Tried and tested – 2016 British Downhill Series rd4, Moelfre

Images by Ian Lean / words by Dave Konstanz

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Round 4 of the 2016 British Downhill Series took us to Moelfre, in Mid Wales.

What is there to say about it that hasn’t been said before? Its scary fast, exposed and can be damn bleak when the weather closes in. The classic venue brought mixed feelings from the riders. Rumours were floating about that we were getting treated to a new track and a welcome relief from the beaten up singletrack, but they weren’t to be.

We were met with the same track that has been used for many years previously, but is this a bad thing? Riders knew the track inside out and with a couple of ‘spoofed up’ sections, namely the jumps, it looked like we were going to be in for a good weekend – the sun was shining and there were smiles in the pits.

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The usual number one topic of the BDS is the uplift. The tried a tested tractor and trailer trip at Moelfre worked again and with a smaller number of riders, the queues were minimal and there was a quick turnaround, so there was not a shortage of runs to be had in the sun for practice on Saturday.
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The track itself was flat out from the start. A quick sprint out of the gate led to a fast off camber section which then sent you straight down the hill, time to get the speed tuck on to carry your speed – the wind was picking up.

The first few corners were super loose and the speed carried into them meant that a fair few got exploded much to the riders and photographers delight.

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The steep section was well ridden in and the ruts were being overhung by the verges meaning that plenty of mechs and chainrings were victim to the Welsh hillside. Out of the steep section down the chute and through the stream meaning that even on the driest of days you still managed to get wet…

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The traverse that Moelfre is well known for was super quick on Saturday with a tail wind – speeds of over 35mph were being boasted around the pits.

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Into the 4X Jumps towards the end and then it was a quick sprint with some flat grassy corners into the finish – on Saturday, who knew that these final corners would determine so many results come racing on Sunday.

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Sunday. Race Day. The weather had started to close in. The Met Office was saying heavy rain at 3pm, the BBC were saying rain at 2pm and Les Hatton weather was saying that it was going to be dry all day. The reality was that the wind was picking up at the top of the hill and the clouds were coming.

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Qualifications came through with Manon convincingly taking the pole position in Elite Women, with one of her main competitors Tahnee Seagrave putting herself forward as a marshall for the weekend to rest her shoulder following her injury at Fort William and second place at Leogang.

Big Trail

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A perhaps surprising result from elite men with Jack Reading taking the top spot on his Nicolai, rumours were that he was testing 29 inch wheels on his bike over the weekend, but these were not around for race time.

Just as quali was coming to the end, the rain came, just starting off as drizzle and then almighty rain drops. We were going to have a wet race – the track had just had a bit of mother natures spice injected into it.

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The young guns – Juvenile and Youth had it worst – they had all set off to the top of the hill during the last of the elite qualification, which meant they were all on dry tyres and racing on a track that changed in a matter of minutes.

What was originally a flat out, dry and dusty track was now a greasy, windy and slick welsh hillside. The final corner into the finish became wetter and greasier and claimed a few victims, including Team Wideopenmag’s Morgan Tyrrell, who came storming into the finish arena on a blinder of a run only to slide out within metres of the line.

The rain continued and the riders kept coming. Starting orders had been blown away at the top of the hill with riders being sent down almost as soon as they arrived at the top due to the bleak conditions. The key to the race was going to be who could push it to the edge of grip and hang on down the hill.

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James Purvis had a great ride to take the top spot in Juniors. He has been pushing for the top spot of the podium all season and it finally came for him.

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Meg Whyte took the win in the Open Women’s category after dominating all weekend. Manon put on a masterclass for the elite women taking the win by a storming 11 seconds. The eyes were on track for who was going to push it for the win and potentially have the best luck on the hill.

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Matt Studdard, hot off his 2nd place at the last BES had a blistering run which sent him into the hot seat and an eventual third – his best result this season.

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Matt Simmonds came down to push Matt out of the hot seat and with a time that was over 2 seconds up, it looked like that was the time to beat. There was just one more man to come down – Jack Reading. He was close on the splits and came flying round the final corner pushing for the line. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t quite enough, losing out to Simmonds by just 0.9 seconds.

Overall, a top weekend was had by all. Despite having visited and raced there multiple times, everyone came out with a smile on their faces. Sure it isn’t the most exciting of tracks, but its straightforward which means that everyone can focus on just having fun on the bikes with your mates – that’s what we all do this for really isn’t it?

Oh – and a final shout out to our man behind the lens, Ian Lean. He was on route to Moelfre when a pheasant decided to destroy itself and his windscreen – meaning Ian had to spend the night in a layby waiting for repair. He slept in the car, missed half the race and still brought home the photo bangers. Top work Ian Lean!

Follow our full 2016 British Downhill Series coverage here or check out the British Downhill Series homepage here.

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