The quality of the riders at the British Downhill Series is insane.
I don’t just mean the elites or those fast young juniors. I’m talking about everyone from the old buggers to the youngest of young guns. As the years roll on the standard just keeps going up and up and up. We watched a young female racer paddle her way through a particularly gruesome bit of track and I was guilty of thinking “wow – she’s struggling” only to witness per regain her footing, get clipped in and send the road gap like an absolute trooper.
2016 is here and the British Downhill Series is continuing to set the standard for riders and racing in the UK.
Join us for a look at Round 1 of the 2016 Shimano British Downhill Series at Ae Forest and another year of UK talent levelling up.
Mud was the word of the weekend. The field was a wreck, the trail was a wreck, the seats in those uplift buses were a wreck! But … We escaped the brutally bad weather that had battered the British Enduro Series the week before and even got treated to a bit of sunshine.
Despite a week of rain and a hammering at the enduro the week before, the crew at Ae put on a hell of a track. There was flat out, loose as all hell woody sections. There were big jumps. There was “that corner” … a crazy tight, off-camber, steep right-hander that could be handled in anything from 6 seconds (Neil Stewart) to 11 seconds (most of the field). First thing Saturday morning the field was struggling and back wheels were taking a casing. By Sunday afternoon it was like watching a different group of riders. The talent was flowing.
Marc Beaumont (above) clearly wasn’t struggling after his time away from racing presenting GMBN. He was back and clearly hungry for it. Marc first raced Ae in 2002 on Orange / Royal and won. This weekend he was “battling through” (his words) and managed 5th in elite. Welcome back Slugger!
Rainy races mean rain coats. A nightmare for photographers and a necessary evil for racers. All those lovely sponsor logos get covered up and all that nice, new, 2016 kit stays hidden. Here’s Jay Williamson – the Cornish Fasty – proving you can still take a great photo of a rider in a bin bag!
Despite the style injection Jay crashed across the line in his final run and fractured his finger. He’s now madly icing his paw ready for Lourdes World Cup.
Another crash-in-site-of-the-line racer … It’s Phil Atwill. Phil dropped in to the finish during seeding, crashed and so nearly slid across the timing beam on his chest. 6 inches further and he’d have won the Best Finish Ever award at the BDS. Keep doing what you’re doing Phil!
Steve Peat is just built for Ae Forest. He’s the master of power, speed and maintaining forward momentum. As the track turned to thick, gluey mud the Big Man just kept on powering out of turns and showing the field that he’s still a jedi on two wheels. Steve was second fastest in seeding and then 6th in finals.
Taylor Vernon demonstrates just one of the hundreds of ways to tackle the infamous Stump Gap on his new Trek Factory ride. Some guys jump from the steps, over the stump into the right hand side of the photo. Here’s Taylor going for the less flamboyant but no less photogenic low line. Tay piloted his new ride to 11th place in elite – beaten only by much older, much more experienced racers.
Two spots above Taylor was Ruaridh Cunningham – who has was on his 13th visit to Ae Forest. The photo doesn’t do Gump’s style justice – he’s one of our favourite riders on the circuit to watch send a bike airborne. 9th place.
One thing the British Downhill Series does well is that it creates a great event village. Si and the crew build a real buzz around the event, make it look and feel like the place to be. Ae Forest was the exception – the bogged out field meant that the usual exhibitors and spectators hid on the edges of the venue opting for hard-standing car park over muddy fields. Who cares though. The track was fun and less people needed towed out of the field by the farmer. It’ll be sunny for the next race and we can all merrily exhibit away as usual. Hopefully.
Matt Walker (the British one, not the Ozzy) spent 2015 on the Madison Development Team wracking up wins. For 2016 he’s stepped up to the real thing with a place on the full factory Madison Saracen team. He looked great on track but couldn’t piece it together for finals. He seeded 8th fastest but crossed the line 30th in finals. Unlucky, but just a minor wobbler in what’s going to be a great year for Matt.
And the other Matt on the Madison Saracen team, Matt Simmonds. Simmonds seeded fastest in elite but slipped down to 3rd overall in finals. Matt was trucking in seeding, hitting both splits 2nd fastest and then making up enough time in the bottom section of the track to take the top time. His final run just didn’t quite cut it though – 6th at sector 1 and 5th at sector 2. Still, a damn site better than the 9th place he settled for Ae in 2015.
#1 Joe Smith. Joe won the overall British Downhill Series title in 2015 … but had to settled for 4th place at Ae Forest to start the season. Joe was having a blast all day Saturday and styling it up for the cameras but settled for 7th place in his race run.
Introducing Yoav Rappoport – all the way from Israel and riding for Ac Bike Israel. Yoav was racing the juvenile field on his 3rd race at Ae Forest and wasn’t entirely loving the mud … But don’t mistake that for a lack of skill. His 2015 5th place at Crankworx Air DH shows that he’s got the skills! Keep at it young gun!
Craig Evans. He didn’t win but he looks so good he’s getting his photo in our report.
Katy Curd – she’s an incredible rider, a total grafter and has got a team behind her that really, really want to make it happen. We’re big fans. Once again though, she had to settle for 3rd place and that frustrating middle position of being way, way ahead the rest of the field but still fighting to catch up with the winner. Katy was 8 seconds off the win but just two seconds off 2nd place. Keep pushing Katy!
Second place in elite female was Tahnee Seagrave on her new Transition Factory ride. Tahnee says she “didn’t ride how I wanted to in my race run” which put her 6 seconds behind the top step.
And your female winner. Was it ever going to be anyone else? Manon Carpenter. There’s very little to say. She turned up, she smoked the field and now she’s off to do it again at the World Cup in Lourdes. 37 seconds separated the elite women’s field and there was 6 seconds between Manon and Tahnee. Manon is on another level.
Gee Atherton reckons the first race of the season is “always a tough one”. It was reassuring to see him having to invest time and effort into nailing his lines … and seeing him push back up to re-ride That Corner proved how tough the track was. 3rd in seeding but first in the finals for Mr George Atherton.
“The first BDS of the year is always a tough one. It’s stinking wet, muddy, filthy but the track was awesome. My race run was solid but hard work. I’m looking forward to next weekend”.