Oli Paton here. I’m the younger but not so littler brother to Si Paton, the man that used to organise the British Downhill Series.
Hopton marked the end of the The HSBC UK British Downhill Series (sponsored by GT bicycles). That’s the BDS to me and you.
In my eyes, it’s the epitome of UK downhill for the past decade and a national series that was the envy of the world over. For the past ten years its been nurturing incredible young talent and helping to mould them into the international athletes they are today. To name but a few there’s Laurie Greenland, Danny Hart, Mike Jones, Taylor Vernon, Phil Atwill, Charlie Hatton, Manon Carpenter, Tahnee and Kaos Seagrave and more recently Morgan Tyrrell and Matt Walker. There’s even the real big dogs like Gee and Rachel Atherton that have honed their craft at the good old BDS.
I remember watching Laurie Greenland racing down Moelfre years ago. At the time he was a proper little nipper and yet he was skipping over the ruts down the trail faster than most on board his diddy Orange Five. Back in those days he was too small to lift his bike on to the uplift, and now he’s one of the very best in the world.
Back when I started racing the BDS in 2010, like many young riders, I was so proud to be part of the best national series in the world, I even used to keep my race plate on after the race weekend so everyone at my local trails knew that I raced the series.
The British Downhill Series isn’t just about developing riders. It’s about raising the professionalism of racing. It’s about introducing compulsory licensing, more commissaires at each event, more marshals and impressive pro pits. Not forgetting as well that it was Si and Steve Parr who helped bring the first ever race to Llangollen – back with that super gnarly woods track in 2009. It was a venue that pushed racing on and taught UK racers of all ages to ride steep and tech.
So that’s the series that we’ve come to love and the final was a fond farewell to Si and the rest of the British Downhill Series team.
Hopton was a great choice for the final. It’s a classic British racing venue and one that’s been hosting events for over 15 years. It’s also one (correct me if I’m wrong) that has never hosted a British National race. Best of all, Hopton is a regular on the Pearce circuit and comes with the excellent Pearce Cycles uplift – it’s fast and efficient meaning loads of runs and no queues.
You can’t write a race report without mentioning the weather … and for the final it was all over the shop. We got rained on hard on Friday night and that, combined with some freezing cold temperatures, meant that camping in the bottom field was about as much fun as riding Fort William on a BMX.
Come Saturday morning I was on the first uplift going up the hill, alongside just two other riders. It would seem the weather scared the rest of the riders off. Compared to the last round at Llangollen I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of challenges on track and, on the whole, I was right.
The track was a big change to the steep and techy terrain of the previous race. The track was a lot flatter, with much smaller features with the main battle being wet and slippy sniper roots to catch the riders out.
The main area that had riders scratching their head was an open and off-camber, rooty section in the first 30 seconds of the track. There were at least 4 different line choices and the fastest of the riders opted to hop a stump on the inside of the corner. By the end of the weekend this line was pretty treacherous with more and more routes being exposed. Stu Hughes showed his experience through here, looking pinned and tidy all weekend.
Another section that caught a few riders out was the open section. The fastest line was to pre-hop over a stump or to try and kick up off a root and triple the whole section …A good huck of over 20ft with a sketchy run in. That wasn’t for the average rider and you can see it in the first 20 seconds of the Wideopen Trackside video. BDS main man Si Paton managed to give himself a good looking scar down the side of his face a few weeks before after slipping out and stopping himself face first on a stump here.
The bottom of the track was super fun. There were flowing berms and some nice big jumps to bring the riders into the finish field with style. Luke Cockburn in particular was looking rad as ever all weekend in his trademark trackie b’s. Nobody had quite as much style as him over the last big step down, hipping it to the left opening up the final grassy right hand corner into the finish field which had all the riders getting wild. Under the thin layer of grass was a rocky rut that made for a great spectating spot come race day.
Racing went ahead smoothly, the track is so worn in so it was important not to push too hard particularly in the lower middle section. A combination of little to no gradient and flat rough corners meant holding your speed well was integral to a good result. Come in too hot and you would lose a lot of time and energy trying to get back up to speed.
For the elite men it was man-of-the-moment Charlie Hatton that took the win, securing his overall series title. Brayton chased him down, but was 2 seconds behind with Mr Mark Beaumont in 3rd place.
The women’s race went to Veronique Sandler who put over 14 seconds in to second place, which went to Ashton Tutt. Becci Skelton took 3rd spot.
Charlie Hatton – 2:17.419
Adam Brayton – 2:19.348
Mark Beaumont – 2:21.555
Jack Reading – 2:22.708
Mike Jones – 2:22.797
Veronique Sandler – 2:50.782
Aston Tutt – 3:04.246
Becci Skelton – 3:05.981
Meg Whyte – 3:06.137
Deborah Primrose – 3:18.766
I’ll be honest and say that it was an emotional finish.
The elites crossed the line and the last ever rider was BDS main man Si Paton. He was met with applause and confetti bombs. I was genuinely very touched, and proud of my big bro and his contributions the British Downhill. He’s worked his ass off his entire adult life to help us to race our bikes and has done huge things for mountain biking and mountain bikers.
As for the future of the UK scene, this weekend proves we’ve got a wealth of talent in the UK and great things to come both here and on the world stage. As for the British Downhill Series, Simon will be taking the brand name with him although the national series will remain in some capacity. Track side rumours allegedly suggest a new organiser for each round next year and the best performer will be selected to sign a longer contract with the British national series. BC have invited organisers to come forward and tender now, with a deadline in October.
As for Simon, he’s taking the tried and trusted BDS and reviving the famous 90’s festival the ‘Malvern Classics’ expect dual slaloms, lake jumps, downhill racing and much much more. 15-17 June 2018, see you there.
All of us at Wideopen would just like to say a little, and final, thanks to Si Paton and everyone that has (past and present) made the BDS what it is.
We’ve spent the last 1o years in muddy fields with the BDS and loved every minute of it. The British downhill race scene is a hugely positive thing that offers so much to so many people – we’re stoked to have been a part of it and to have done our little bit to help it grow.
Long may it continue. Cheers!
A quick (final) thanks to Ian Lean for his hard work shooting these killer photos over the last few years and helping us to shout about the UK race scene. Cheers Leanster!