Event: 22-23 September 2012
Ruaridh Cunningham took his first series victory in round 6 of the Halo British Downhill Series held on the 1.4km track at Llangollen.
The Alpine Bikes/POC rider who had won the 2011 national championships at the same venue dominated the descent in a rain lashed final round of the 2012 season.
With the series championship up for grabs all eyes were on Joe Smith and Adam Brayton who both had to take the victory to claim the overall title. Smith's team mate Matt Simmonds who was leading the championship was conspicuous by his absence leaving Smith and Brayton to all but loose the title.
Smith took the seeding run in 2.07.433 closely followed by Brayton (2.07.775) and the afternoon's clash looked like it was to be a close run race between the two. Alex Bond flew through the top part of the course tripping the intermediate gun at 1.44.143, the quickest first part of the race run until Cunningham's run.
Bond's run time of 2.16.733 put the Chain ReactionCycles rider into the hot seat but only for a short time until Bernard Kerr put in a rapid second half of his run to take the lead from Bond. Cunningham was off 4th from last and by his own admission the Scotsman enjoys racing in the rain and it certainly showed posting the quickest mid way time of 1.43.446, a time which looked and was unbeatable, putting him into the hot seat.
All eyes were on the final two runs, Brayton left the start house first but the pressure and the now poor conditions would take the chance of the title away from the Banshee rider, tell tale signs of a mud covered kit told the story of the run, Brayton crossing the line in 17th place and riding straight out of the finishing arena. The title chase was now down to Joe Smith, knowing he had to win to claim the overall.
It would again be a story of the mud, rain and the pressure of the occasion, two crashes in quick succession on the top part of the course saw the ChainReaction rider cross the mid-point timing gun in 24th place, some 13 seconds off Cunningham's time. A dejected looking rider crossed the line in 24th spot to close his and the 2012 British Downhill season.
After the event, Ruariidh Cunningham said: “That’s the first time I've ridden that course, it’s different to last year's track but it’s the second time I've come here and it’s the second time I've won.
“I like to race here, always seem to do well. I didn't think they could make a track much better than the national course last year but I think they have this weekend.
“It was a bit sketchy on the run but if it rains i just treat it like its dry, I don't really worry too much about it. I ride in the rain a lot when I'm back home (Scotland) so when other riders start to panic in the wet I start to smile, it was normal weather for me today, warm and dry. My season finishes today so it’s good to finish with a win.
Joe Smith commented: “To win the overall I really had to win qualifying and the race, I won the qualifying so it was going to plan but I had a bit of bad luck on the race run.
“I had to go all out to win, looking back I should have backed off a bit and maybe finished in the top two but I went all out and crashed twice so it was all over. I was riding wild at the top and I was holding it so I thought I've just got to carry on like this but I crashed. I had a lot of mud on my gloves from the initial crash and it was proving difficult to grip the bars and I slipped and crashed again so I knew then it was all over for me.”
Elite seeding runs
1. Joe Smith ChainReactionBikes/Nukeproof 2.07.433
2. Adam Brayton Banshee 2.07.775
3. Greg Williamson Nukeproof 2.09.327
4. Ruaridh Cunningham Alpine Bikes/POC 2.09.375
5. Ben Reid Dirt Norco RT 2.10.527
Elite race run
1. Ruaridh Cunningham Alpine Bikes/POC 2.14.183
2. Oliver Burton 2.16.666
3. Bernard Kerr 2.16.672
4. Alex Bond ChainReactionCycles/Nukeproof 2.16.733
5. Ben Reid Dirt Norco RT 2.17.023
6. Gareth Brewin One Industries 2.17.903
7. Harry Heath Unior Tools 2.16.089
8. Harry Malloy Madison Saracen 2.18.187
9. Greg Williamson Nukeproof 2.18.203
10 Tom Braithwaite Team Hope Factory Racing 2.18.542
Manon Carpenter made sure of the 2012 series victory with a rapid descent in the elite women's race. The Welsh youngster took her fifth win of the season to take an unbeatable 350 points.
Carpenter made light work of the steep track which, by her own admission is preferable to the more 'gentle' hills which involve a lot more peddling. Emma Wareham who was heading up the overall standing going into the final round could only manage third place on the Llangollen track some twenty seconds off Carpenter's time. Jess Stone pulled out a fine descent to take 2nd place just a little over seven seconds off the winning time.
Winner Manon Carpenter said: “It’s good to win the series, I've won five rounds, I didn't do Bringewood because it was the weekend before the worlds and I was resting up, so it’s good to win here on Welsh soil.
“I like these tracks in Wales which are really steep and it’s what I'm used to riding. I don't really enjoy riding the flatter courses which you have to pedal a lot. Today finishes my season, I have no more races lined up so it a long winter of rest then training. I think I'll go somewhere warm to ride. I'm hoping to stay with Madison Saracen for next season, they have been a great team to ride for over the last two seasons and I hope I can carry on with them.
Elite race run
1. Manon Carpenter Madison Saracen 2.33.910
2. Jess Stone Unior Tools 2.40.942
3. Emma Wareham LeisureLakesbikes.com 2.54.704
4. Veronique Sandler 2.57.450
Result - Round 6
Results - Series standings overall