Red Bull Hardline 2016 – Race Day

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When it comes to sporting events, Red Bull is a name that is linked with the best events all over the world. This weekend, for the third year, Red Bull Hardline descended onto the Welsh mountains near Dinas Mawddwy, and boy what a race it was.

Redbull_Hardline_26Hailed as the most technical and challenging downhill track around, Hardline is slotted in at the end of the World Cup series, and this year just two weeks after the World Champs, which saw Danny Hart make his stunning end to the season. Designed and built by the chief architect of the Atherton racing trio, Dan, Hardline uses the steep and rough terrain of the Welsh hills, then amplifies their ferocity by 10, throwing in huge drops, ridiculously sized gap jumps, and enough roots and rocks to quake even the most confident of rider’s boots.

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It’s a lonely place at the top of Hardline. Focus is everything.

We were lucky enough to get up to the top of the track just before Qualifying began to check out the action right from the big inflatable Red Bull start gate.

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Red Bull gives you wings?

From the motocross style roll in, riders hit an open top section through cleared forest, carving a tight singletrack line through lopped tree stumps and outcropping rocks, ready to catch a low slung pedal at any given chance. Starting with a nice casual 10ft gap jump, riders hit a slightly larger step up before heading into a slippery section of woods and an off camber straight littered with slick bedrock.

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Mind that stump, and that rock, and that other stump.

Hardline is like no other track in the world, relentlessly stringing together technical natural features. Dan and his team have been able to use the natural elements on the mountain side in combination with built structures to make the most of the track which runs at under four minutes from the top.

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Sending the huge Hardline rock drop, straight into a tight rand hand berm. Nice.

Open sections of narrow singletrack flow into dense and bonkers steep woodland, which sees riders drop off a huge 15ft rock face, before exiting the woods over the ‘Cannon’ step down and straight into the much publicised ‘Renegade Step Up’ – this one isn’t for the faint hearted, that’s for sure (especially with a precariously parked Jeep in the middle).

An Instagrammers paradise at the Rengade Step Up.
An Instagrammer’s paradise at the Rengade Step Up.
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Moto whip for Brayton…stylish as ever.

The Renegade step up was a feature being hit from Friday practice, with riders trying to out do each other for height and distance. No surprises here though, with Adam Brayton throwing out the backend over the ‘carelessly’ parked Jeep.

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Gee heads into the bottom half of the track, on his first ever full race run at Hardline. Go on lad!

The bottom section takes influence from several tracks on the World Cup series, using loose corners, steep rock gardens and big jumps to bring riders to the top of (and thankfully over) the outrageous road gap, through the final section of woods and over the last huge gap before hitting the finish area and the wall of noise, from cowbells to the ever recognisable sound of a chainsaw.

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The formidable road gap sends the riders over 50ft above the heads of spectators. No braking allowed up there.
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Not a sign you see on every race track, but one you need to take note of here.

Previous years had been frustrating for Gee Atherton after a series of mechanical issues and crashes keeping him out of the racing field, so this year was one he did not want to miss. Shoulder problems had been troubling him through this season, and with a crash in practice on Saturday, things weren’t looking great for the home turf racer.

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Painkillers and energy. That’s all you need to hit Hardline. Oh, and a shed load of confidence. And a banana.

With painkillers on board and determination taking control, Gee headed out of the gate first when finals came around and put down a steaming run, taking 4th place overall.

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No soft landings here.
After coming into the lineup late on, Lawrie Greenland had to pull out due to mechanical issues. We're not sure if he's glad about that now, after seeing some pretty brutal crashes during practise on Saturday.
After coming into the lineup late on, Laurie Greenland had to pull out due to mechanical issues. We’re not sure if he’s glad about that now, after seeing some pretty brutal crashes during practice on Saturday.

It was a race day to savour for the home nation riders, with Bernard Kerr taking the win as the final man on track with a blistering time of 3:32.

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Power sliding into the final jump.
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Bernard Kerr heads into the finish line, and his Hardline victory.

Ruaridh Cunningham was only 2.40 seconds back with a solid time of 3:34, giving him the second step on the podium. After qualifying in second place, it was the turn of Yorkshireman, and all round style king Adam Brayton, who landed himself in third place, throwing down his usual moto style whip into the finish area with a time of 3:35.

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The podium line up. Bernard Kerr, Ruaridh Cunningham and Adam Brayton. Well played lads.

Speaking with Dan Atherton after the podium presentation and champagne spraying (and also interrupting his sandwich eating), he said ‘the track does bridge the line between what’s possible and what’s too much’ – and we think that’s a pretty good way to sum up racing at Red Bull Hardline.

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Sorry Dan, we’ve just got a thing about taking photos of the Athertons while eating.
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Track designer and builder Dan Atherton, sans mouthful of pie.

It’s a crazy track and a crazy event, ridden by a bunch of crazy riders with nerves of steel and bike control to baffle the minds of every spectator. If you’ve never been to a downhill event and want to see what all the fuss is about, Red Bull Hardline should be on your list of places to go – it’s bonkers.

 

Check out our Instagram page here, for more videos and behind the scenes shots from a mega race day at Red Bull Hardline.

Here’s the link to the full Red Bull Hardline Video on Red Bull TV.

 

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