SDA Rd1 Innerleithen
The first race of the year is always an exciting one. You get to test out your new bikes and freshly trained bodies against the clock. Are you up to scratch or are you hanging out the back? Everyone wants to know which may explain the maxed out entry of 320 and high level of riders attending. A few weeks before the race the SDA announced they would be using the “freeride” style track Make or Brake which stirred up a bit of negativity. Any fears were quickly diminished upon track walk as the track was rad. Here’s the Sick Skills lowdown:
Start, Dark and snowy, pedal, tuck and whips, speed and berms, line choice central, the corner with no berm, Drew Carters ever changing turns of rad = Finish
Practice day kicked off with a sprinkling of snow on the hills which was actually lying on the top of the track. First riders down took plowing duties and turned the top snow to mud in a matter of minutes. The hard pack nature of the hill meant this didn’t affect the trail and it kept on running fast albeit with a bit less grip. The sun was out all day and there was a crisp winter chill in the air. The track was riding great and the uplift queue was abuzz with chat about line choice, Drew’s turns and triples. The uplift was flawless all weekend and I never waited for more than 15 minutes before I was on the bus. My bike even came out completely unscathed, proper packing makes a difference!
Saturday night held a special treat for a few prepared racers. Local organisation Jayfest put on a premier of Steve Peat’s documentary of his racing career: Won’t Back Down. It was sensational! I’m a huge fan of Steve Peat and have tried to emulate him in many aspects of my life so it was great to see the full back story. It was an emotional journey and most of the audience were in tears by the end of it. Even Tina, my better half who has only heard of Steve Peat by name was getting emotionally invested and willing him on as the film progressed. Safe to say it’s the first bike film I’ll be buying in a while.
On to the racing! First up as always is the Juveniles. Luke Birkett had a stormer of a run and took the win claiming a gold medal and a voucher for a free Sick Skills coaching session. Alec Geyer had a great race and scored 2nd place. Adam Beaty rounded out the podium with a solid 3rd only 1 second back.
Youths are getting faster every year and this race was no exception. James Purvis smashed it and won by a solid 7 seconds. James rides for my development team and even though he won he told me he was not happy with his time and will be looking to turn it up at the next one. His eyes are firmly set on beating the juniors. Jack Tennyson put down an excellent time for his first year in youth to take 2nd and Jack Wilson scored 3rd spot.
The junior category has some serious talent at the moment. Innes Graham was going hell for the leather and took the win with a crash. Rumours are that had he not crashed he would have been close to fastest time of the day! Brad Swinbank had a solid run in 2nd and Drew Carters used his inside knowledge of those famous turns to score an excellent 3rd.
Senior men had a huge field of almost 100 riders so you’ve really got to shine to come out on top. Sam Rodda did just that and took 1st just ahead of Simon Cheung. Local pinner Chris Reynolds pieced together a solid run and scored 3rd spot.
Master men saw old school racer Alan Blyth come out of retirement and dominate last year. He continues this theme by taking the win again at inners by a baw hair over Jed Whitlfield. Adam Smith completes the set in 3rd spot.
Veterans has a new player in the mix with pinner Chris Whitfield turning 40 this year. He took his youthfull advantage over the competition and claimed the win in front of SDA regular Mark Weightman. Alistair MacLennan was left in unfamiliar territory in 3rd.
Women this year have been split into under and over 18 for 2014. Under 18’s was claimed by first time DH racer Elena Melton who was surprised but really happy. Rona Strivens was only a fraction back in 2nd and Freya Avis scored 3rd with a big crash.
Senior women was dominated by world cup racer Jess Stone followed by Hope Tech marketing guru Rachael Walker. Big mention has to go to Deborah Primrose who I believe has only ridden a downhill bike a handfull of times, massive result in 3rd for her.
Expert saw local legend Arran Gannicott rally his way into 1st place closely followed by Morgan Gulland. Morgan’s teammate and temperamental power wash owner Christo Gallagher finished up in 3rd place completing the Wigwam Holidays sandwich on the podium.
Elite as always is the big one and there was a huge entry with 14 riders. The dynamic duo of Josh Bryceland and Sam Dale made the big trip up to Inners to test their mettle in the Scottish Series. Josh pulled out a stormer on his second run and claimed the win just in front of Greg “big deal” Williamson. Sam Dale had 2 consistent runs to score 3rd. Local legend Ruaridh Cunningham had a decent ride to claim 4th and I surprised myself by steering my self out of shape to 5th a few seconds back.
What a way to kick of the season, an excellent race on an excellent track ran flawlessly by the SDA, can’t wait for the next one.
Shameless plug here. 7 of the riders mentioned above on the podiums have attended a Sick Skills session… think about it 😉
See you at the races.