The 4th round of the Welsh Downhill Mountain Bike Association series was to be held at the well raced and much loved venue of Rheola in South Wales. The track is a firm favourite amongst racers and really does have a bit of everything, flat out top section amongst the rocks, technical wooded middle section and a fast and swooping lower woods leading you into the finish. Fortunately for everyone involved the track is just as much fun in the wet as it is in the dry, for the most part the track was the same as it has been for the last few years and these sections rode pretty much as well in the soaking conditions as they do in the dry, the tyres cutting through the thin liquid mud to the harder rock underneath. The WDMBA boys though had made a few alterations to the usual route and it was these parts that made for the most interesting riding, a few freshly taped corners in the middle wooded section before the infamous Star Wars and 2 more in the lower woods replacing the old double running parallel to the fence.
These sections became a thick, gloopy mudslope with almost zero traction early on in Saturday practice and although they eased up a little after the overnight rain for Sunday morning, come race time they were at their most difficult. For most it was a case of committing to the section with as much speed as you dared and being prepared to get a foot off in the hope of making it out the other end still on the bike, good effort to Elite rider Emyr Davies for somehow negotiating these on a set of 2.5” Minions and still coming 4th overall!
Practice on Saturday had the worst of the weather, which although threatened for the whole weekend never quite came to proper rain, if it had the track would have been a lot quicker but everyone riding a lot more uncomfortable (especially those of us that forgot waterproofs). The track was closed around halfway through practice due to a big crash and suspected broken leg on track, good work to the ambulance boys for efficiently getting the casualty off the hill and away to hospital so the event could resume – get well soon. Although this caused a significant delay in the day, the organisers made the good call to extend practice by an hour which went down well with everyone; given the conditions I think we all had enough runs by the end of the day. I for one called it a day 1 run early after several large moments on track made me think it might not be such a great idea to go up again, and I’m sure a few others did the same.
Race day came and a little rain overnight made the first run down the hill much better, thinned out the deeper mud a little and gave that bit of extra grip, unfortunately it wasn’t to last after a few hundred riders had been down and we were back to getting a foot out all over the place or ‘tripoding’ down the slope in some cases! Big story of the day was Welsh Youth rider Mike Jones – where the hell did that come from?! The lad took fastest time of the day and 6 seconds out of 1st place Elite rider Jack Reading. Incredible! I don’t think anyone saw that coming and there are surely big things to come from him in the future. 2nd place 11.4 seconds back was Mojo’s Callum Harvard, followed by Madison’s Will Weston in 3rd with a 3:43.1. In the Juvenile category 3rd place went to Austin Salmon of Cwmdown/PS Cycles with a time of 4:38 dead, Kyle Harvard took second for Team Skene with a 4:30.8 and the win was taken by Charlie Hatton who finished the course in 4:30.0.
Junior is always a fast category these days, often competing with the top Elite and Expert riders. 3rd place rider was Jay Williamson riding for Certini bicycles/Mojo/drift-mtb.com, Moss Macriner riding for Kustom Bikes took 2nd place 9.8 seconds behind 1st place Junior and 5th overall Transition Bikes’ Jono Jones. Senior was won by David Moulson with a 3:43.0 for Lodge Cycles/WDMBA, 6.7 seconds up on 2nd place rider Harry Steer for Dartmoor Cycles, 3rd place went to Greg Hampton a further 1.6 seconds back. 3rd place master Craig Taylor riding for Devinci/Haven finished in a time of 3:51.9, 13 seconds behind 2nd place Shaun Bevan, the Master category was won by Red Mist Racing’s Daniel Haines by 8.6 seconds. Jason Carpenter convincingly won the Veteran category by 11.3 seconds over Rich Simpson (Balfa/Foes/ISO2) and 18.1 seconds over Niall Ingram (Red Mist Racing).
New Junior World Champ Manon Carpenter (Madion/Saracen) won the women’s race by 6.8 seconds over 2nd place Emily Horridge (Transition Bikes) and Jess Greaves (52RaceTeam/DMR) who was 3rd on the podium. Expert was won by Joel Moore (Mojo) in a time of 3:20.7, followed by Team Skene’s Nikki Whiles and Rhys Evans (No Bull Cycles). The Elite category was a 2 horse race between Jack Reading (Ellsworth Bikes/O’Neal) and Emyr Davies (Team Skene), Jack took the win in a time of 3:21.1, 3.9 seconds up on Emyr.
All in all it was a good race weekend, big thanks to the boys from the WDMBA for putting it on, the weather played its part but if anything made the track even more fun. Get well to all those with injuries picked up over the weekend and see you at the next one!
Words – George May
Race Photos – Oliver Harry
For full results visit www.rootsandrain.co.uk
Visit WDMBA’s website for more racing.