Words and Pictures: James Vincent
Winter is finally over and it’s time to see if the off season training and testing has paid off, and for the top pros, it’s a last chance to get things dialed before heading to Lourdes for the opening round of the UCI World Cup next weekend.
After the horrendous conditions of Saturday’s practice, the sunshine on Sunday was a welcome relief – by the time the seeding runs kicked off, the rain had subsided and Ae forest was bathed in some rare glimpses of sun breaking through the cloud, and although it tried to rain later in the afternoon, it stayed pretty much dry for the duration of the racing.
The rain had left its mark on the course, turning the 50ft finish line drop into a slick chute that saw more than a few racers careen over the finish line barely in control, and at least one attempt was made to take out the finish gantry. Further up the hill there were exposed roots galore, rock gardens, tight lines through the trees and the infamous Ae step down.
In spite of this, the racers weren’t holding back – the roots claimed a couple of racers who had to have their bikes lifted off them as they lay in the dirt, and loud cracks reverberated around the forest as racers came up short on the massive set of doubles near the bottom of the course – George Gannicott saw his run come to an end as his rear tyre exploded in a burst of white goo forcing him to roll down the rest of the track.
Only 4 seconds separated the top 10 men – Gee Atherton took the win over Innes Graham and Matt Simmonds. Danny Hart was fastest at split one, yet took an excursion off the track forcing him to lose valuable time. In the womens field, Manon Carpenter had a great start to the season and should take plenty of encouragement from finishing 6 seconds clear of Tahnee Seagrave and Katy Curd, while Rachael Atherton was absent due to flu.
The biggest cheers of the day went to Steve Peat, only half a second off third place having made a mistake earlier on in his run. To be at the sharp end of racing at 41, after a career of over 20 years, is no mean feat – a true legend of the sport.
And with that, the pros get packing for Lourdes, while everyone else gets themselves ready for round 2 in Fort William on 14/15 May. Stay tuned…
Elite Women – Schwalbe Tires
1 Manon Carpenter 01:18,658 02:28,887
2 Tahnee Seagrave 01:20,041 02:35,657 +0:06,770
3 Katy Curd 01:23,490 02:36,985 +0:08,098
Elite Men – Schwalbe Tires
1 Gee Atherton 01:07,193 02:08,004
2 Innes Graham 01:07,823 02:08,322 +0:00,318
3 Matthew Simmonds 01:07,959 02:10,009 +0:02,005
Steve Peat 2:10,700 +0:02,696