Halo British Downhill Series Nant Gwrtheyrn
March 21 2011
Approaching the race site is a unique experience, driving off the edge of a hill into the coniferous cover of tress. The first corner is an alpine hairpin, with views cast out to the gleaming sea below. Unrelenting, the road narrowly twists its way to the finish line, a coastal racing outpost. The area is littered with the relics of industry, quarrying equipment and buildings strewn along a pebbled sea front, the cove reaching around and jutting angrily out to sea. The statues of old cling precariously to the hill, the ghosts of industry shocked at the modern preoccupation with a very different kind of interaction with this most rugged of landscapes. Downhill mountain biking just reached the end of the earth, well, North Wales.
Nant Gwrtheyrn is an amazing venue and a stunning backdrop for the first National.
The perfect sunset on Friday night brought out the video cameras and as the romantics got all giddy with excitement, the MTBcut boys got bounce testing a couple of new bikes. Joe Barnes was rocking the single-crown look on his Orange Patriot prototype, with Fraser McGlone and Ben Cathro getting the new 322 DH frames into shape for some heavy hitting man-lines. Yeah boi…
The MTBcut Team 322 prototypes, looking good under McGlone and Cathro
Saturday morning came and the usual clamour to practice lines. The top of the track saw an immediate plunge with a couple of line choices through the first wet patch. The track traversed through the trees with a playful smattering of tricky roots and pedal grabbing tree stumps. Winding its way down, there’s a sudden rocky chute into a right-hander, the fast boys ploughing their own line as rocks ping out either side. The tricky bit, a couple of rooty corners into an off camber traverse, the best line over a slippy off camber rock and stump ensemble. Duly negotiated, riders get pitched straight down the hill through a gaggle of loose rocks, a Lake District style scree plunging you back into the trees and into the pedally sections. The last stretch was a trail centre like sprint as riders pumped home to the finish. A course with a little bit of everything, watch Cathro’s helmet cam from the boys at Wideopen.
Saturday night brought a fair amount of rain and a swirling storm of wind, waking up to drizzle and a grave yard of easy-ups. Amongst the departed was the brand new Wideopen team pit setup, rest in peace easy-ups…
Sunday morning devastation.
More important than the pit furniture was the changes to the track, the extra moisture made visibility a bit tougher, but the wetter lines brought more grip in a lot of places. Practise was a two run affair for the MTBcut boys, with Fraser, Ben and Joe pretty happy with the technical sections of the track. The bottom section was a bit of a struggle with a couple of bog pedals and not much gradient after the steep start to the track.
Fraser cranking in practice.
The day was made a difficult one for race organisers as a bad crash shut the track for long enough to make seeding and race runs an impossibility. Riders were duly given start times based on their number boards, this seeds them to a reasonable level anyway, so fair play to the BDS guys for keeping it all together.
On the way up, Cathro's prototype Orange 322.
MTBcut new boy Fraser McGlone was seeded mid pack on his protoype Orange 322. Sliding down the top half, Fraser saved enough to put the power down and take the win. A great result at the start of the season and looking good for the year.
McGlone's first race for MTBcut.
Joe had a good run and was happy he’d given it all he could on the track and in the conditions. The lack of seeding had an effect on a few of the riders but being the same for everyone, thoughts go out to the rider who got hurt. Joe made it down in 2:29, doing enough for a solid 19th, one place above fellow countryman and van-buddy Fergus Lamb.
Joe Barnes over the final rock section on his lightweight Patriot prototype.
Ben Cathro powered his MTBcut Orange 322 to 12th, a good result riding the bike for the first time on a challenging track.
Ben exiting the rock section before the pedal home
Full results on Roots and Rain.
Shout out of the weekend goes to Derek McGlone, the official MTBcut pit crew. Thanks to everyone at the British Downhill Series for a great race. Shout out to Jamie at Wideopen Magazine for Cathro's chestcam and Charles Robertson for the two shots above, check his website out here. Thanks also goes to Rob, Dunc and Mike from Cambrian Tyres on their new Continental sponsored 224 team bikes. It was great to see so many Orange bikes at the race, thanks to everyone involved.
Orange Bikes, living the dream.
McGlown, Cathro and Hutchens are off to Spain for a couple of weeks riding, we'll be back with more team updates when they're back and racing. Joe will be building up his 322 soon, keep an eye out at the Innerleithen Winter Series for a snapshot.