Open for Business | British National Downhill Series, Rheola.

Last weekend saw the opening round of the 2022 British National Downhill Series with a return to a track which we haven’t seen for a couple of years, Rheola.

The British National Downhill Series opened its 2022 account in Glynneath, specifically Rheola, one of the best tracks the UK has to offer downhill riders and one that’s spent a longer than desired hiatus off the circuit.

Words and photos by Ian Lean.

Despite being a rather small venue Rheola is a favourite amongst many of the riders due to its raw technical features and flat out speed.

If you like a track to be rooty, loose and fast with a little mix of terrain chucked in for good measure then this was right up your street. Definitely one for the spectators that’s for sure.

A season opener sold out which is always a good sign with many familiar faces but definitely some new faces appearing and everyone eager to crack out a new whip or some fresh kit to start the season. Elite men had the strongest field with the likes of Charlie Hatton, Matt Walker, Joe Breeden and Roger Vieira all lining up to grab some extra early season practice before the next World Cup round in Fort William.

By all accounts it sounds like if the entries weren’t capped at 250 we would most likely have seen more riders in Elite category from both Men and Women. A notable point to mention would be the lack of Female riders entered at Round 1, we counted only 18 entrants which was spread across 4 categories and word on the street is the likes of Rachel Atherton tried to enter but was rejected due to the race being at full capacity.

So do you think it’s the riders’ fault for not booking on early enough? Or do you think a larger number of entries should be withheld for Female athletes up until a certain date before they’re released on a first come first serve basis? Or would you prefer it to be opened back up to 350 riders per weekend like it used to before changes were made?

One thing to note is that the future of DH in the UK certainly looks bright, the highest entrants for the weekend in any category was Junior Men with 49 riders.

Equally good to see was FMD Racing’s Phoebe Gale and new Pinkbike World Cup team recruit Aimi Kenyon. 

Saturday we woke to blue skies which always brings a smile to everyone’s face and with the forecast set to be dry all weekend the opening round was set to be a beauty.

Although the blue bird was flying, rain during the week leading up to the race meant early doors the track was proper greasy and a few riders found out the hard way resulting in many red flags and a few hospital admissions.

The notorious Star Wars section of the track causing most of the mayhem for those who know it well.

Luckily though the Pearce Cycles crew were on hand with the uplift so you knew you would be getting plenty of opportunities to practice. 

For a change the weather forecast rung true and Sunday started out bloody lovely just like Saturday with bright skies, a little overnight dew was what riders had to contend with early doors but with an ever drying track after Saturday’s sun it didn’t take people long to get back up to speed.

Massive congratulations to Gravity Events and the team for keeping everything running smoothly despite some red flag delays which is always going to happen on a track which is very fast and technical.

Camping was a nightmare because no one was allowed to camp on site this year. The NRW did not allow that to happen meant a little disjointed pit area but that’s out of the organiser’s hands. Pearce Cycles as always efficient and excellent at getting riders to the top on every occasion. 

For a change the weather forecast rung true and Sunday started out bloody lovely just like Saturday with bright skies, a little overnight dew was what riders had to contend with early doors but with an ever drying track after Saturday’s sun it didn’t take people long to get back up to speed. 

Enjoy the images and roll on round 2. Back to Fort William for the first time since the pandemic. RAD.

Elite Men

1st – Charlie Hatton

2nd – Christopher Philogene

3rd – Matt Walker

4th – Joe Breeden

5th – Luke Williamson

Elite Women

1st – Stacey Fisher

2nd – Natasha Bradley

3rd – Anna Craig

4th – Meghan Flanagan

5th – Aston Tutt

Junior Men

1st – Jordan Williams

2nd – Dom Platt

3rd – Luka Thurlow

Junior Women

1st – Phoebe Gale

2nd – Aimi Kenyon

3rd – Elin Berry

Full results from the British National Downhill Series first round can be found on Roots & Rain here.