INNERLEITHEN was the place to be at the weekend for the last of the Alpine-Bikes winter series, which was held in what can only be described as wintry weather, writes Ian Linton.
Saturday saw practice held in pretty good, if damp, conditions to start with, but the sun shone for most of the afternoon.
Steve Deas from I-Cycles taped a cracking course for this weekend’s final downhill race in the series.
Starting from the hut at the top of Plora Rig, riders headed straight on towards a tight, root-infested steep section that caused most people a few problems over the weekend, ending with the very steep chute, where they had to pick their line through the stumps and rocks before dropping down onto the top fire road.
From there they headed down to the 39 steps, took a right in the clearing, down through another steep, twisting section, before pedalling down the push-up trail to join the drop zone.
After the big rock drop, hardy competitors made a tight right into a section that’s not been used in years which brought its own troubles to the modern DH bike fashion of wide bars.
A nice twisty tight section through the trees spat them out into the fast motorway section, dropping into the arena.
A fast drop-down through here saw riders slowing down to a hard right at the bomb hole, down into the steep gully, then some camber turns down into the bottom gully over the road and into the finish area – all in about four minutes or less for decent time.
Racers from all over the UK and Ireland were entered for the last in the series and this meant it was over-subscribed and organisers, Innerleithen MTB, did well to squeeze in as many latecomers as possible, despite only having uplifts prebooked for 150.
Where Saturday’s practice finished in glorious winter sunshine, Sunday morning brought a very unwelcome covering of around a couple of inches of snow on the higher levels. Luckily it fell on very wet ground and didn’t hamper the early practice session too much.
Come the afternoon, the sun made a welcome return for the start of the race, which saw the usual two race runs and the best time from the two counting.
Local World Cup elite rider Lewis Buchanan made a return to riding after surgery to his shoulder over the winter. Three days back on his cross-country bike and he was only 0.3 seconds off the podium in fourth place behind Nukeproof rider Greg Williamson in third. Second place went to Harry Heath, with Santa Cruz Syndicate rider Josh Bryceland taking the win.
Katy Winton from Peebles, who is currently riding for the GB cross-country team, has taken a liking to this downhill side of the sport by getting onto the podium again this weekend in third place behind her riding buddy Bex Reilly, with Fox rider Angela Coates taking the win.
The young juvenile class saw Innerleithen’s Ross Swinton riding for I-Cycles taking third place and getting faster every race.
Organisers wish to thank Alpine-Bikes for sponsoring this series, I-Cycles man Steve Deas for setting out some of the best courses seen for years and Innerleithen MTB for putting on the events.
The next big event from them will be the European iXS cup round on June 16-17.