Since he was a youth in Somerset, Dan Atherton has had an itch to dig, and many of the spots I grew up on, rounding off my PowerPro cranks and puncturing my Factory DH tyres saw his influence.
Somerset’s finest, Chris Barnard and myself enjoying some classic trails.
Since the move to North Wales, the Atherton trail resume is as extensive as it is outrageous. There have been a few videos over the years, including the enormous jumps through the quarry next to what is now Revolution Bike Park and Escape-Create deep in the heart of, well, somewhere. Add to this the myriad of trails that have sprung up and you have a recipe for something pretty special.
Dan was joined by mechanic Olly Davy and Team Bont to get the course ready and, the boys were hard at it all weekend.
Hardline is an event at the far end of DH bike racing, designed to push the sport, and push it does. The course drops nearly 500m down a wild Welsh hillside in a stunning valley. The course mixes the huge features such as the Renegade step-up and the road-gap with a DH course that wouldn’t be out of place as a full on round of a world-cup.
This is a course that was taking no prisoners, there was no let up between the massive jumps!
Friday and Saturday the riders spent a lot of time working down the course, sectioning the enormous jumps and getting their heads round them.
Brook Macdonald parks up as George Brannigan soars above the Renegade Step-up.
Alex Fayolle. Sadly a massive overshoot on the step-up saw him in hospital and joining the riders out of the race. It was good to see him back in the pits on Sunday afternoon.
Our very own Al Bond was a true champ all weekend. Coming into the race without having a season of world cups under his belt is no mean feat. We’ll have a full catch up with Al on the site soon.
Brook didn’t let the size of the features get in the way of a bit of style.
Immediately after the Renegade it was straight back into the gnar, Ruaridh Cunningham leading Graeme Mudd into it.
A kiwi train as Masters leads Macdonald into the rock-drop. The riders really came together over the weekend, camaradery getting them through the whole thing. Eddie Masters said it was the quietest uplift he’d ever been in.
The coverage didn’t do this drop justice at all, mid way through some steep turns, and with a loose left at the bottom of it, it was hard as nails!
Bikes took nearly as much of a battering as the riders. That orange piece is a volume spacer from inside a shock… next time you say your shock blew up, it probably didn’t do it like this! In Matt’s other hand is a wind meter.
Matt Walker and Rupert Chapman, just two of the riders who were taken out by the brutal course.
It was easy to forget that this was a race, the emphasis on the last couple of days having been survival. Sunday dawned, and for the top of the hill, some sunshine, the early morning cloud lower down would soon burn off.
Riders put down a couple of laps in the morning as the cloud cleared and the crowds gathered.
An early morning over the bars saw Gee sit out the qualifying lap, resting a repeatedly injured shoulder for finals.
South Wales’ finest, Taylor Vernon had consistent style all weekend.
Eddie Masters storms through the iPhones.
Brook on the waterfall jumps.
Mick Hannah suicided pretty much every jump at one point or another over the weekend. Dirty Ferns step-up.
Al Bond hucking back into the woods on the waterfall jumps. There was barely a straight jump on the track.
The road-gap was mad. I walked out on to the lip and it made me feel a bit sick!
Bondy making short work of this monster!
#StraighttoInstagram Mudd dropping in to the crowds. With no signal in the valley to speak of, there must have been a social media backlog as long as the queue out of the car-park by tea time!
Brannigan getting flat in the waterfall jumps. There was no option but HUGE and flat over this hip, the landing is out of shot!
Joe Smith getting his tweak on over the road gap.
George Brannigan described North Wales as being like a mini New Zealand. I can’t think of any higher praise. 5th for the Kiwi.
After missing quali to have some horrid looking pain killer injections, Gee came down very early in the race and took the hot seat which only held until the top three boys came down. After 2 years of punctures really high on the course, and a world cup season dogged by injury 4th and safe has to sit well for an off season of surgery and recovery.
Brayton arrived in the finish area sideways and pedalling to take third in what he described as an uncharacteristically sensible run.
Last year’s winner, Ruaridh Cunningham was the first rider to beat Gee’s time, and it looked like it might stick, but Kerr proved unstoppable.
Bernard Kerr was one of very few riders to throw shapes of the enormous road gap, showing a confidence to push on the track that is almost inconceivable.
1. Bernard Kerr (GBR) 3:32.46
2. Ruaridh Cunningham (GBR) 3:34.86 (+2.40)
3. Adam Brayton (GBR) 3:35.50 (+3.04)
4. Gee Atherton (GBR) 3:35.97 (+3.51)
5. George Brannigan (NZ) 3:39.14 (+6.68)
6. Mick Hannah (AUS) 3:39.28 (+6.82)
7. Eddie Masters (NZ) 3:39.94 (+7.48)
8. Joe Smith (GBR) 3:40.21 (+7.75)
9. Taylor Vernon (GBR) 3:41.22 (+8.76)
10. Brook MacDonald (NZ) 3:41.30 (+8.84)
11. Mark Wallace (CAN) 3:41.82 (+9.36)
12. Al Bond (GBR) 3:47.24 (+14.78)
13. Dan Atherton (GBR) 3:47.66 (+15.20)
14. Graeme Mudd (AUS) 3:49.50 (+17.04)
The third Red Bull Hardline defined what an epic race should be with solid camaradery between the riders and a track that pushed everyone to the limit. Healing thoughts go out to all the riders who got hurt along the way. I don’t doubt Hardline will return, to find the limits, you need to know where too far is…
“I hope they hurry up, my cobwebs are drying”