Young guns & under dogs| British Downhill Series Round 3, Rhyd y Felin North Wales

Round 3 of the British Downhill Series.

The weekend for young guns and underdogs to have their day.

photos by Ian Lean, video by Luke Hough, words by Jamie Edwards

Round 3 of the HSBCUK British Downhill Series (presented by GT bicycles) was a funny one. A good one for sure, but very different to the previous madness up in Scotland.

Just a few weeks before we’d made the big trip north to Fort William and seen a mini World Cup blow through town. There were prototype 29’ers, pros were hauling out telemetry systems, we had World Cup changing crashes … We had a British national series that was punching seriously above its weight.

Rhyd Y Felin was a storm in a very different way. It was a chance for new riders, young guns and underdogs to take the spot light and the hardcore of British racing to take the limelight.

With almost all of the big guns away due to injury or Crankworx commitments it was a chance for some UK heroes to get their moment. And they didn’t disappoint …

Speaking of local heroes – Dole Racing’s Luke Cockburn has been holding it down beautifully for his trackies sponsors. Who needs elite racers when the Expert field make racing look this good?!

Yoav Rapoport is one of our favourite riders this season, racing in the 12-14 Juveniles field. Yoav and his dad travel over to every race from Israel and – rumour has it – Mr Rapoport senior has given up his job for a year to help Yoav race. This weekend didn’t go so well for Yoav though and a dropped chain in his final run meant a DNF. 4th in his seeding run shows he’s got what it takes though!

With Gee and Rachel both on the injury bench it was down to Kade Edwards (photo’d here) and Graeme Mudd to hold it down for the Athertons. Kade probably didn’t get the result he wanted … but he did continue to win practice on every run. More video edits with this guy please!

Marc Beaumont has been riding Rhyd y Felin since he was a nipper, but couldn’t quite piece it together on track. Still recovering from an injury, Marc was feeling off pace and struggling to keep up. Despite that, sixth place aint bad for the man that has taken the series overall in the past.

SPSyndicate rider Jay Williamson has been grafting hard for years to make it in a brutally competitive elite field. There’s no short cuts though and he’s proof that grinding it out, working hard and staying focussed makes it happen. Jay finally got the result he’d been waiting for with a fifth place, beating some riders that you’d expect to put some serious time into him.

With Rachel Atherton injured and Katy Curd taking some time out, Meg Whyte was able to take her first elite podium since moving up to the big guns field. Meg did well in 2016 in the women’s open category – here’s hoping for big things in Elite!

Brayton crossed the line and knew he hadn’t given it what it needed. Who cares – he was pinned all weekend and looking fast and stylish where others were struggling to just get down. Fourth for Adam Brayton.

2016 overall series winner Matt Simmonds had a shocker at round 2, taking a disappointing 32nd place. This weekend he was back on form but probably not quite where he wanted to be, slotting into second in seeding and  third place in finals.

The jump Simmonds is photo’d in above caught a lot of riders out, sending them over the bars and into the hard, dry dirt. No rookie riding for him though – Matt has been racing Bala since 2004!

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Kaos Seagrave is another one that consistently destroys practice – thriving on big, gnarly, jumpy trails where others are dragging their brakes and wobbling down.

Whilst this photo tells the story of a man having a blast Kaos actually had a bit of a nightmare … he crashed on his first practice run, bruised his ribs and had to sit out racing. At least he got a good photo from the weekend, right?

Sam Dale could well have taken his mysterious looking not-an-iDrive GT to first place but a tough weekend kept in down in 16th place in seeding and 10th for finals.

Jack Reading was probably our bet for the win – he’s had a mixed year but a 19th place in Leogang proved once again that he’s World class.

Jack has been running lead weights on his bike this year, claiming that they reduce chatter and give his Nicolai a more stable feel on track. He hadn’t planned on running them but put them on after practice to battle the flat out, rough track.

Jack crossed the line with two riders to go and knew his run was fast but not fast enough. He had hit the first split in fifth then made up time to pull into second place which would be his final position as he crossed the line.

Wideopen’s Veronique Sandler didn’t intend to do too many races this season … but the call of the clock keeps dragging her back. After a 12th place at Fort William World Cup she was raring to get to Rhyd y Felin and get back in the gate. A puncture in seeding put her first down in elite women … and 2nd across the line when she crossed. Great work Vero!

And your ladies elite winner, Tahnee Seagrave, a full 30 seconds faster than 2nd place in her final run. Tahnee was cool as a cucumber all weekend, just getting on with racing and riding the wave of her first elite World Cup win at Leogang.

And the star of the show … Charlie Hatton.

Charlie went fastest in seeding in the men’s elite field and proceeded to pick the finals field to pieces. On crossing the line he put three seconds into Jack Reading and soundly beat a host of riders with years of elite experience. He’s on fire.

You’d thinking signing for a new team and entering your first elite season would add on the pressure but for Charlie it’s only made him more relaxed. He told us that his junior years on Wideopen meant pressure to prove himself and earn a place in elite … now he can just crack on with going fast and riding the way he knows he can. Good attitude Charlie boy – big things to come.

Whilst Charlie Hatton won the elite men’s title, it was Matt Walker that won the official Man of the Match trophy (it’s not a real trophy).

Matt is still a junior and is working his ass off to prove himself worthy of an elite spot next year when he steps up to the big league. Despite being younger and less experienced than the elite field he beat every single one of them with the exception of only Charlie Hatton.

Matt put together an unbelievable ride and was second fastest in seeding overall and second fastest in finals overall – just one second behind Hatton. Incredible.

Thanks again to Si Paton and the British Downhill Series crew for a great weekend at the World’s best National Series.

There are still entries available for the remaining rounds of the year.

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