We’re all used to seeing the cream of the crop rocking their stuff in the limelight, it’s all bigger, better, braver and faster. On the contrary, it’s rather unique and noble for an event to veer away from this. We all know and love Red Bull for their events that have thrown up some of the quirkiest and craziest happenings in our sport, and across many others for that matter. But as the title here hints though, this was an altogether different affair…
From Dirt Issue 118 – December 2011
Words by Richard Cunynghame. Photos by Rutger Pauw/Red Bull.
Gathering in a North Welsh field, at the base of the Rhyd–y–Felin forest that has hosted many a race, on a damp September weekend were a select few world class mountain bike racers, with accolades and honours stretching all the way up to World Championship titles. But it wasn’t them that the focus was on, instead it was a lovely selection of competition winners…Weekend Warriors. The people that are out there most weekends, not to fly across the world to compete but to have the craic with mates, partake in the riding of bikes downhill for what it is at it’s most simple, a shitload of fun.
The eminent Atherton family have long had strong ties with Red Bull and the two came together to put on this event that would give something to the majority of riders that normally get overlooked. Atherton Racing’s team manager, Dan Brown said, “The idea came from a few places really, we’ve been wanting to put on a few events for fans and fellow riders for a while now and the opportunity arrived to do something with Red Bull, so we jumped at it. The concept took a bit of inspiration from our Atherton Training Camps, which we are currently developing and from a Red Bull event called Break 5 which has worked really well in surfing. It’s nothing revolutionary really we just wanted to put on a good fun weekend for people who enjoy riding their bikes.”
The concept was for mates to enter a team of four, the selection had to whittle the entries to 12 teams to attend. These lucky ones were given directions to the event and told not to worry about much else apart from bringing their riding kit. Turning down the tight country lanes on Friday evening, the field was lit up with the famous blue tents glowing in the dim light, marking out the field that was more resembling a native American camp rather than a Welsh hillside. Neatly arranged with classy tepees for accommodation, a bar, a larger tepee for live music and of course the full Atherton racing pits, all centred around a campfire.
This first night set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Everyone sat around chilling, sharing drinks and stories with the Athertons playing hosts and giving the guys attending a chance to find out first hand what life is like as a pro downhill racer, although a lot were more interested in meeting the team mechanic Polish Pete, who’s slowly becoming a cult figure!
Saturday morning saw bacon butties all round as the trucks rolled in. Comfortable uplifts took everyone to the top where riders were split into two groups, one going off with Dan and Rachel Atherton to ride a fresh track specifically cut to Dan’s specification for this event, whilst the others rode the classic track here with Gee and star guest, World Cup commentator and fastest sat down racer of all time, Rob Warner. World Cup racers Al Bond and Gareth Brewin were also on hand to display the techniques. A lot of people wonder what the tracks are like that the Athertons ride and this was a great opportunity to see one that has been here for a while, and one in its complete infancy. Quite a shocking challenge for some it must be said. But that’s what the seasoned pros were on hand for, tips and advice were shared freely.
That evening was then another campfire affair, with dinner served up from bubbling cauldrons and then the bar and live music came into play. Ukuleles and DJ’s provided some great entertainment. The dancing on show was a spectacle to behold all of it’s own.
Racing may be what riding a bike is often about, and it forms a marvellous maypole to gather around, but riding a bike is certainly not all about racing…Sunday saw a different style of competition. Times were recorded by all riders on both courses, with a total created for each team. This brought in a real nice team spirit. The event ended in a winning team being presented with a trophy, but it won’t be that which is remembered, it will more likely be the campfires, freshly cut tracks, new friends, old friends, Welsh hills and an experience that felt fresh just through being authentic. It’s nice to escape all the hype and pressure, it’s probably the happiest Gee’s been at an event all year.
As everyone packed up on Sunday night, there was nothing but smiles and comments of how much fun had been experienced, leaving Dan Brown to say, “this was just the start of it! We’re working on a few more events here that we hope to get off the ground next year, it’s safe to say that having fun on bikes will always be at the heart of any event we work on.” With none of the formalities of a normal race weekend, Red Bull Weekend Warriors really was a race event distilled down to the purest and most enjoyable elements.