Sunday, 11 September 2011

Trailblazers 1-2-1 Race Series - Hamsterley Forest, 3rd and 4th September 2011

Oh gosh, I dunno where to start! This is the first time I have done a race like this!

The 121 Race Series is only in its second year running and consists of a cross-country race on the Saturday followed by a downhill race on the Sunday at Hamsterley Forest in County Durham. It attracts a mixed type of rider from the full on XC racer to the born and bred DH rider - there is one little catch though and that's riding both races using the same bike, oh yes! I decided to do the weekend on my Trek ‘Remedy’.

Saturday came and there were 11 girls altogether with six in my category. All the guys went off first followed by the girls in a mass start, I had absolutely no idea where I would be having never raced cross-country ever before.

I didn't want to go too hard at first as it was three laps of a 4.8 mile loop, kept things nice and steady as to not burn myself out which I think worked. I ended in 4th place behind close friends Helen Gaskell and Sarah Newman who took a joint win.

Sunday came and it was time for me to get stuck into the downhill, I did two practice runs and then the racing was underway from midday. The track was pretty much a pedal-fest, the overnight rain made for some nicely greasy roots, which I add in a rather sadistic way were great fun! :)

With my first race run I got a 2.55, knowing I could pedal harder especially with the track drying out. Second run came around and I knocked 7 seconds off getting a 2.48 coming 3rd in the DH again behind Helen and Sarah respectively. This put me overall 3rd, as the girl who took 3rd in the cross-country took 4th in the downhill and so they go with whoever was fastest in the DH, and erm, that would be me! :)

Angie's back on the steps. Photo courtesy of Gary McIntyre

It was a really good weekend, bloody hard going yet really fun, it’s a clever format for a weekend’s racing and indeed great training for Fort Billy next weekend. I've realised how fun it is riding a short travel bike on DH tracks too, maybe a hardtail next time?!

Big “Thank You” to both Vitamin Water and Red Bull which got nailed this weekend! Such thirsty work!

Northern Downhill Series - Ramsgill, 20th - 21st August 2011

Whey hey! The Northern Downhill Posse rolled into North Yorkshire with their Ramsgill round. This was a new track to race on, it’s always great when there's a brand new course as you don’t have a clue what it has in store for you. It was on the opposite side of the hill to the course of years gone by.

Angie got there with Steve (Foster) on the Friday night, Nick was soon to follow and and they walked the track...

I’ll let Angie take over here: …..It started about five fields up from the valley bottom, scattered rocks here and there and a bit of a boggy left hander which got more blown out and a bit deeper as the weekend went on. Around some corners over a rock berm and down over the stream gap (embrace the case, respect the bounce!) it had a funny landing if you weren't giving it big big licks. Onwards on the gas to the next corner, an immediate left off the infamous "cock jump" (a wooden kicker-jump with a lovely ‘cock’ shape drawn on it to help distract you, Nick was laughing about it all weekend!), a few more corners, past the cow barn and then back on the gas again for the rest of the way, past a little step down and some hellish flat turns into the finish. Verrrrryyyyyyyy old school!

When Angie races, everyone takes note! Photo courtesy of Richard Easton

Nick was super-excited to be back at Ramsgill, so many good memories from the NAMBS races of old (Lee: I’ll try and find an old photo of Nick at Ramsgill from years back….)

Here's Nick many thousands of years ago on the old Ramsgill course!

And here's Nick doing a practise run:

Angie: For me it was just a brilliant experience, the opportunity to race an old school course. Something I have missed out on having got into the sport all too late. These days most turns are bermed or banked up, but uh-uh, not these ones, great fun seeing how fast you can go, how much the bike can slide at the back and still being able to control it.

The course is deceptive, it’s a pretty easy track to ride yet at the same time you need to be on the ball as there’s no room for mistakes, the times are just so close. Nick was saying how unbelievably slippy the corners were becoming.

It was dry on Saturday and I got 7 runs in, everyone seemed to be loving it... however the evening came and brought heavy rain with it. It lashed down all night and we awoke to soggy fields which left the tractors a bit useless in getting up the hill to the top, not to worry, ce la vie! A 10-minute push wasn't going to kill anyone, was it?

Nick was pretty much on it with his first run however he also knew where to make up. Sadly with his second run he mis-judged a boggy corner losing time, he has however kept his fourth place overall standing. Consistency is the key!

Nick's kicking up the dust! Photo courtesy of Richard Easton

Angie's back: I got two practice runs in rocking some brand-new Maxxis Super-Tacky ‘Wet Screams’, baby yeah! So much more grip! My first race run went fine, hit all my lines and pedaled like a banshee where I could. I got a 1.41. That put me 7 seconds in the lead, totally on it!

Second race run came around and the track was drying out real quick, knew it was going to be a faster run. Hit everything harder, getting more pedaling in until I hit the second kicker-jump and got distracted, went straight over the bars and got all tangled in the tape. Not wasting anytime I jumped back on, feeling that the other girls were going to have a faster run with it drying up, luckily this wasn’t the case and I took the win! Elated!

Top step! Photo courtesy of Richard Easton

Big thanks to Carl and the Northern Downhill Series team for getting Ramsgill off the ground, we all had a belting weekend!!

Lee here now: there was a bit of debate on the internet over whether there is a place on a modern race series for such an old school styled course. And I back Carl 100% for what he achieved at Ramsgill which was in effect a short open course, the style of which we had in the middle of the 90’s. Today we see a huge influx of steep technically demanding courses and there are people who thrive for these. However in order to have an fair balance throughout a race series there is, I feel, a need for variety and this is where such a course fits in perfectly. It shows you the riders who can handle ALL types of terrain, not just the purely vertical gravity set. My hat is off to Carl for pulling off such a brilliant weekend.