The buzz around Innerleithen last weekend wasn’t just about the local Cleikum Ceremonies.
The coveted Union Jack sleeve was once again up for grabs as UK downhill mountain bike riders battled it out for the 2014 British National Championship title.
From young Juvenile riders to the top World Cup Elite, the field was packed and resembled a mini World Cup. Everyone had one goal – to win the National Champ’s jersey.
When asked why he chose Innerleithen to host this premier event race organiser Mike Marsden told The Southern: “Innerleithen is what I consider the home of downhill in the UK. It’s where it all started.
“Many other places don’t have the history, Innerleithen does. But also with big events you need to be able to have a finish, you need to be able to have an arena and you need to be able to make something of it. So many venues are not suitable, as they don’t have an ending.”
The track for this weekend’s race was a fast, technical mix of everything the hill has to offer. Saturday’s practice was pretty much a wet affair with everyone familiarising themselves with the roots and rocks and come race day on Sunday, it looked like it was going to be a perfect day for a downhill race.
Seeding went well for the local top riders Ruaridh Cunningham (3), Reece Wilson (5) Rebecca Kennedy (1) and Lewis Buchanan (16).
Mid-afternoon saw racing start with juvenile Luke Birkett winning the first championship jersey. Next one up for grabs was the Youth class where James Purvis not only seeded first he also went fastest in his race run to win the jersey and gold medal.
Earlston’s Scottish Champion Rebecca Kennedy was the first local on track in with a chance of winning and she didn’t disappoint. The 19-year-old won the Senior Non-championship title by a huge 26 seconds over second-placed Sandra Scally. No mean feat, after suffering a bad hand injury last year and recently having her new bike stolen.
Next local in with a chance was Gordon’s junior rider Reece Wilson. This class is almost, if not more, competitive than the Elites – and almost as fast. Reece had a small crash in his race run, which cost him the win, but still managed a solid third and a bronze medal.
Elite class is where it all gets exciting as this weekend saw the best riders in the country if not the world come to win that title. Home lad Lewis Buchanan was the first local down, but a crash near the top scuppered his chances. Next up was Stow’s Ruaridh Cunnigham who was just pipped of the podium into fourth place behind Gee Atherton; second place went to Joe Smith and the win went to crowd favourite Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland, fresh from his first ever World Cup win a few weeks back in Leogang.