Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
RedBull Hardline – What an event, what a track! Dan Atherton and his team of track builders, along with RedBull put on a race event that was on another level at the weekend in Dinas Mawddwy in North East Wales. Dan Atherton who has an amazing vision and perception of building crazy DH tracks, huge jump lines and also has the skills and nerve to ride the monsters he creates, built the most insanely difficult and technical DH track that has ever been built. The mountain is so steep and technical with big rock out crops and drops that most riders would struggle to ride down it, but on top of this, he built the biggest and most technically challenging jumps ever seen on a DH track and put a race on it.
Only around 15 of the UK and worlds best riders dared to come and take part and huge respect has to go out to these guys for giving the track a go. The riders started practicing and sessioning the jumps on Friday in the dry and our team rider Joe Smith was getting well involved and according to 2014 world champion Gee Atherton was riding amazing, he said he was well impressed with Joe hitting all the big jumps and lines early on and really getting into it and pushing himself and the others.
Come Saturday morning the rain had come in and made the track muddy as well, which really put another twist on the track, making it what most thought was impossible to now ride. But the riders manned up and started sessioning the track even in the wet and muddy conditions. The track had already taken out a few top riders testing out the big jumps including Dan Atherton himself who had a huge crash over a massive downhill double jump when his front tire blew off the rim with the force and speed he hit the takeoff! The track also claimed Gazzy Brewin who had a huge part in building the track and with the wet conditions it claimed more riders leaving only 8 riders or warriors as they should be known to compete in the Qualifiers. Gee Atherton as expected qualified in 1st position but with our Joe Smith close behind in 2nd only 3 seconds off Gees time. Now this track isn’t quite like a normal DH race track where you can just pin it the whole way, you have to compose yourself for the huge jumps and get everything spot on to make it through the next section, 3 seconds behind was very close on this track.
Watching Joe in practice you could see he was one of the most comfortable on the big jumps and looked super smooth, stylish and in control but then on the last practice run before the finals Joe had a huge crash right in front of me over a massive step down in the open section of the track half way up. This step down lead you into the huge double jump that took out Dan Atherton. Joe just lost concentration for a split second being too relaxed and came up short on the step down. The landing of the huge jump was so harsh Joe’s Nukeproof Pulse bike compressed so hard he was spat over the bars in a massive crash and rag dolled down the track. It was horrifying to witness. Myself and Joe’s dad ran down to him and unbelievably Joe was OK although pretty beat up and shook up to say the least!
I thought that was it and Joe’s day and race was over. But testament to Joe’s bravery and commitment he got back on his bike and walked back up that section of the track and hit the same section with 100% commitment and did it perfectly to a huge round of applause from the crowd and the other riders. See my short video clips of the crash and then his next go.
When I got back down to the bottom of the track Joe was pretty sore and stiff and had def rung his bell and his 100% helmet had taken a massive beating but saved his head. Also this was a huge test for the 2016 Nukeproof Pulse and it survived everything with no problems at all!
Joe decided he still wanted to race the event and went off up the hill with the other riders for the finals. We where all pretty nervous for him, I can’t imagine how he felt!
Each rider that came down and made it to the finish in one piece were so stoked to get down and survive, it was that gnarly! Poor Al Bond who was riding amazing on a borrow bike, ended up with a rear puncture ending his chances but still did a huge step down out of the woods into the finish area with a rear flat to the crowds amazement and applause! Adam Brayton through out about 5 fist pumps in the air over the final huge double as he was in the air that long and went into the lead and held that position until Ruaridh Cunningham put down an amazing run to go 17 seconds into the lead. Bernard Kerr who was 3rd in the qualifying run came into the finish area with a huge whip over the finish line jump and went into 2nd, 7 seconds slower than Ruaridh’s time.
Then it was Joe Smith off and I was waiting nervous.
Could Joe’s body and mind keep it together on this track after that huge crash? I was releaved to hear the announcer say Joe was only 1.3 seconds back on Ruaridh’s time at the first split and he was getting down the track and over the huge jumps safe. On the 3rd split Joe had lost a few more seconds but only 5 seconds slower than Ruaridh which would put him 2nd so far, then Joe burst out of the last woods with amazing style over the jumps and had actually gained back 2 seconds on the last part of the track crossing the line only 3 seconds down on Ruaridh’s amazing run and guaranteeing a place on the podium with only Gee Atherton to come.
Gee’s run of bad luck here continued when his rear tire blew off his rim up the top, ending his chances of the win. A huge shout out has to go to Gee though as he was looking so dialled in practice and hitting all the big jumps before anyone else showing everyone it was possible.
So Joe ended up taking a really impressive 2nd place still looking a bit shook up and dazed after his huge crash, behind winner Ruaridh Cunninngham and Bernard Kerr in 3rd place. A massive congratulations has to go out to all the riders who competed in what was surely the most difficult downhill track ever made, definitely the next level and a huge thank you to Dan Atherton and his team and RedBull for putting on the event and the thousands of spectators that came and lined the track from top to bottom!
What an amazing event! Lets hope next year more of the worlds top riders will step up and have a go!
Well done Joe from all at Nukeproof, next up the final British Downhill Series Round in Antur Stiniog