroads into a top twenty that is dominated by riders that have served long youth and junior apprenticeships on the cattle wagons and tractors of the UK’s plantations (or woodland depending on how right–on you want to be about it). Peaty is an exception in the current UK top twenty, no surprise then maybe that those juniors he has helped along the way…Beaumont, Fairclough and Bryceland…have done, and are doing so, well around the world. The future is bright, and they were all schooled on Orange bikes.

The strongest year that Britain has had junior wise in recent history was the Atherton, Beaumont 2003 vintage. Both have a World Cup win under their belts. Fairclough has a couple of podiums and one of the most sought after rides in racing. This year is set to be one of the most deep (with regards to talent) ever, and the names Josh Bryceland, Sam Dale, Ruaridh Cunningham and Joe Smith will all be making sure Canadian Steve Smith has a stormy time on a boggy Mor come September.

Of the current top four in the UK, this is Ruaridh’s last year in Juniors whereas the other three have another year ahead of them before moving into make or break, yet it’s taken Matti Lehikoinen five years of consistent improvement to reach his current form.

1:04 IN THE WET

The hill was having a moody day as squalls blew in off the Atlantic making each corner fractionally slower than in the dry. Sam’s dad, Steve, was piloting the Subaru pick–up on the shuttles whilst Richard, Joe’s dad, stood with notebook to clock the times being recorded by the now well used Freelap timing pole system.

With the hill in such a tetchy frame of mind it was surprising that Josh and Joe hit up 1:07 and 1:08 respectively by run five. Josh was marching down the clock effectively before the rain came even harder. His progress and consistency was by far the best out of the three, only two of his fourteen runs were free of major error. Sam and Joe posted some beauties at 1:06 in the wet but neither managed more than two runs of decreasing times. This can be compared with Barel who systematically wound down the clock from 1:12 each run in absolutely stinking conditions.

Stopping the clock on these three is pretty much as it is at UK races, with Josh that little bit ahead of Sam and Joe. They might disagree, both Joe and Sam are strong with great technique, the difference in Bryceland being that he is looser with less tension, never fighting the bike. The following day Bryceland, Dale and Smith dominated the podium and the race at the Welsh Championships.

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