Sport starts a downhill trend due to Scottish summer

LASTING effects of the recession and weeks of torrential rain are beginning to be felt by one of Scotland’s biggest outdoor sports industries.

For the first time in 14 years the Scottish Downhill Association (SDA) is considering cancelling two of its most popular annual fixtures at Dunkeld and Ae Forest due to lack of entries and has sent out a “use it or lose it” plea to riders everywhere.

Locally, the downturn in trade has been felt also, but course designer Steve Deas of Innerleithen MTB reckons there are other factors at work too.

He told TheSouthern: “We had a better winter than we had spring here and we’ve noticed a slight decrease in visitors during the summer.

“Who can blame folk, though? During the traditional holiday season people will always go looking for blue skies and mountain bike enthusiasts are no different.

“In my opinion, the marketing of the Scottish events could be done a bit better. We have much better courses than those down south and we should be really pushing that. The competition is growing all the time and you can’t afford to be complacent if you want to attract the big events.”

Appealing to riders this week Derek Ball, vice-chairman of the SDA committee, said: “We know times are tough for everyone due to the recession and the weather, but we need the support of the mountain biking community to secure the future of this series. If you don’t care about a bit of mud, but do care about Scottish downhill biking, we need your entries now.

“The SDA has been running the successful series for several years, with Innerleithen being one of five Scottish tracks used, and the event has been the breeding ground for some of the world’s best racers.”

Scotland has been named a mountain biking “Global Superstar” by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), and in 2011 alone the sport contributed an estimated £139million to the Scottish economy.

The SDA series develops world-class riders, including 2007 junior world champion Ruaridh Cunningham from Stow, who started racing as a 12-year-old.