Bala has a lake, a nice little high street, a great fish and chip shop, plenty of pubs. Don’t go there expecting a mountain bike race. You’ll be 40 minutes the wrong side of North Wales and you’ll miss your track walk.
But … year on year we all say “I’m off to Bala this weekend”, claim that “Bala is the best track in the UK” and mutter something about Bala’s total lack of phone signal. Why do British mountain bikers just refuse to call possibly the best DH track in the UK by it’s proper name, Rhyd y Felin? Who knows. Something’s just are what they are I suppose!
Whatever you want to call it – she’s a beast. Built originally (so MTB legend says) by Atherton manager Dan Brown and EWS commentator Richard Cunynghame the track is in the middle of bloody nowhere. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s surrounded by the finest scenery North Wales can throw at you. It’s the Atherton’s back yard (they live just up the road) and Revolution Bike Park is next door. If you don’t mind a complete lack of wifi and some sign posts you can’t understand, it’s pretty much mountain bike heaven.
The track at Bala (or whatever you want to call it!) has been through a few iterations. This weekend’s offering was big, physical and tough. If you wanted to go fast you had to get creative and hit the big lines. Here’s Kye Forte’s mate Leeroy taking some time out from MX to hit some gaps at his second ever BDS.
Always the man to watch. King of practice. Star of any BDS race vid. Craig Evans. Craig threatened to “Go big from the start!” and he did – big lines and big air all weekend. Was this stump line fastest in the end? Who cares!
OK – so – things didn’t go entirely smoothly this weekend. Mid-way through finals the timing crapped itself. The times that eventually appeared left a few people scratching their heads and doubting the positions they’d been given. It isn’t the first time it’s happened and it’s definitely causing a few grumbles from the racers. If there’s one thing that the UK’s premier race series has to get right – it’s the timings and the results.
On the flipside – Si and co’s plan to reduce the number of riders to 250 worked well. The uplifts ran quick and on time. Riders were stoked. Someone claimed 13 runs on a Saturday which deserves a bloody medal. It’s costing riders more cash in entry fees but the value for money is going up and up.
Hats off once again to the BDS crew – with the big exception of the timing – it was a cracking weekend. Those guys work their arses off to make racing happen in the UK. When we’re sat in our campers drinking cans, they’re grafting away. Cheers guys.
Charlie Hatton ladies and gents. Charlie started the season with a Junior win at Ae Forest and then had to settle for 3rd at Fort William. Bala suited him and he took fastest place seeding and then the overall Junior win. That’s a great warm up for the World Cup next weekend – great job lad! #TeamWideopenmag
Sunshine means dry trails. Dry trails means riders pushing hard, feeling confident and hitting the big speeds. It also means, unfortunately, a few people hitting the limiter and going down in flames. Laurie Arthur (sequence above) was one of the unlucky few that pushed a bit too hard and sampled Welsh dirt.
One rider was unlucky enough to go down a bit harder than the rest and scored a tib/fib open fracture, which is nasty as hell. If you’d like to help out the guys that could well save your life one day you can donate to the Air Ambulance here or the Coastguard here.
There were a few names absent from the results sheet this weekend. Gee Atherton was nowhere to be seen. Brendan Fairclough was AWOL, as was Danny Hart. The 50+ strong elite field at Fort William was slimmed right down – allowing riders like Mike Jones (above) to step up to the plate. The elite men’s battle was wideopen with Peaty, Innes Graham, Sam Dale, Joe Smith, Matt Simmons and a host of other UK big dogs eyeing up the top spot.
These guys were awesome all weekend. They kept us fed, watered and full of tasty Oswestry Ale. Cheers guys, legends!
Left – Madison / Saracen’s pro pits. Right – The privateer setup, pitting out of the back of the van. Which would you prefer? Pro set up or beers and banter with your mates?
The female elite field was another weird one this weekend. Manon (above) went home with food poisoning. Tahnee Seagrave hurt her shoulder and didn’t cross the beam. Rachel Atherton didn’t turn up. One dodgy BBQ sausage and the field was open to a heap of fast females that are usually left watching the podium!
Steve Peat was chilled all weekend. He brought his motorbike down for a Friday night ride with Sam Dale and when he wasn’t on track he put his feet up in the camper and enjoyed the vibe. Given that next weekend is his last ever Fort William World Cup, I expect he’s keen to save his energy! Chilled or not, Steve still smashed out a 2nd place in elite.
Steve Peat’s bikes. For Friday night he had the Triumph Bonneyville cafe racer, the ideal thing for a spin up to Bala with Sam Dale. For Saturday and Sunday he had the Santa Cruz V10.
Tahnee Seagrave. She’s more than capable of unsettling Rachel Atherton and Manon. With Manon ill and Rach elsewhere she could have walked into first place. Sadly, she crashed out and went home with an injured shoulder. Fingers crossed for next weekend!
Crank Brothers do a great job of looking after the BDS racers. They service pedals flat out all weekend and keep everyone rolling – that’s a huge boost when you turn up late with knackered pedals or crash out and bend an axle. Swing by and they’ll sort you out.
CB were also showing off their brand new dropper post- the Highline – which looks really interesting, we’ll have more on that next week…
Matt Simmonds – 5th place.
Sam Dale apparently loves wild camping on race weekends. Rather than staying in the camper van or B&B he’ll take himself off into the woods and sleep under the stars, emerging in the morning to light it up on track. 14th place for Sam Dale.
Joe Smith missed the last BDS to race the Enduro World Series in Ireland where he scored an incredible 9th place. The race could well have been Joe’s … but he had to settle for 4th.
Katy Curd. Your female elite winner. Katy would probably be the first to acknowledge that she was a little bit short of competition this weekend … but shit happens. A win is a win. It was great to see her get a chance to stand on top of the podium. We’ll be staying with Katy and co. next week at Fort William World Cup so look out for loads of behind the scenes stuff from them.
And the man of the moment. An absolute UK, homegrown hero. Part time photographer, full time pinner. Innes Graham. The man of the match. Innes took the opportunity to step up and take the elite win. Despite the absence of a few big names, Innes was still up against some tough-as-nails competition … he smoked it!
“It’s all about learning from your mistakes and building from the ground up. I feel as if things have been slowly coming together this year.” Innes Graham