Words – Ben Cathro | Photos – Keith Bremner
It’s impossible to talk about Dunkeld without mentioning the legend that is Peter Pollock. He originally scouted the location, instigated the track build all those years ago. Testament to his vision the top section remains largely unchanged other than 15 years of skidding rubber erosion and some modern tweaks.
This year the SDA committee members along with total heros John Young and Euan Thomson breathed new life into the track by putting in some hard graft, clearing out and marking some fresh interesting new sections to add a bit of spice to the already awesome trail.
Track walk on Friday brought with it some initial head scratching and excitement about how the trail would ride, develop and change. No one was in doubt that it was going to be a great race. Check out the track on board with Ben Cathro:
Oh what delights await the riders in the majestic Craigvinean forest
Action kicked of in good time Saturday morning thanks to all the wonderful volunteers signing up to marshal. They weren’t eased into the job as the tricky Dunkeld track caught out riders left right and centre. The treacherous slippy rock slabs on the steep top section caught out everyone at least once and the fresh natural loam hid some wheel grabbers just below the surface.
Ben Cathro finds one of the rocks buried beneath the loam. Not even the lanky frame of Benji could bring this one back
Old School Cool. Dale Gowlang muscles his 2003 Yeti DH9 down the lower rock gardens.
Training cracked on regardless with riders slowly figuring out where to push and where to go really really canny. By the end of Saturday most had a good idea of how to approach Sunday’s race.
A Marshall/Photographers best friend. Dunkeld is not famous for the Scottish midge but they sure put in a good performance.
Even the committee members dropped tools to get up and marshall. Dedication! Dave Munro watches Fergus Lamb negotiating the top chutes.
Saturday Evening saw some intrepid racers head to the fabled bridge jump in the Hermitage forest. A 40 foot plunge off a majestic old stone bridge overlooking the falls on the Black Linn river. Accuracy is a must with a landing spot about 3 meters wide between submerged ledges. Cathro took the lead performing a textbook windmill to ass slap and soon everyone followed. John Young and Alan Blyth took it to another level by pioneering some insane senders, by this point there was good crowd of 40 people watching on and loving it.
Sunday morning brought forth another cracking day, dry and not too warm, ideal conditions for racing. Racers took to the hill to get in 1 or 2 more practice runs before the timing system fired up.
Kris Gemmell rarely has the front wheel lower than the back. Stylish and brutal, he’s like the Scottish Brook Macdonald.
Simon Ross negotiates the vicious first rock garden. Off camber edges, moist slabs and pointy buggers it was a challenge to get right.
The Open category was introduced this year to give casual racers a chance to enter an event with absolutely zero pressure. Any bike, any age, just rock up and have a go. Two brave souls turned up on trail bikes and gave it a bloody good shot. Anthony Temple put in a sterling effort to claim 2nd but it was Michael Gregory who scored a well deserved win.
Tiny super fan plonked himself in this prime spot to watch the action.
Juvenile category is where future stars are born and one is burning bright at the moment. Kai Bremner (Highland Bikes) destroys the field by a solid 19 seconds to take another win. Kid is on fire and the others are playing catch up. Team mate Zander Millar-Todd (Highland Bikes) posts a seasons best 2nd followed insanely closely by James Wilson (Progression Bikes) in 3rd.
Kai keeping it all business on the final step down into the finish
The Youth’s seem to be going faster and faster with eventual winner Henry Kerr (Sick Skills Development Team) beating everyone in the category above and also posting the 6th fastest time of the day. First year youth Jamie Edmondson (FMD Racing) is proving to be an exceptional contender despite his age with second place. 3rd Place went to an impressive Owen Scott (Monsterbike). In his first year of downhill racing he’s worked his way up to his first podium, more to come from him for sure.
Henry Kerr showed his mental fortitude after a bad crash in run one. Regained composure and smashed it in run two.
Junior racing was hotly contested over the weekend with no one sure who would take the win. Last round’s winner Brandon Gonsales could only manage 3rd this weekend, narrowly edged back by 2nd place man Corey Watson (Solid Reverse Factory Racing). Corey was on a flyer on his second run but lost the win with an over the bars crash in the final rocks section. Playing it cool and consistent the win went to Matthew Cowan (Solid Reverse Factory Racing) after laying down two solid runs.
Matthew Cowan stomping the faster drop line in the first rock garden
Junior Women has a real battle forming between ex moto racer Cairn Bell and Freya Avis (Perth City Cycles) Cairn went faster in run one and Freya went faster in run two but Cairn’s first run time secured her the win. Tea Jensen (Bikers Boutiq/Leslie Bike Shop) rode well all weekend with her faster first run gaining her the 3rd spot on the podium
Cairn taking the long way round. Not quite as fast as the riskier middle and inside but consistency is key
Master men saw some southern domination. Peter Walton continues his form from the last SDA he attended and claims another win from under Alan Blyth’s nose. Alan pushed hard to catch Peter but ended up 0.3 back on the winner. Jason Shill (Keswick Bikes) was in touch after run one but made a mistake on run two and was unable to better his time leaving him in a solid 3rd.
Peter Walton takes the direct line over the loamy rock garden near the finish
The Veteran category is so fast right now it’s crazy. Track builder, tent raver, river hucker and absolute pinner John Young claimed another well fought victory on the Dunkeld track. Chris Whitfield (Leisure Lakes/Sue Me) recovered from a DNF on run one to claim a valiant 2nd place and the animal that is Mark Weightman (Leisure Lakes) slotted in just behind him in 3rd.
John Young squashing the rock drop before the final sender
Senior was an interesting one. Ryan Chambers (Ae bike shop) damaged his bike in practice which proved to be unfixable in time for the race. Instead of retiring he removed all the gearing from the bike and raced chainless (and goggle less by the looks of it). This clearly spurred him on as he won convincingly, superb effort. Craig Marshall and Simon Ross rode well and (sheepishly) claimed 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Nae goggles, nae mech, nae chain, nae bather. Ryan Chambers DGAF.
Senior Women had two keen racers battling for the win. Even though there was only two they fought hard and the times were reasonably tight. Shona McKinnon came out the victor with Kerri Differ 12 seconds back over 4 minutes of racing.
Shona snaking through the foliage on her way to another win
“About bloody time” – Joe Mallen’s father on his win. Joseph Mallen laid down two solid runs to take his first Expert win at an SDA along with 5th fastest time of the day. Track builder and local lad Euan Thomson pushed hard with two fast times but had to settle for a respectable 2nd spot and Ben Williamson (Perth City Cycles) styled his XL trek down to a seasons best 3rd.
Joe Mallen finally takes home gold. Solid run from the tall lad
With most of the Elite Scot’s away on World Cup duties or wrecked on the sidelines it was left to a select few of Scotland’s finest to battle for the win. Lachlan Blair (Morvelo/Canyon) made the commitment to get straight to Dunkeld from Mont Saint Anne and it payed off with a fast run and 3rd spot. Joe Connell (Reverse/Solid) returned to Scotland from working and racing in Europe to attempt to match his impressive Scottish Champs win at Dunkeld 3 years prior. Two fast runs saw him slide into second spot. The lanky scot from Oban seems to be on a roll this year. Ben Cathro (Sick Skills Coaching) shredded down the hill to a convincing win and the only sub 2 minute time with a 1:56.
Ben Cathro throws down some style before throwing his face into the next corner at mach 5.
Flawless event, classic track and cracking racing. You really can’t beat it. Massive thanks to the SDA and everyone else involved for putting on these events. We look forward to the next one and will see you in Fort William on the 24th/25th September. Get your entries in!