Race Report: Shimano British Downhill Series 2014, Round 1 Antur Stiniog

Mar 31, 2014

The team experienced mixed fortunes yesterday in the season’s opener at Antur Stiniog. Rachel, Taylor and Marc all podiumed but Gee came away with a disappointing 8th place.

Heavy rains in the week preceding the event had left the slate track slick enough to catch out a whole host of riders during the practise sessions. But by Saturday afternoon the track had started to dry out and by Sunday’s seeding conditions were pretty good, though wind did start to build in the afternoon which was no fun for riders in the exposed top section.

Rachel, Marc and Taylor put in solid seeding runs.  Gee showed some startling speed on his new prototype GT Fury, half a second up on the rest of the field at the halfway point, but he crashed in the lower section taking a heavy tumble onto his left knee. He had to push back up to restart losing valuable seconds and placing himself well down the Finals starting field in 43rd place.

In the Women’s race conditions were good, Rachel was last down and had a smooth run – electing to go around the big drop in the top section. This move cost her some time but she looked comfortable and confident the whole way down, putting 2.9 seconds into Manon Carpenter (who took the drop straight on) in second place.

Rachel said “That was an amazing race because the venue is good - It's so dramatic to be able to watch the whole race top to bottom so the excitement was huge and the crowd were wild- the local kids were brilliant - it really helps having that level of support to guide us down the course! The track was challenging - partly due to the changing weather and I had to dig deep to find that extra speed over Manon- especially as I decided to go around that big drop up at the top!”

Juniors were next up with GT Factory Racing’s Taylor Vernon back in a race for the first time since his accident at Crankworx, Les Deux Alpes in June 2013. He was under strict instructions from the team to keep it relaxed and not to go blasting down the track, in fact a win here would have earned him a lot of trouble from Team Director Dan Brown!

Dan said “ This 5th in such strong field shows me how he has matured, we were never after a win for him here today - the most important thing was for him to ride the race within his capabilities."

Taylor said “I’m so stoked to be back! I stuck to the plan and came away with a podium after 9 months out of the game. I’ll take that!”

In a dramatic men’s race Gee started way down the field, despite a bit of damage to his knee he looked smooth and fast (clocking top speed for the race at 53.4 km/h through the trap).  He took the hot-seat where he remained though 30 plus riders until the top eight seeds tumbled through – all but 4th seed Harry Heath bettered Gee’s 2.33.394 to make the podium look like a game of musical chairs. Gee’s GT Factory Racing team-mate Marc Beaumont seeded 6th and delivered a confident Finals run to end the day with a 5th place podium.

Gee said “I was stoked to be racing again and the start of the season is always an exciting and unpredictable time for me, the first race is often just used as a gauge for speed, I struggled to get into this track and wasn't quite enjoying the riding as much as normal, but the result has only fired me up more for the first World Cup rounds.”

Marc said “I’m satisfied enough. The Antur course was difficult all weekend especially with rain making it very slippery. I found it hard to get in to a good rhythm all weekend. The race run came together better with some really close times.  I'm hoping to keep building in confidence into up and coming races. Onwards and upwards.  

Team Director Dan Brown said “This was a very valuable weekend for us. It’s great to be racing again – especially in front of such a great local crowd and we took some solid results but there is definitely work to be done before we get to Africa.”

JUNIORS - Sponsored by Outdoor Tech
1st           Laurie Greenland             Trek World Racing            2:36.363
2nd          Reece Wilson                                                                     2:39.632               (+3.259)
3rd           Innes Graham                   MS Mondraker                       2:39.889               (+3.526)
4th           Neil Stewart                       FMD Racing                        2:40.941               (+4.57)
5th           Taylor Vernon                   GT Factory Racing           2:41.890               (+5.52)

ELITE WOMEN - Sponsored by Schwalbe
1st           Rachel Atherton               GT Factory Racing                              2:45.616
2nd          Manon Carpenter            Madison Saracen Factory Team     2:48.596               (+2.980)
3rd           Tahnee Seagrave             FMD Racing                                       2.59.866               (+14.250)
4th           Fionn Griffiths                   Team GR                                             3.02.395               (+16.779)
5th         Jessica Stone                     Trek Coventry                                     3.06.498               (+20.882)

Men’s Elite Results - Sponsored by Schwalbe
1st           Danny Hart                         Giant Factory Race Team                 2:30.113
2nd          Josh Bryceland                  Santa Cruz Syndicate                       2:31.667               (+1.554)
3rd           Matthew Simmonds       Madison Saracen Factory Team       2:31.856               (+1.743)
4th           Ruaridh Cunningham                                                                     2.32.612               (+2.4)
5th           Marc Beaumont               GT Factory Racing                                2.32.922               (+2.809)

8th           Gee Atherton                    GT Factory Racing                                2.33.394               (+3.281)