Autumn is the best time of year by far, only in autumn do you get the perfect mix of soil conditions, light and temperature for all day riding with your mates. Not too hot, loads of grip and stunning colours everywhere you look. On sunday we were all lucky enough to be soaked in oranges and greens as we took part in the TickerTape Triple Crown, a special DH race event that we throw once a year. The format isn't that different from the monthly TickerTapes we run, just that instead of one there are three tracks, only one run can be timed on each, and its the overall that counts, nothing else.
For the first time ever we charged for entry so that we could raise some much needed cash to pay towards our new Freelap Timing equipment (5 more watches), at £10 a pop we raised over £300.
With the promise of sausages, prizes and the chance to ride with some well known faces the day was well attended and the excitement clear to see. Ric McLaughlin (from MBUK), Chris smith (from every cover of MBUK), Jim Davage (from just about every DH race in the South West), his brother (from Jim's roost) and Grant Fielder (from anywhere but a DH race) came along to sample the delights of some homegrown rider run DH racing, and I think it's fair to say each one of them loved every minute of it.
BBMS was the first track on the menu and it certainly tested people with its tight, almost annoyingly rooty and off camber stop startedness. But that's the point, it's a test and IT'S a hard one - no time for razzmatazz just precision and an ability to flow where there's little on offer. Grant Fielder took the win by a good margin over the rest of us, he seemed just as surprised as he was happy but then this was his first ever DH race - a great start and one that made everyone else refocus - none more than Mr Smith who was trying to remember why he'd bothered to invite Chopper after all. It should be noted that although not successful, Ben Batt managed to ride BBMS faster than anyone else, BY FAR, and although not fully comprehendible he had a flat rear tyre. Jim Davage was the first to raise question over Ben's mental stability, which was definitely in question for most of the afternoon. Neil Cousins looked slow but in a quick way, riding accurately on his trail center bike but then being slowed on his race run, knocking him out of contention for the overall.
On to SPOONS and the all new line into the newly extended rock garden. There was little being said other than "that's flipping lush now...!" and it's times like that when all the hard work that goes into dig days is really appreciated - the rock garden was a raving success. The change in track type was also very welcome; riding the fast and jumpy SPOONS was ace, we were warmed up and dialled-in. The step-down is always impressive to look at and drew quite a crowd by this point, something that really adds to the atmosphere and race like feel.
Puppets next and is a very different track, it's actually pretty simple (top and bottom), the middle is totally different though - it's tech and steep and feature filled, to ride it fast you need strength and full commitment, you need balls! As you'd expect there were a few spills on Battery Hill none more impressive than Marjory's over the bars as she approached the infamous weeeeeboing! berm. But she got straight up (well almost) and finished her run to loud claps, and cheers of "PEDAL!!!" from every one of the other riders. It was Marjory's first ever DH race and, like her, the other DH newbie (Grant Fielder) managed to crash on PUPPETS ending his hopes of the overall win with a frustrating DNF. Jim Davage and Chris Smith had put in fast runs, but both knew that it was out of their hands, with all eyes on Rob Lewis would mr SouthernDownhill.com be able to hack it?!?! The answer was yes - ragged but very quick thanks to death grip and determination Rob took the win by a margin of around a second giving him the overall title to boot!
Beans went to Marjory for being harder than the rest of us, to Ben Batt for his disturbingly aggressive riding style, Ben Irons for being far too quick and frustratingly smooth on a hardtail, and to Liam Arkel for being the fastest of the rippers by some way. The wheels were won by...um....cough, cough....well, me. I managed to guess closest to the overall time and given the fact that I did the same last year but gave the wheels away - well I figured that for once I would take something away from a TickerTape, after all we all had as much chance as eachother! ; )
So that's it, The BCC TickerTapeTriple Crown DH Jam - a day of racing bikes in the woods with friends.
Thanks loads to Ben Irons for making all the number plates and timing sheet, to Andrew Grace for cooking all the sausages, to Keith Jepson (Max Bikes PR) for donating the wheels, Finlay Paton (ROSE Bikes UK) for providing demo bikes and all the other prizes, Madison for giving us all the race tape, and to everyone who helped set up and pack away.
what now? Well we're about to launch a 5 race TickerTape winter series (starting this November) so watch this space...