September 30 2010
Nestled in the hills of the Durham Dales between the Wear and Tees Valley lies Hamsterley Forest, the North East’s mountain bike mecca. An area of wild beauty that’s been a riding and race venue since the start of mountain biking. Today, the original trails still pierce the woodland, with manmade tracks to entice a new breed of rider and cater for the growing trail-centre audience. The Hamsterley Trailblazers are the group currently pushing trail development and maintenance in the forest. New trails keep springing up while the old school riders continue to maintain and develop many of the natural tracks that are still firm favorites with the locals. To encourage more people to the area and raise more trail dollar, Dave Nicholson and his crew came up with the one2one, an event to get new people into the forest and onto their bikes.
Vaughan Evans: Purple, pinned and pre-focussed.
The format of the Hamsterley one2one immediately caught the eye of the Orange factory riders, a simple idea that encourages the jack-of-all-trades to don a number board and head to the start line. For people who are far from race experts but comfortable on a bike, this race holds a certain appeal, an opportunity to race XC and downhill in a much less formal setting than people expect at other events. Saturday’s challenge is an XC race, with riders awarded points according to position, counting down one point with each place lost. The Sunday is then the main event for the gravity focused, a DH race based on a similar points system. Whoever gets the most combined points wins, simple. The twist in the one2one is the bike, you have to compete in both events on the same machine, so decisions were made wisely by some, for others, it was a case of ‘ride what you brung’.
James Shirley: Quick, colourful and second on his Blood.
The first thing that hits you at the one2one is the diversity of participants, every type of person, age and ability, all there to make a full weekend of riding their bike. Jumpy hardtails, carbon XC hardtails, six inch loafers, and an array of regular trail bikes, all adapted to blend the best of XC poise and downhill ability. Many of the entrants were also first timers, race virgins enticed by the format which wouldn’t make them feel out of place on their only bike. The Orange camp had two entrants, Jono Sykes our admin machine, and Vaughan Evans, the paint shop race head. Jono is an experienced rider but having never raced downhill, this seemed like a good place to start, the Blood was race prepped. Vaughan is a seasoned downhiller, on a borrowed Alpine he fancied mixing it up with a bit of XC.
Saturday brought good weather and a fun course with riders ragging around the XC loop in a figure of eight which took in steady climbs interspersed with interesting traverses before the fun downhill sections back to the start area. Hannah Barnes took her Five to the ladies win, with brother Joe taking his pink Five to the top of the men’s standings ahead of fellow Scotsmen James Shirley and Liam Moynihan. The Orange factory contingent came in not far behind, saving themselves for Sunday’s DH action.
Joe Barnes: He came, he saw, he conquered.
The DH for many was the focus of the event, and the track didn’t disappoint. Those with a little bit of bounce on the bike were definitely at an advantage on the course, with plenty of roots and traverses to rattle through. The track hit a perfect balance between a technical challenge and flat out fun, XC riders could comfortably negotiate each section, while the fast boys could make time after XC penance the previous day. It was no surprise that MTBcut rider Joe Barnes took the win, his Five effectively bridging the XC/DH gap. Sister Hannah came second in the downhill, doing enough to take the overall women’s win. Factory rider Vaughan Evans pulled out all the stops on his Alpine 160, getting second place in Masters and earning himself his first ever podium, to say he enjoyed himself would be an understatement. Jono did a good job on the Blood, managing to stay ahead of Fergus Lamb on track, here’s the shaky-cam footage…I managed to keep my tenner.
The results were calculated after the downhill with the simple points system coming into its own. In the ladies it was Hannah Barnes, Alex Sol and Rachel Martin on the podium. It was fantastic to see a good field of females mixing it up on the racetrack. In the male seniors, the Scots came and conquered, first second and third for Joe Barnes, James Shirley and Liam Moynihan. Fergus Lamb managed fifth on his tupperware XC race bike, top work. Mike Hodgson took the vets, Zac Hubery won in Masters, and James Rowland came first in juniors. A cliché it may be, but there were many other victories, for most it was competing for the first time, for others, managing a DH race on their hardtail built for neither event. In the annoying age old adage, everyone’s a winner.
James Shirley, Joe Barnes and Liam Moynihan: The Scottish contingent went to Hamsterley in force.
A massive thank you goes to the trail blazers who did a fantatic job of showcasing what Hamsterley has to offer as a ride and race venue. The event was a fantastic introduction to a refreshing format, and for many newcomers, an opportunity to race at a friendly event where riders were all there for fun. It isn’t about winners and losers, but hanging out with friends in a cool place riding a fun track. When it was all over, we hit the jumps before our drive home. Hamsterley is a fantastic place to ride and thanks to the Trailblazers, it keeps on getting better. See you next year…
When the racing is over, Hamsterley has plenty of places to play, Joe Barnes working on a six-pack.
Check out the Hamsterley Trailblazers website if you want to get involved in building or riding Hamsterley's fantastic trails.
We'll be sending over a Crush frame to auction off for a few trail building funds, and you never know, we might even pick up a shovel ourselves every so often...