After a great weekend at Descent Hamsterley for the first Gravity Events DH of the season… we reckon it just might well be.
Lewis Bradley reports in on after a big weekend of racing up north.Photos by Ian Lean.
Did we really just go to a downhill race?!
After a year of cancellations due to Covid-19 regulations, it was hard to imagine it would go ahead. We watched a summer of races soar by with cancellation after cancellation and in September 2020 the Gravity Events team made a valiant effort to put on a race… but were again left hanging due to the bloody Rona.
But… not this time and rona be bloody damned, we made the trip and were finally back between the tapes at Danny Hart’s Descend Bikepark, hosted by Gravity Events UK.
For Team Wideopenmag, and most other races at the event, the weekend was a great chance to get back into the swing of racing. We last raced together in 2019 and Hamsterley gave us a chance to blow off the cobwebs and get some practice in ahead of the British National Downhill season kicking off.
We had to keep reminding ourselves that it was the first race team riders Elin Berry and Andrew Georgeson had entered for the team. Both joined us in 2020 and, like everyone, have been sat in a holding pattern for the last year. Despite being ‘team’ for a year this was our first chance to actually take them racing and, honestly, we couldn’t have been more stoked to finally get them between the tape.
It was also the first time the riders would receive their new 2021 Nukeproof Bikes, finished with Funn components and Stans Wheelsets. This year, Elin would be running the mullet set-up while Andrew moved to a larger frame with a 29er front and rear. The riders were handed their bikes for the race and worked with mechanic Dru to get everyone set up and up to speed.
The track was a mix of mainline and off-cuts and was short but super challenging. The top section was physically demanding with lots of berms and jumps with the main objective of keeping momentum. After the hut, the gradient of the lower section became steeper and more technical. Many lines opened up during practice which started to bring out rider creativity and line choices to find the quickest route to the finish.
We were hoping for a strong rider turnout from the weekend and, despite the challenges of travel and restrictions, we weren’t disappointed. There were 191 riders on the start sheet with 15 elites including Jack Reading, Jono Jones, Adam Brayton and Luke Mumford. 11 female riders were in the mix and an honorable mention goes to FMD’s Phoebe Gale who, fresh back from team camp, was absolutely flying.
Overall, Jack Reading took the fastest time in the Elite men’s field beating Luke Mumfords by 0.001 of second with a time of 1.21.113, which was blistering fast to watch. No surprises, Phoebe Gale took the top spot in the under 19’s women’s category with a time of 1.35, look out for her at World Cups this year!
Other mentions include Alfie Hemmings taking the win in the 15-16 boys by over 3 seconds, Bradley Shields taking the win in the 30-39 men by 4 seconds and Kathrine Sharp taking the 19+ Women’s win by 23 seconds.
For Team Wideopen it was a super fun and super useful weekend of racing. Results and racing aside, simply getting to an event with the riders was more than we’d hoped for. We spend months getting ready for race season and finally get back on track was what we spent all of last year looking forward to. Add in the fact that it was the first race for Andrew and Elin and we couldn’t be more stoked.
For Elin, the weekend was fun and a real challenge. Racing in the Under 19 category she was head to head with riders two years her senior and the awesome Phoebe Gale, who’ll race World Cups this year. She got up to speed fast, worked hard on the jumps and placed 5th, with just a couple of seconds between her and the podium.
Like everyone I spent the winter on my local trails making the best that I could around Covid. I was nervous and excited leading up to the race but once I got on track it all felt like home and the nerves went rider away.
Practice was super fun and I got in as many runs as I could, using the uplift when I could and walking up when I couldn’t. My first run on track was a little frustrating and I felt like I held back a bit. My second run was way better and I managed to pull back 6 seconds, which I’m super happy with.
I really enjoyed the weekend and really loved getting onto my Nukeproof Dissent 297, riding mullet is so much fun!
Andrew’s weekend was also a tough one with less than half a second between him and the podium. His first race in the youth category, Andrew worked hard on his pace and used the weekend to get his new bike dialed in. His first race run put him into 3rd but a slight mishap on track in his second saw him slip to 4th. Like Elin, it was a great result and a solid start to the season.
Coming into the weekend I didn’t really have any expectations. I was on a new bike and was using the weekend to dial in my bike, spend some time with the team and get settled in for the year ahead.
Practice was class and I really enjoyed getting used to my new Nukeproof Dissent and the track. It was great catching up with faces I haven’t seen for nearly 2 years and I came into race runs feeling good on the bike. I put down a safe one for the 1st run sitting me in 3rd and was mega pleased with that.
The 2nd run came and had an unfortunate mechanical at the top of track putting me into 4th with some tight racing. All in all it was an awesome weekend and definitely left me hungry for more. The first round of the Nationals can’t come any sooner!
Overall, I think that everyone was just happy to be back racing. From spectators to the racers, everyone had a grin on their faces and went home happy after the weekend came to a close.
Big thanks to Malcolm and his team at UK Gravity Events for putting the hard yards in to make racing happen again in the UK in some bloody tough times. Great work!