Report: 2010 British Mountain Bike Championships - Downhill
Peat Scores Historic Ninth Title
Steve Peat and Jess Stone are the new British Downhill Champions following weekend of racing in the most challenging conditions at Ae Forest.
The Scottish Borders were the scene for Peat's incredible ninth British Champions title, though it didn't come easy as he endured a nasty crash in timed seeding and - along with the rest of the field - a day of changeable and always inclement weather on Sunday. For Jess, it was the biggest win of her young career and really puts her on the map as an up and coming rider.
THE WEEKEND OF RACING
Last time Ae Forest hosted a national-standard event was back in 2009 - Gee Atherton ran out the winner in another wet day on the region's highest hillside, renowned for a wet microclimate. So when forecasters predicted a weekend of heavy rain, it was a natural reaction to pack only the best waterproof equipment.
Saturday's practice signified the driest conditions of the weekend, but for most it was simply an exercise in bike riding, as heavy overnight rain ravaged the course and turned it into a mud bath.
Sunday's early morning reconnaissance confirmed every riders fear; up top the track was good, but on the lower wooded sections cambered turns had eroded completely. One particular right-hander before the Coffin Drop caused all riders severe problems - both Steve Peat and Josh Bryceland getting it very wrong in early practice. The worst would be reserved for Gee Atherton however, who crashed once on this corner, and again further up the track in a disastrous run.
Undeterred, Atherton re-rode the section with supreme confidence, ultimately setting himself up for the fastest qualification time of 2.19.40, followed by Josh Brycland in 2.21.10.
While Atherton had his own issues in practice, these wouldn't compare to Peat's timed seeding run. Going down hard in the top section, the forearm of the World Champion's jersey was claret-stained as he rolled through the lower reaches of the course, blood pouring from his arm. Discounting the injury, finishing last presented its own problems; Peat having to race as first man down - albeit this time with an extensive amount of bandaging to his right forearm.
Crossing the line blood was again on show, seeping from the fresh cut, under the bandage, while Peat gasped for breath on the finish line. Unconvinced that he had a super run, his initial thoughts turned to a podium spot and remained there as teammate Josh Bryceland and defending Champion Gee Atherton took to the hill.
Bryceland was relaxed all weekend, riding extensively with Peat and looking to turn in a memorable ride after second place in timed seeding. But with further rain turning the track from a bog into a river, neither Bryceland or Atherton could come close to the time Peat had set earlier on a fresh track, leaving a World Champion to become the British Champion for the second time in two years.
In a role-reversal from 2009 Peat had scored his ninth title - and while he was devastated to lose out in the final moments at Innerleithen this task fell to Atherton, who would take the 2010 title for ‘most aggrieved rider.'
After a time to contemplate the race, we talked to Gee, who admitted it was not the result he'd come for.
"Everyone was here, everyone was wanting those stripes and all I wanted was that title - it wasn't about second place today. To be honest, in the finals I was just struggling to get it together, I was struggling with the conditions, with the track - by the time I came down the track was beat up, it was really wet and it was hard to judge where to push. I was stalling here and there and fading in places. Sometimes you just feel bad and you don't get it together and I guess that's what happened today."
In contrast to Atherton, Peat's exclamation at a ninth domestic championship title was unfading. After a weekend that didn't go to plan, a World Champion who looked uncomfortable throughout suddenly came to a sense of relief, knowing a significant win was secured.
"I felt shocking after timed seeding - it was a pretty big crash - it was a real shocker. But since then, there was a lot of rain, it thinned out the mud on the track and that made it better, much more grip, I got a solid run, pedalled hard and came over the line happy. My season hasn't been good so far by my standard, so to get a championship win now is a big boost and hopefully I can carry that on to Champery and the World Cup."
Another rider who will be looking to do the same is women's winner Jess Stone, who scored her career-best victory. Even without Tracy Moseley (who elected to stay in Europe and prepare for the World Cup) and Rachel Atherton (returning from injury), Stone didn't get a free ride to the jersey - with both Katy Curd and Helen Gaskell major favourites for the win.
Going into the finals Stone had the biggest pressure, easily qualifying first, but she managed that thanks to help from her new Trek Racing team that would keep her focussed all weekend.
"I've wanted to win this race more than anything, I've been so nervous about the occasion! But I remained focussed all weekend, rode really well, got all my lines and to get the result, anything I say will be the understatement of the year. Just so happy. This weekend my team helped me so much, made sure I was eating right and resting enough. In the race, it was a good run - but still I made some mistakes, I knew I had to make them up somehow. So I just pedalled so hard and it paid off."
1. Steve Peat 2.15.24
2. Gee Atherton 2.18.33
3. Josh Bryeland 2.19.42
4. Matt Simmonds 2.19.76
1. Jess Stone
2. Katy Curd
3. Helen Gaskell