Wideopenmag’s own Lewis Bradley was at the Schwalbe British 4x Series 2020 at Harthill to race and make the official highlights.
The sun was out but the ground was soft for the Schwalbe British 4x Series 2020 at Harthill. Lewis was doing battle and filming all the action trackside.
Photos by Dave Price.
It was good to be back racing again. After the first round at Redhill extreme a few weeks back, I was keen to get back on the gate to prove that my 3rd place in Senior wasn’t a one-hit wonder. The last time I raced at Harthill was in 2013 for the European 4x Series, I remember landing on someone in my category and being on the Extreme Sports channel advert for a few months which was pretty cool. This year, it was completely different. Covid regulations, rain and MX-style ruts. I was also Filming the official highlights for the race which added an extra bit of stress to the mix. Anyway, here’s how it went…
Harthill is situated just outside Chester (South) at Hales Superbowl Bike and Mountainboard Centre. It’s a typical 4x track which is just under a minute long and boasts multiple line choices in each turn, rollers and a pro line which results in a lot of passing places. In the dry, it’s a flat-out track which can get rather dangerous if you get taken out. In the wet, it turns into a ‘Motocross’ track with more ruts than Matterley Basin.
A steep start gate sends you straight into a 90 degree first turn which is rather scary when the ground is completely unpredictable. The middle section consists of tables, a spine and a pro line if you felt brave enough in the slippery conditions. The lower section takes the riders out of sight before a long 180 degree right turn towards the finish, perfect for the heroic rider to make the ‘pass of the day’.
The Rippers had 22 riders (ages 10-12) which meant they not only had semi-finals, but quarterfinals too. The women’s field was pretty stacked with over 20 riders across two categories (Elite and Master women) which is also encouraging to see. This has been growing in popularity with both genders over the past 3 years. Harthill also had the most entries since 2017 with 103 riders. Chicksands was the last time entries peaked over 100 entries with 113 riders. 4x attracts a wide variety of riders, this includes DH, 4x, Enduro and also BMX Riders. Bmx riders are amazing on the gates but struggle on the rougher and slippery conditions, making it an interesting combination when the mountain bikers are added onto the gate.
3 heats to gain points to go through to semi-finals.
1st – 4 points
2nd – 3 points
3rd – 2 points
4th – 1 point
My first heat went well, I placed myself into 2nd after the first turn and took my time to make my move. I knew that I was probably one of the quickest through the Pro Line in the Senior category, so I used the speed to accelerate around Lewis Ashe just after the landing. Holding it to the finish, I managed to bag myself 4 points. It won’t be the last time Lewis Ashe will be mentioned in this.
The second heat was pretty similar, I was fighting for 2nd out of the first turn and managed to barge into the next inside corner with the speed and momentum. Oliver Brooke was ahead, his gates are probably the strongest in the senior field of riders and managed to take the win at Redhill a few weeks back. Oliver’s pace was strong and I was pushing to keep up. A slight mishap on the Pro Line saw him roll the step up which is vital for carrying speed, there was nothing I could do except shout ‘On your right!’. Next thing I knew, I was pretty much landing on his right side. Luckily I managed to land on my seat with both feet blown off the pedals. I managed to bag another 4 points by holding on, it was also great to see Oliver get back on and finish which is always a sigh of relief.
My gates are pretty shocking, so I knew that the inside gate (lane 1) would be tricky. I decided to keep as tight as I could and drift out late to get the inside for the next turn. Remember I said Lewis Ashe would be mentioned again? Lewis had a stormer of a gate on the outside (Lane 4) which made us collide mid air before the second turn. That saw me spin 180 degrees and land on my back, luckily the ground was still very soft and I managed to roll out. I knew I was through to the semi-finals so I styled my way through the Pro Line and into the finish.
Semis and Finals
Myself and Lewis Ashe found ourselves on the gate next to each other again for the Semi-Finals again. Top two go through to the A-Final and the bottom two go into the B-Final to battle for 5th. We both had a great great and lewis had the inside momentum out of first turn, I placed myself behind and made sure that I got to the bottom safely into A-Final.
It was great to be back in the A-Final, I was hoping for a top 3 finish and keep the podium position high. I probably had my worst gate of the weekend, just like Redhill my nerves got to me. I managed to push myself through and just focus on getting the inside line on each turn on the top section of the track. Sitting behind Lewis Ashe, I tried my best to overtake but just couldn’t make it work. I settled for 2nd with the best rider winning.
Scott ‘Boom Boom’ Beaumont won the Elite Mens, making up for snapped chain at Redhill, and Josie McFall made it a clean sweep in the womens by winning every heat, semi and finals. Adding to her Redhill win.
It was also a breath of fresh air to see everyone complying to the Covid Regulations in place (Yes, I tried my best to add a pun in there) to make the race as safe as possible. This would not be possible if the organisers (Action sports timing) and the British 4x community had not stuck to the rules. Everyone had to sign-in at the start of the day, number plates handed out on arrival in the cars, distancing measures and podiums done after every A-Final race instead of a mass gathering at the end of the day.
I think this may be the last 4x race of the year, but I am already looking to 2021 for more bar-to-bar battles.
Full results from the round 2 of the 2020 Schwalbe 4X Series can be found here.