The Rose Bikes British Downhill Series Rd4 at Rhyd-y-Felin
Photos by Ian Lean // Words by Jamie Edwards
Rhyd-y-Felin put on a big, tough show for the British Downhill Series this weekend. The track and the weather were thunderous and worked together to create what could well have been the wildest race of the year so far.
Rhyd-y-Felin near Llangynog, North Wales. Stunning countryside that’s hidden away not far off the beaten track between the purple crags of Snowdonia and the lush green fields of Shropshire. It’s the Atherton’s backyard, it’s home to Revolution Bike Park and is peppered with secret tracks down the steep slopes. It’s a beautiful part of the world and another unique back drop for the British Downhill Series.
There’s been racing at Rhyd-y-Felin since 2004 (Brendan Fairclough and Jules Coventry won) and over the years that hill has earned its reputation as one of the very best in the UK. The original track was built by Dan Brown (now Atherton Racing’s Team Manager) and Richard Cunynghame (MTB media all star) and more recently was reinvented with the help of the long-haired wild-man you see above. Gareth Brewin.
GazzyB got on the mini-digger the week before the BDS and got to work on the jumps building them “as they should have been built in the first place” (he claims). He put on a hell of a show with big, tough, challenging lines that had even the very best of them casing the ass out of the landings and shoulder-checking the trees!
We’ve had some hellish weather this season at the British Downhill Series and at the Fort William World Cup. But, finally, Rhyd-y-Felin gave us what we wanted! Baking sun and deep, loose, dust! Conditions on Saturday were something else – photographers were struggling to shoot, riders were struggling to see and the track was engulfed in a smoke screen of gold powder. It wasn’t going to last though …
There’s always one rider that stands out from the pack – and it’s rarely the rider that wins the race. For me, it was Hope’s Craig Evans from the Steel City of Sheffield. Craig only started racing downhill seriously in 2013 and is a total force on a bike! Craig hucked a stump gap on track that was absolutely flippin massive – you can see it on the video here. 16th place for Craig.
Here’s Phil Atwill on the big, fast, rough middle section. The section was fast as hell and full of huge, gnarly stumps. If you want to go fast you have to take chances and hit the gaps. Phil scored an awesome 9th place in elite – one of his best ever results.
“Warning: If you are going to enter the BDS expect large jumps, multiple lines and challenging features on the course.” Bloody right. Don’t enter the British Downhill Series if you’re not capable of taking your balls in hand and hucking some big lines. On one hand that means the majority are excluded from taking part … the flipside is that it creates talent like young Kade Edwards who doesn’t seem phased by some air time. 6th for Kade in Youth.
Of course, even the UK’s fastest racers eat shit. Saturday was that special kind of day when the ground was baked hard and the track was running fast. A challenging track meant that the crashes were big and gnarly. There’s was nothing too serious but we did see plenty of racers getting patched up by the ambulance crew or given some advice by Harris and Ross. That includes our guest rider Tom Slack, junior rider Charlie Hatton and pit-guest Kaos Seagrave – get well soon guys!
Saturday night marked a change of tempo for the British Downhill Series. The familiar sound of rain drumming on the roof of the van meant the dust of Saturday would be gone and be replaced by slick, greasy mud on Sunday. Literally every session on track was different all weekend. Sunday AM practice was wet and slippy, seeding was thick and gloopy mud and then it dried up for race runs. By one point on Sunday riders were struggling to just keep their wheels rolling through the gloop!
Want to get into photo stories? All you’ve got to do is look as good as Matty Stuttard!
Jack Reading – One Vision team captain – with the gun fighter eyes. 11th place for Jack and a great return to form after an up and down season. Jack scored 8th at Ae Forest British Downhill Series but didn’t quite have the same pace at Fort William and Llangollen. On his day, Jack rips.
Katy Curd is having the season of her life and is holding steady on to 2nd place overall in the series. 4th place for Katy.
Matt Simmonds was the fastest man down in seeding on Sunday but fell slightly back down the pack for race runs and crossed the line shaking his head and in 5th place, 5 seconds behind the winner.
Mike Jones – how rad is Mike? Style, speed and enough years ahead of him for a real chance to take over the World. 3rd place in elite for Mike and fastest through the speed trap in his race run.
Ride like a girl? We’d be pretty stoked to ride like Tahnee Seagrave. Tahnee, her bro Kaos and their mechanic Jake joined us in the Wideopenmag pits this weekend and were great fun to hang out with. Cool, fast, nice kids – come back soon! 3rd place for Tahnee, just 2 seconds behind 2nd place. Of course, neither Tahnee nor Manon could touch first place.
Second place for Manon and no lasting injury after her gnarly crash in Fort William! Some days Manon can beat Rachel and some days she can come very close. This wasn’t one of those days.
It’s one thing to win a race … but to win it by 13 whole seconds? That’s absolutely incredible. Stop for a second and count to 13 and see just how long that is! Rachel Atherton absolutely brutalised the field. She’s definitely back on form after some injuries earlier in the year.
Gee Atherton crossed the line looking uneasy – he knew his run had been scrappy and wasn’t sure it would stick. He clipped a tree in the woods, lost loads of speed and admitted it wasn’t the run he wanted. That’s racing!
Gee knew his run wouldn’t stick … and he was right. Joe Smith crossed the line and knocked Gee out of the hot spot and then last man down Matt Simmonds couldn’t make it stick. First place for Joe Smith and he was stoked! It had been an incredible run for Joe – fastest through both splits and fastest across the line. That’s Joe’s second BDS win of the year.
Series update // Round 4
Joe’s victory brings him within reach of Gee Atherton – but not enough to take the lead. Gee charges on ahead and looks dead set for the overall victory. It’ll take something pretty exciting to topple him at this point!
1st Gee Atherton 790 points 2nd Joe Smith 694 points 3rd Mike Jones 574 points
Despite her total dominance at this race bad luck and injury means she’s down in 3rd place with a big gap between first. Manon’s consistent riding and time spent on the bike not in the hedge mean she’s holding a strong lead.