Sam Dale
Sam Dale

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.

click through to continue reading...

[part title="The Fastest First Year Juniors... In The Wet Page Two..."]

Josh Bryceland
Josh Bryceland

Josh bryceland: 1:04.60

What's the point of riding against the clock?

To see who's the man.

Are you happy with your time?

I'm not unhappy, but there was plenty of room for improvement, but I won’t start on that one.

How much room was there for error?

None if you want to get quickest time. It’s hard not to make an error down that track though…especially in the wet!

Do you think there is a difference between wet and dry conditions in your ability to get up to maximum speed?

Well most surfaces we ride on roll slower in the wet therefore you have to put more effort in to get to maximum speed. Also the tyres used for better traction in those conditions generally roll slower as well.

Seventeen runs. Could you have done any more?

If I hadn't crashed my brains out and got a bit more sleep (Sam loves a good snore), and then I don't see why not.

Would it have made any difference if you'd done the times by yourself, not with rivals?

No, my only rival was myself, I would have done exactly the same if it was just me there riding against the clock.

Had a few off's today. Part of it though?

Yeah I suppose, it means you’re pushing yourself, which is a good thing, and I learnt a few lessons. If my every run wasn't being timed though I think there wouldn't have been as many early on maybe.

What do you think the time difference is between wet and dry?

Well some local boy reckoned it was three seconds, but unless it’s a robot testing in all the possible conditions because wet and dry is fairly unspecific. There're so many other factors which could effect it, like which ruts are blown out, which rocks have moved and so on.

Any tips on riding the 1:04 hill or any hill?

Take your time getting up to speed.

Can Gee Atherton's minute be beaten in the dry?

I think there're people out there who can go four seconds faster than me in the wet.

You don't think that some hills have a certain time?

Well you think there are limits then Sam Hill gets third in Champery in the pissing rain with a crash.

What are your thoughts on Hill beating everyone by 15 seconds in Champery semi?

Awesome.>>

[part title="The Fastest First Year Juniors... In The Wet Page Three"]

Sam Dale
Sam Dale

SAM DALE: 1:06.12

What's the point of riding against the clock?

It’s simple really, to see how fast you can get from the top to the bottom.

Are you happy with your time?

I am, considering the weather we had. The first few runs were damp then I punctured and then the heavens opened and there wasn’t much chance we were going to get any faster.

How much room was there for error?

Very little! To get a respectable time on that track was very hard. It was all about carrying your speed through each section and with it being a short track any mistake would of cost you too much time.

Do you think there is a difference between wet and dry conditions in your ability to get up to maximum speed?

Yes. When it’s dry and you know where you’re going you can go pretty much full bore from the start, but when it’s wet it’s very different, even if you know the track well you don’t know how hard you can hit things until you have ridden it a couple of times. If you changed your tyre pressures and suspension settings it could help you adapt to the conditions faster.

Seventeen runs. Could you have done any more?

Yeah. The track was so much fun and with it only being short you didn’t get too tired.

Would it have made any difference if you'd done the times by yourself and not with rivals?

Yeah it would. It might have made me faster because I wouldn’t of been pushing myself as much and making as many stupid little mistakes. At the same time it could of made me slower because I wasn’t pushing myself as much. You never know.

Had a few off's today. Part of it though?

Of course. If you want to go as fast as you can you will fall off. You just have to get back up and try it again. If you don’t want to fall off just remember slow is safe!! Ha ha

What do you think the time difference is between wet and dry?

If we were to have a good run in the dry and a good run in the wet the difference could be about 3-4 seconds, but being able to pull out a shit hot run in the wet is pretty hard. Especially when it’s as slick as wet clay.

Any tips on riding the 104 hill or any hill?

Take it steady on the first few runs, get to grips with the track see where time can be made and time will be lost. Other than that just have fun.

Can Gee's minute be beaten in the dry?

Who knows? Fair play to whoever does, if anyone can.

You don't think that some hills have a certain time?

I think that some hills will have a certain time…unless your name is Sam Hill

What are your thoughts on Hill beating everyone by 15 seconds in Champery semi?

It must be some kind of timing error. Nah I’m joking. It’s quite unbelievable. The man is something else and will go down as a bigger legend than anyone else. I just wish I’d have been there to see him smoke everyone.>>

[part title="The Fastest First Year Juniors... In The Wet Page Four..."]

Joe Smith
Joe Smith

JOE SMITH 1:06.41

What's the point of riding against the clock?

It gives you the opportunity to try riding different lines to see which are quickest. It also helps you get used to racing against the clock and helps with the nerves I get before a race.

Are you happy with your time?

Not really, I didn’t make it down the track without making at least one mistake throughout the day.

How much room was there for error?

None, the track was quite short and you needed to try and carry good speed all the way through. If you made any mistakes there was nowhere to make it back up.

Do you think there is a difference between wet and dry conditions in your ability to get up to maximum speed?

I think it takes a bit longer to get up to maximum speed in wet conditions, as I tend to go a bit steadier to start with until I know the course quite well. In drier conditions you can sometimes go flat out from the word go, as you are more confident and take bigger risks.

Seventeen runs. Could you have done any more?

I think I did that many runs as I was getting frustrated with making mistakes on each run. I would have liked to get a clean run in before we finished, but I don’t think it would have been any quicker as I was tired and sore from crashes.

Would it have made any difference if you'd done the times by yourself and not with rivals?

I think it would have been harder to get up to speed, as we wouldn’t have been pushing it as much. It was good to have times to compare. However I think that the added pressure might have caused us to crash more, so we might have ended up with cleaner, faster runs. It’s hard to say.

Had a few off's today. Part of it though?

Yeah quite a few. I always tend to crash a lot when I’m practising, but that’s because we all want to win so we all push it to the limit.

What do you think the time difference is between wet and dry?

Again it’s hard to say, but I think I could have gained at least three or four seconds in the dry as the course gets really greasy in the wet. Some of the corners were a bit unpredictable and it was hard to judge speed when coming into them.

Any tips on riding the 104 hill or any hill?

I would definitely say try and walk a course before you ride it. I walked the course after about three runs and my times improved even though it started raining. I think it’s good to try and carry your speed on any track, so choosing the right lines for you are important.

Can Gee's minute be beaten in the dry?

Apparently they had perfect conditions, so if Dan and Gee both had longer to ride the 1.04 they would probably make it under the one minute mark. To beat their times the conditions would also have to be perfect.

You don't think that some hills have a certain time?

As bikes and riders improve track times will mostly get quicker.

What are your thoughts on Hill beating everyone by 15 seconds in Champery semi?

I suppose the track suited his style of riding. The track was mainly corners and hardly any pedalling, which played to his strengths. His qualifying run had worse conditions than most of the podium finishers’ final runs and they didn’t even get close to his time then. It proves he’s the best on that type of track.