IT’S been a long time coming, but finally Borders downhill mountain bike ace Ruaridh Cunningham has been crowned the new 2011 British Downhill Champion.
Following the race-winning run at Llangollen in north-east Wales last weekend, the 22-year-old from Stow reflected on his first major title since winning the Junior World Championships in 2007 and his first British title.
He said: “I’ve never won the British Championships – it’s taken me 10 years. I was told at the top of the hill the time to beat, so I knew what I had to do. I just wound up going a bit crazy. Down the bottom I was blowing all the corners, and to finally win it, was just amazing, definitely worth the wait.”
Clinching the men’s title ahead of Team Skene’s Alex Bond by over three seconds, with a mega-fast 2.07.682, Cunningham will now wear the British Champion’s jersey at the next round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in La Bresse, France, next month.
“I knew at the top I could beat the time. I felt good all week and was sure I was one of the fastest,” he added. “I wasn’t happy with my seeding run – I put a lot into it and didn’t get a lot out – but I knew I could turn things around in time for the final. Between the runs I just relaxed, thought about what I’d done well and what I’d done badly, then applied it to the race run.
“I only had one big mistake up top and I think that fired me up. By the time I reached the bottom of the track I wasn’t even riding the line I’d planned, the track was so loose, I was just keeping my momentum and sliding round all the turns. The possibility on this track was always there to do something crazy ... I guess that means I am the craziest.”
Banshee’s Adam Brayton finished bronze, ahead of Chain Reaction’s Matt Simmonds and Santa Cruz’s Steve Peat.
An integral part of the Scottish Downhill Academy Cunningham first rode professionally for Chain Reaction Cycles and is now part of the Maxxis Rocky Mountain USA team.
He had a top 10 result in the Champery 2010 World Cup and is set to repeat that in La Bresse.
Now qualified with the Mountain Bike Leader Award Scheme, Cunningham has been assisting on the Borders Academy of Sporting Excellence (BASE) Downhill course.
Local success continued last weekend in the form of Innerleithen’s Lewis Buchanan, who took the junior men’s title by over eight seconds from Fraser McGlone, with Matthew Stuttard, just 0.7 seconds behind, taking bronze. And, not only did the 18-year-old secure the title, his time of 2.14 placed him in sixth overall, just one place behind eight-times British Champion Steve Peat.
And in the youth category, Philip Atwill took the title by just two seconds from Michael Jones, with Selkirk’s George Gannicott a further second adrift in third podium spot.