The British Downhill Series (BDS) is widely seen as the most prestigious National Series in the World. The top 300 riders in the U.K plus a sprinkling of International stars took to the field for the first round of the series at Combe Sydenham.
Saturday’s practice was wet, very wet! The course was soon thick with mud and ruts but the forecast for finer weather on Sunday made tyre choice and line choice more problematic for some. GT Factory racing’s Head Technician Pete Michaliszyn disagreed “There’s only one, MudKIng!”
Seeding went well for the team with Gee leading from team-mate Slugger in the men’s Elite. Rachel seeded 1st, 14 seconds clear of Manon Carpenter and Taylor put in a solid run to sit in 3rd behind Phil Atwell and Innes Graham. With a mere one second gap to close the team’s newest rider knew that a win would be well within his capability.
On Sunday, a break in the rains coupled with some sunshine and winds meant that the course began to dry out – making conditions harder still. The course very quickly became deeply rutted and the mud was energy-sappingly thick and claggy.
Taylor was first up, racing in his first year of the junior class. His intensive winter training paid dividends as he showed that he had the strength and skills to ride faster than any of his second year opponents, taking the win 2.6 seconds faster than his South Wales compatriot Mike Jones.
Taylor said “ I’m stoked. Especially that it was such an all round great weekend for the team. Pete Michaliszyn did a top job on the bike.”
Rachel rode next. In 2012 Manon Carpenter took the win here from Rachel and she was not about to relinquish that achievement without a fight. She put in a courageous run, the only woman on the field to tackle the big road gap, to sit over 15 seconds clear of Tahnee Seagrave. But she couldn’t hold off Rachel who bettered
her own seeding time by 4 seconds to storm to a convincing victory 8.2 seconds clear.
Rachel said “The mud and conditions made the track ridiculously hard, the ruts were so deep and sticky, I had to work 100% and managed my race run pretty much feet up! so I was stoked because if you stopped pedalling you stopped moving!It was so physical, it hurt so much racing, but what made it all worth it were all the fans who came to watch in the conditions, I was amazed and impressed with their support, and to have the whole team working for the first time this year was awesome!”
By the time that Marc and then Gee took the field in the Men’s Elite the track was really rutted out – especially in the top section. There was a strong wind gusting across an exposed mid section and more and more exposed roots. None of this seemed to pose any problems for the GT Factory Racing team, last year’s winner Marc missed Matt Simmonds by a mere 0.1 of a second before Gee tore down the hill to put two seconds into everyone.
Marc Beaumont who is his own fiercest critic said “Disappointed to be third. After a good qualifier I was keen to push on and challenge Gee for the win. Finals didn’t go how I planned at all, I made silly mistakes in the top section & while trying to push to gain time at the bottom made two crucial mistakes. I need to work on my race sharpness for up coming races.”
Team Director Dan Brown said “An awesome weekend. A great effort by all of the team – we’re all made up that Taylor smashed it his first weekend and that the riders are looking so strong. We’ve made some changes behind the scenes which mean we’re coming to top form. A great start to the season.”
1. Gee Atherton GT Factory Racing 2:42.049
2. Matt Simmonds Chain Reaction Cycles 2:44.168
3. Mark Beaumont GT Factory Racing 2:44.265
1. Rachel Atherton GT Factory Racing 3:06.029
2. Manon Carpenter Madison Saracen 3:14.263
3. Tahnee Seagrave FMD Racing 3:29.807
1. Taylor Vernon GT Factory Racing 2:52.639
2. Mike Jones FMD Racing 2:55.336
3. George Ganicott Dirt Norco 2:56.156