Charlie Hatton skilfully negotiated his way through the ruts and mud at Bringewood in Shropshire to take the final round of the HSBC UK | National Downhill Series.
Hatton stopped the clock in 2:29.315 to finish nearly four seconds clear of Adam Brayton of Hope Factory Racing, while Silverfish UK rider Robert Smith rounded out the top three.
Meanwhile the women’s elite race saw Aston Tutt take the victory in her first competitive race back after breaking her shoulder blade in an incident earlier this season.
The Madison Saracen Development Team rider finished ahead of Pearce Cycles RT’s Abbie Sloan for her first elite success, with Becci Skelton also taking a place on the podium.
Conditions on the course
After almost 24 hours of constant rain in Shropshire the course turned into a mud bath becoming very challenging for all those competing.
The conditions changed throughout the day with sunshine and showers adding to the cold north wind on top of the hill. The mornings seeding runs saw the riders almost sliding through the wet mud and some deep ruts soon developed adding to the riders problems.
As the day progressed and the rain eased the mud became “gloopy” and very sticky, dragging riders back and clogging up bikes and gears.
Early success proves crucial
The first section of the course proved the most testing with many riders crashing or coming off their bikes, and it was this part of the course that proved the most telling in the outcome of the race.
Riders who took this part of the forest course cautiously reaped the rewards on the lower sections in the second half of the race.
A mistake in the early section proved costly for many, but Hatton’s caution proved wise as he crossed the line 3.98 seconds ahead of Brayton, who recovered well after almost being put out of the race in the seeding runs when hit by a falling tree branch in the forest section on the mornings run.
As for Tutt, her decision to come and have fun paid dividends as she stopped the clock in 3:30.225, a full six seconds clear of closest challenger Sloan.
What they said
“I quite enjoy riding in the rain, it gets wild and is a lot of fun,” said the victorious Tutt.
“I knew it was going to be tough, more about survival than attacking the course, making the least mistakes and getting down in one piece.”
While Hatton commented: “The course was really, really hard with super thick mud, it felt like it was pulling you back and holding you all the way down.
“I just went where the bike took me, it was so difficult to steer and hold a line, it was just a case of finding ruts that worked and letting the bike lead me through.
Her first Elite win has now wetted Tutt’s appetite as she heads into her winter’s training plan.
She’ll be looking to build on her victory by trying to win some national races next year, hopefully preparing for some World Cup outings in the process.