ATB staffer and Marin CXR 29er rider, Kevin Izzard joined the exclusive South Downs Double club at the weekend with a time of 23hrs 19mins & 39 secs for the 200 miles and 22,000ft of climbing.
Read about his ride on Bike Magic as he descibes just how he joined this unique club.
All the latest from DH Dan…
The weekend of the 25/26th June saw the 4th round of the British Downhill Series contested at Llangollen. Dan hasn’t been doing many races this year due to ‘A’-level school work and exams taking precedence, so he was looking forward to racing again at a track that he enjoyed racing a couple of times last year. Llangollen is surely the steepest course on the racing calendar – after an initial fast and relatively shallow diagonal course, the track turns sharply down-slope and enters tight switchback turns with straight-down sections between them to keep the pace fast and loose before entering the trees and some fearsome step-downs to finish. Martin, the landowner farmer and part-time track-builder has now developed the site into a regular uplift-assisted venue, with a new easier contouring track from where the track turns steep having been built over the winter to allow club members of all abilities to enjoy a challenging day’s riding when there isn’t a race on.
A problem last year was the turn-around time for uplifts due to the fact that public roads have to be used to ferry the riders to the top, meaning that with 300 riders needing uplift some delays became inevitable. Much fanfare had been made this year of improvements to the uplift service, so we were hoping that Dan could get in quite a few runs on the Saturday. We weren’t able to drive up on the Friday night, so an early start meant that he missed about an hour of morning practice, but with 7 hours left this should have been enough for at least 6 runs.
Dan: “After not having ridden for a while due to exams, I decided to go into the race weekend to enjoy it, and did so on Saturday, although I only got 3 runs in due to the uplift being one of the poorest I have ever seen. I had a good day and got some good lines sorted. On Sunday I manged two practice runs before the seeding run, sorted out my lines and put in a steady run to see where I came. I seeded mid-pack so decided to push a bit more for my race run. My race run went went well until somewhere on the lower half of the track I punctured my rear tyre, and ended up getting a bit wild in some corners, loosing time. I went faster than my seeding run, but not as fast as I would have liked, and finished mid-pack.”
The uplift ‘improvements’ seemed to be making no improvement in turn-around time – with 90 minutes being a typical time achievable between runs, worse than the 60 minutes last year! It was a shame, and never explained, but I think seemed to be because they had chosen to have less uplift trailers, but potentially fitting more riders on each, and then waiting until all trailers and mini-buses were full before setting off up the hill in convoy to avoid clashes with the other road-users that happened last year. Problem not solved! Everyone was affected, and there were some very frustrated people to be overheard.
Dan was due to attend the Southern Champs at UKBikePark a couple of weekends ago, but then a University Open Day visit clashed so he wasn’t able to race. Last weekend he was hoping to race at the WDMBA’s Mountain Ash race, especially since he hadn’t raced there before, but picked up an injury to his foot, meaning that he couldn’t support his weight on the bike, so again decided not to race.
The next race could be the South West Champs at Gawton in Devon, before the last round of the BDS at Fort William in September.
Dan & Tim.
The weekend of the 23/24th April was the second round of the first ever Welsh Downhill Mountain Bike Association’s (WDMBA) race series, held at Gethin, South Wales. The WDMBA have been developing the capability to put on a race series for a couple of years now. They started up with a few members pooling resources to put on uplift days at Rheola, and over time and increasingly popular uplift days, have now generated enough money to convert three old coaches into customised uplift vehicles by taking out the rear half of the seats so that bikes and riders can be taken up the hill in the same bus. Uplift provision was always the main reason why the Dragon Downhill race series ceased to operate on the South Wales Forestry Comission owned race tracks – new Health and Safety laws introduced meant that all ‘public’ uplift on Forestry land had to be provided by PSV-license holding drivers with strict rules on the type of vehicles that could be used. The old Dragon DH solution of getting the local quarry trucks in with some hay bales in the back for riders to sit on and cart everone up to the top in the back of the truck was no longer allowed, and so without an uplift solution the Dragons were no more at the end of 2008.
The WDMBA formed in 2009, but it has taken a lot of hard work on their behalf to get the uplift vehicles sorted and to organise ‘dig days’ with trail-building crews to maintain and improve some of the old Dragon courses and bring them back into use. Gethin was actually the venue for Dan’s second ever race as a Juvenile rider in 2008. It is a good track, and has recently seen some major improvements as a result of the trail digging teams who finished their latest works only a couple of weeks prior to the race.
When we saw the entry list for the race, which was published a couple of days before it, we couldn’t quite believe what we read because the Elite riders included Dan Atherton. You may recall that Dan Atherton broke his neck in a nasty accident in training only last July, and his brother Gee was in South Africa for the first round of the World Cup Series this weekend, so we thought it was perhaps a mistake that his name was on the list. Come the Saturday practice, though, and there was a familiar Atherton Racing van and EZ-up in the car park, and sure enough, Dan was there. As I was standing taking photos at one point on the track his Dad came nearby and I mentioned to him how good it was to see Dan back on the bike and racing – he confirmed that this was his first race appearance since the accident, and that he wanted to ‘test himself gently’ at a local race (look back through the results history for Dragon Downhills and you’ll see the Atherton’s names all over the race winners’ lists – this is where they started their racing careers a few years back) before moving back up to World Cup level tracks.
We were greeted with hot sunny weather for the whole weekend, so here’s Dan’s report:
“Practice went well, Gethin is a track I have raced once before, my second race ever, and I loved it. The WDMBA boys had made some improvements to it and it was riding amazingly, I was having fun trying out new lines I couldn’t ride at the last race, and really enjoying myself, apart from the ridiculous amount of dust, that caused a very dry throat and the need to drink a few gulps of water after every run! By the end of practice I had most of my lines sorted, and was looking foward to race day. On Sunday, I crammed in two practice runs, to dial in some lines I wanted to try, and they worked well. My race runs went well, but I was pretty far off the pace, I was loosing a lot of speed in the rock garden and slowing down, so I need to work on carrying speed through rocky sections and pedaling more.”
Dan ended up 9th, with 25 riders competing, and it’s interesting comparing his run time with that from his second ever race there three years previously: 2008 time 3min 43sec, 2011 time 3min 9secs!
Dan’s been revising hard for his AS-level exams over the next couple of weeks, so he hasn’t been entering many races recently, but the next race should be the Southern Region Championships at UKBikePark, Dorset in June. This will be the first race that they will have held since their major trail and facility re-design (still ongoing), so it will be very interesting to see how things have changed.
You’ll also be pleased to hear that Dan Atherton’s return to racing went very well, and he won the Elite category with the fastest time of the day.
Dan & Tim.
Check out the latest from Marin pro rider Andrew Taylor and his Mount Vision XM8.
The weekend of the 19th and 20th March was the first round of the British Downhill Series, held at Nant Gwrtheyrn in North Wales on the Northern coast of the Llyn Penisula. This is a new track, being used for the first time as a National track, having been built last year by the people behind the Wentwood race in South Wales two years ago, Simply Downhill. They had moved to North Wales and were looking for a place to build a new track and stumbled upon the site at Nant Gwrtheyrn, a recently renovated Welsh Heritage centre at a Victorian mining village nestled at the foot of the old quarry itself, with a narrow strip of woodland around a stream running from the top of the surrounding hill at about 1100 feet, all the way down to the village itself, about 100 feet above sea level. The setting is itself spectacular, with extensive views out to the Irish Sea and Anglesey from the site and its’ access road, and the £5m visitor centre alongside the village which hosted the race control and provided a cafe, restaurant and showers/toilets which is unique for any race venues that we had been to before!
This race was being held a full month before the usual time of the first round of the National Series, and so I chose to stay in a Travelodge in Bangor overnight for the Friday and Saturday rather than brave the forecast late-winter conditions in our two-season sleeping bags!
Following a four hour drive to Bangor on the Friday night, we had a 45 minute drive to the race venue on the Saturday morning, arriving to find that there was no space to park at the bottom of the hill in the village and campsite, so we would have to park at the top of the hill right by the drop-off point for the race uplift – handy!
The weather was dry for the Saturday, but some rain overnight was forecast, with it hopefully drying up for the race itself on Sunday.
“Practice went well, the track was very difficult, but lots of fun, and as it dried out through the day it just got better and better. Unfortunately this didn’t last, Sunday morning it was raining, and continued to do so all day, making the track difficult in places, and horrible at the bottom (an uphill sprint). Seeding runs came around and due to a rider having an accident on course, they were cancelled, but the race organisers did not relay this information to the top, and we were stuck up there for 2 hours in the freezing cold and constant rain, with little cover. This completely put me off racing, as I was soaked and freezing, I turned up for my race run and tried to put in a steady run, but came to the first corner and I stopped dead and had a ‘moment’ on the track, which put me off for my run. I finished halfway through the pack, which I was happy with, but want to improve for the next races.”
The weather on Sunday was quite appalling – the majority of the venue was in cloud and raining a fine mist, with the exposed uplift drop-off and waiting area at the top experiencing near-freezing conditions and a strong wind. At the same time it was reported as sunny in Bristol, so the local coastal position with the prevailing on-shore wind appeared to contribute to keeping the site in cloud and rain.
This being Dan’s first year in the Junior category, he wasn’t expecting to be competing for the top ten in what was a very large (~70) and competitive category (the top Juniors are already World Cup riders). The unfortunate incident with riders in Dan’s category caused the medical team considerable problems – the rider had broken bones and needed to be stretchered off the track once medical help had arrived, but the cloud cover prevented a helicopter ambulance access, and by the time they had managed to stretcher him out to an ambulance a couple of hours had passed. Due to the limited light available since the race was being held before the clocks had gone forward for British Summer Time, it would not have been possible to complete all of the seeding runs and the race runs in daylight so the organisers had to make the difficult decision to cancel the remaining seeding runs. This was very unfortunate for Dan as he was about ten riders after the rider who crashed, and so, as he mentions, he was stuck at the top of the hill in the adverse conditions in his thin race shirt with minimal protection from the elements, compounded with insufficient information on the reason for the delays being relayed to race control at the top of the hill.
During this time I was perched part-way down the hill taking photos for Roots And Rain (www.rootsandrain.co.uk/photos/tim-joyce), getting rather wet and splattered by mud as each rider went past, standing next to a race marshal who also was very frustrated by the lack of update on progress during the delay whilst the injured rider was safely moved.
Nevertheless, even when Dan thought he had done badly (we left the venue without him even finding out his race position), it was clear that his main rivals from last year in the Youth category had also found the conditions tough, and he ended up beating them when we checked the results after we returned home.
Dan will miss the next BDS Round due to family holiday, so the next race will be the WDMBA Gethin Race, a venue that Dan hasn’t raced since the Dragon Downhill Series last visited in 2008.
Dan & Tim.
After not being able to race the snow re-scheduled UKBikePark Triscombe race, the two rounds of the 661 Mini Downhill at the Forest of Dean this year have been Dan’s first races in the Junior category. The race last weekend was the third and final round of this winter race series, with Dan not having been able to get in any real practice days apart from the race days themselves this year so far due to various factors.
With the ground finally thawing after the icy conditions of previous rounds, last Sunday was the first sign of some improved weather.
“Practice went well, I got all my lines sorted, even though I only had an hour to do so, and was feeling okay on the track. They were using a track that I never seem to do well on so I wanted to try and do better than previously, so looked for the fastest lines on the track. First race run was fairly good, I had a few mistakes and rode a section with one foot off the pedals, but came down with an okay time that put me into 9th place. For the second runs I wanted to push even faster to secure a top 10 finish, and my run was good, not many mistakes, but I lost a lot of speed at the bottom section where it was extremely boggy, so couldn’t properly clear the table top at the bottom, loosing speed. I went quicker than my first run, but it wasn’t enough to keep me in the top 10 and I ended up 12th. This result is better than the last race (22nd) but still not where I would want my results to be.”
The next race will probably be the first round of the British Downhill Series at Nant Gwrtheyrn in North Wales on March 19/20th – a track that was new last year, and is being used for the first time as a National track.
Dan is still racing with his 2009 spec Marin Quake 7.9 with 170mm rear travel – he is hoping to change frame to the new 250mm rear travel Quad DH as soon as they are available in the country to allow him to remain competitive on the rougher National level courses.
Dan & Tim.
Here is the latest from the ATB Sales supported adidas Terrex team…
ATB sales supported Team adidas TERREX will be hitting the small screen. BBC Breakfast Sports Reporter, Mike Bushell recently joined the team during a training day in South Wales. He was put through his paces by the team, including some Night MTBing on the team’s trusty Marin and Whyte bikes. Expected screening date is this Saturday 22nd January.
In addition the Telegraph also joined the session and should feature an article on this fast growing sport in the Travel Supplement, again intended for this Saturday’s issue of the news paper.
The team are on BBC NEWS TV this weekend on Saturday morning every hour with Mike Bushal…
The race in patagonia is from the 4th February – 20th February
We have won the race the last 2 years in a row so we are hoping for the the hat trick – the race gets a lot of media coverage and is televised on Channel 4. Here is a link to the site:http://www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com/
The Team are current putting their final preparations together for their defence of the title in the Wenger Patagonia Race, widely regarded as one of the toughest in the world.
Read the latest from DH racer Dan Joyce…
On the 5th of December Dan raced the 661 Mini Downhill at the Forest of Dean. The weather was very cold – an inch of snow which had fallen a few days earlier outside of the trees, but my car was showing -4.5 degreesC as we arrived half an hour before practice! This meant that the exposed ground was frozen solid and quite icy in the section of track towards the end of the run just as it comes out of one section of trees and enters another just before the finish line. The organisers had laid salt on the racing line around that section to try to reduce the risk of falling, but it was clear that any tyre off the central track line would have no grip – it was just ice on the frozen ground. I headed on up the track to take some photos (http://www.rootsandrain.co.uk/race312/2010-dec-5-naked-racing-661-mini-dh-forest-of-dean/photos/) whilst Dan went for some practice.
“After ariving to a snow covered car park on Sunday morning, I pushed up the hill to practice the track. It was one I had raced before, but one that I also never did well on. I was hoping for a decent result through practice, and spent time getting my lines sorted. Unfortunately this was not to happen as in my first run, which was going very well, I caught up with the person in front of me, and for some reason he didn’t move to the side, but remained in the middle of the track. I decided to try a risky inside overtake, and completely forgot about how icy the ground was, this lead to me hitting the deck hard, and giving myself a concussion. My second run was not very good, due to my concussion I just couldn’t ride fast, and came down with a very slow time, putting me in 23rd place.
For my next race I hope to get back on form, and post a good competitive time, as it will be my last race in Youth.”
When I came down the track at the end of the first runs to talk to Dan and see how it had gone he mentioned the crash but didn’t mention the cuts and mild concussion he had got from the fall – this was only apparent afterwards at the end of the second runs with a further de-brief. This scenario where he has a hard crash and then races has happened earlier in the year, and as then, he finds it difficult to do well because his mind seems to put his brake fingers into a self-preservation mode where he thinks he has ridden fast but ends up quite a bit slower compared to everyone else than he was expecting. This time he ended up 23rd out of 46 riders, 10 seconds off a ‘podium’ time.
Dan was hoping to race the second round of the UKBikePark Winter Series last Sunday (19th December), which was due to be held at Triscombe, on the Quantocks, but this was cancelled due to the snow, so the Forest of Dean race was the last race of the year, and Dan’s last in the Youth Category. He moves up to Junior next year, but the year-end British Cycling National Rankings read for some impressive results in his last Youth year:
British Cycling National Rankings 2010 MTB DH Youth (155 riders with ranking points, 8 best results count):
Dan Joyce 10th in the UK; 4th in England; 1st in South Region.
Dan also won the title Southern Champion at the Southern Region Championships in May.
A very good year racing in Youth with his Marin Quake. We are hoping to be able to upgrade the frame to the new Marin Quad DH as soon as they are available in the country, which should help in the very competitive Junior category next year.
So – 2010 was 20 races, 5 more than 2009. Some races couldn’t be entered due to clashes with GCSEs, and next year looks as though it could be equally busy, but now with AS level module exams to clash with!
Thanks to Jon at ZeroG Downend for the continuing sponsorship over this past year, and to all the other ZeroG Downend & Giant Bradley Stoke staff who have serviced the bike during the year to help mend/replace/tweak the inevitable parts that wear out or get broken during a year of racing!
Tim & Dan.
Picture – ‘(c)Ian Cross www.pics4all.co.uk‘
Check out the latest video from AT riding the DH Quad with friends in San Diego.
We are loving the summer sun but don’t let the UK snow stop you riding.