Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Rheola National Champs

What can I say but bit of an epic weekend. Driving back up to wales was an event in itself, torrential rain most of the way set the scene for the rest of the weekend. So far this season all the races have been dry hot dusty tracks, personally I prefer the challenge of a wet greasy track its what UK downhill is about, Rheola is always a washout! The forecast had issued a severe weather warning for Wales with persistent and thundery rain. I was feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. Swansea got a bit frantic, I was trying to get a hardtail sorted out for the race, unfortunately mine hadn't arrived due to the postal strike, after a bit of blagging, trying to mix and match bits from a few different bikes and several trips to the bike shop it turned out even my bodging skills weren't up to the task, eventually decided to swap to the open category and ride the full suss.

Seeding runs took place on the Saturday. Rheola is definitely a gnarly track and more than worthy of holding the National Champs, Julian and Jason have done a great job of getting it ready for the weekend. The top section is flat out loose drifty rock then lower down there are tight channels between trees, huge numbers of roots, the infamous star wars section and a fair bit of welsh slimy mud. Definitely a scary track to ride. My Seeding run was super fun, I was riding really ragged and blowing most corners but it did put a huge grin on my face. I ended up going over the bars at star wars then again off the bridge jump landing too far to the left in some real soft mud and almost taking out a few spectators. Dumping the bike and grabbing the camera I legged it back to the track to catch the fast guys go down. Got there to hear Jason on the mic saying that racing was stopped due to an injured rider, who was most likely Jack Malone or Alex Roberts, the 2 guys I had come with from Swansea. It turned out the had both had mechanicals but didn't find out until after running up the track to check if they were ok. Watching the star wars section was mental, the speed that the pros hit this section was scary, very few riders looked in control. There was also a good crowd providing a bit of friendly abuse and amping up the atmosphere. Last rider down was Steve Peat looking super quick coming in but he came unstuck on the first lot of roots dabbing and getting pitched over the bars straight towards my camera. First thing he said was "f*@k Ive done my ankle" it was clear to see it wasn't pointing in the right direction. From what Ive heard it was a rare dislocation and nothing was actually broken. I hope he has a quick recovery and wish him all luck in getting back on it by the world champs.

Sunday was very wet, after me and Alex eventually got bullied out of the car by Julian and Jack I had 3 real fun practice runs. The track was running a lot nicer but it was too wet to be able to see much of it! After Saturday and with the thought of a holiday in france in less than a week, the aim was to get down in one piece. I managed to stay upright the whole race run but probably took it too easy, I only gained 10 seconds on qualifying which was pretty disappointing especially when this meant I was at the bottom of the open cat. Congrats to Julian taking the win in the masters, I watched him leave the start a few times and he was absolutely charging plus he managed to have a mental grin on his face all weekend, inspiring. Marc Beaumont ended up taking the win in senior and Tracy Moseley claimed it for the women.

Cheers to Jason putting on a great event, everything was really slick and the best uplifts Ive experienced at a race yet.

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