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.Hailed 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.