UK Series – Round 3

Over 35 riders descended on Badbury Clumps near Swindon in Oxfordshire on Sunday 16th June to take part in the ATBA-UK’s second Downhill comp of the year. For some of them it was a return to a track they knew and loved from years ago, for some it was a new track and a new type of riding. Let’s find out what they thought about it…

“It was a long time coming, but finally there was to be a downhill comp at Little B, one of the best woodland downhill tracks I know. Little B was the love child of Anthony bloody Wilson and Gary Holcombe, Ants still on the scene, Gary has moved onto pastures new. Little B in Badbury woods was right on their doorsteps and a few years ago after a visit they realised the potential of the site, a few bikers had put a couple of lines in but nothing special. Ant and Gary over the next few weeks and months spent many a long evening building a super quick technical and twisting track, snaking through the trees. Over the following years bikers and boarders alike added to this track, creating a myriad of lines criss-crossing all the way down the hill. Plenty of bonkers sessions ensued. This was all with full backing from the then owners the Forestry Commission, who Ant and Gary had several meetings with to agree what was and what wasn’t allowed. Big props and thanks to Ant and Gary for all their hard work, without them there would be no Little B. Recently the National Trust took over ownership and had to “go in” and coppice the woodland, basically contractors driving sodding great logging machines all over our beloved B. It was trashed! I have seen a few results of logging machines versus mountainboard tracks before and its always devastating.

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I arrived on Saturday afternoon for a few practice runs expecting the worst. In the car park, the familiar site of mountainboarders sat around chatting in pads, having a bit of lunch, or something tastier! Beiran as usual frying last night left overs. It’s been a while since I have ridden a board in anger, and was itching to get on it! A little apprehensive, I padded up and went to see the track. What state was Little B in? Best way to find out was drop in. Riding a track blind is always a giggle, I wasn’t disappointed. Harry and Ant had the unenviable task of refurbing the track after the loggers had trashed it, and they have done a fine job. It is arguably better than before, definitely quicker at the top, the bottom section was pretty much the same as it was. The damage appeared to be minimal. Phew!

Yes all the other alternative lines are gone but they can be rebuilt, Little B lives. At the very top is a mellow section of rollers and little berms before the track “proper”, over a final small table top and you’re in. Accelerating quickly through the trees to a left hander which spits you out over a drop into an even steeper section into a long right, plenty of grip and enough time to get set for a jump into a tight left hand berm, again spat out over a small jump into a rocky tight right. Its all a bit of a blur and super quick thankfully the track levels out a bit across the hill, a couple of doubles and mellow right into the final down hill section of lumps and bumps and doubles to the finish. Perfect!

I had a few runs, and walked away happy, buzzing and unhurt, bonus. Back to a very windy campsite down the road to set up for the night of usual madness. I left to go home but the madness had already started. Nerf guns and water cannons finding their targets with un-nerving accuracy. Dave McBean and Alan Gray arrived as I left after a 9 hour drive from Scotland. Dave’s tent was destroyed in the wind, before he even got it up! so of he toddled to tescos for a replacement!!! Sunday morning couldn’t come quick enough, with the Fathers Day duties out of the way, I headed back to the comp. The weather forecast wasn’t good, heavy rain coming in by noon. My plan was to get a few good runs in when it was dry and then let the chaos prevail as the track got wet and slippy. Little B is always shits and giggles in the wet.

A good turn out, maybe 35 riders all up for it. The format was simple, keep riding until you were happy with your time. As many runs as you want, skipee doo! I stupidly spoke up at the riders meeting to point out that the Legend that is Matt Gaydon had been competing in ATBA-UK comps since 2000, thirteen years of racing! Matt’s first run, he got it wrong in the second left hand berm, and was stopped painfully abruptly by a tree stump on its exit. Matt’s down with a totally nadgered ankle and off to A&E. Stevos kiss of death strikes again. Out comes the chainsaw, the stump is executed for its crimes and the racing continues. Fin Davies (Ironside), the only grom riding wrestled at first with the berms and then started nailing it and got quicker and quicker. He finished up with a very respectable 1 minute 11 secs.

In the Juniors Will Molyneux was riding hard and busting it, after a hilarious first run, when he got very lost in the first right berm and was well on his way Swindon before stopping. Posting 43 secs (11th in all categories) Piers took a more measured approach and could be heard screaming at regular interval “I hate downhill”. The ladies really stepped up to the plate and all four worked really hard to tame the B. Jenna Collins came out on top a second quicker than Emmeline Thrower, Fiona Cruikshank got third, and Rachel La Roche came fourth, which is right and proper considering she nearly killed me. Only joking Rach.

The Masters has changed a bit, since I last raced (4 years ago) basically its got quicker and younger. Or have I got slower and older? My plan for the day was get a few clean runs, have fun and see what happens. Yeah right! As soon as practice was over, everything changed, the nerves kicked in, the introduction of the stopwatch created the competitive edge and the gloves were off. Every run had to be quicker than the last. We’re all at the top of the hill comparing times, walking back up changing lines, anything to get an advantage. I even found myself at the start line edging forward before the off to maximise my chances of a quicker time. Slightly ridiculous but as Woodie pointed out to me, there’s no point in entering if you aren’t competing. He was right, I’ve missed that buzz. Phil de Havilland-hall and Harry Jessop were posting 41 secs I was 3 seconds off the pace. I pumped my tyres rock hard, thinking that would give me an edge. Bollocks to that I just went stupid quick and stacked it in the berms.

Phil ended up with 1st and Harry second both posted 40 secs but Phils second highest time was quicker. Raph was a second behind me 45 and both Lee Campbell (super smooth) and Shane on 47. Dave Won the Scottish cup beating Allan by a second. Mark Sewell was storming in the Seniors and Mark Hale after a sketchy start soon caught up. Mr Sewell ended up the winner of that bout 41 secs same as Mark Hales but with a quicker second time. Josh BAD Campbell got 3rd with the same time as Morgan and Jamie 45 secs.

Then it all went a bit mental. After a chilled but competitive comp and a good 5 hours racing everyone had pretty much had enough riding, only one injury, no rain, we could all walk away content. Brindy, Beiran and James Wanklyn had other ideas. They were all on the same time of 37 secs and someone had to win. So back up they went, the rest of us gathered on the hill between 2 juicy berms and a big ass jump, and witnessed a masterclass in downhill racing. It became gladiatorial. No one would quit. They rode for another hour. Brindy got a 36, Beiran matched it, James followed suit. All 3 of them flattening every jump straightening every corner pumping every bump to gain a lead. The smallest errors suddenly became huge, unnoticeable earlier in the day, but now the difference between win or lose. Brindy somehow posted a 35 and try as they might Beiran and James couldn’t match it. Without a doubt James had the smoothest sweetest run of the day, no mistakes no adjustments every jump and berm perfect, 10 out of 10 for style, but just not quick enough.

Brindy got the gold, James second on count back, and Beiran 3rd. It would be criminal of me not to mention the others. Mark Adams who stacked hard early on came back fighting and had the lead on 37 for a good few runs. Tommy D got quicker and quicker all day. Sam Coe likewise he must of messed up out of view cos when I ever I saw him he was flying. He took a big one over the falls heelside but got up smiling. The aforementioned Ant bloody Wilson came out of semi retirement to ride “his” track. First time on a board in over a year! Why, when you can ride like that, Ant? Another blast from the past, Dunstan Langrish proved to himself he can still ride posting a 44, a second quicker than Simon Neck who looked quicker than his 45.

Prize giving and thank yous followed. The first downhill comp of the current ATBA-UK format that I have attended and it wont be last if the others are anything like this one. All the riding you can shake a shitty stick at on a bonkers quick track with that special breed of person, the mountainboarder! The faces and names have changed but the people are the same. The best fucking crew. Its great to be back. Thanks to Roger, Matt and Harry for organising it and Alan the timekeeper.”

Steve Birkbeck

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“Over the years many of the southern Freeride spots have become familiar names, but have only stayed that way- names like Birdlip, Tank trails, etc… Little B was always one, and when it was announced as one of this years ATBA-UK venues I was more than eager to chuck everything in the car and head for the M6 south, joined by fellow Scot Allan Gray. Not really knowing what to expect I packed the default board, noSno Pro DH running on 9’s, not the best setup for what is more of a boardercross in the trees than the DH tracks I’m more used to. Not that that’s a bad thing in any way! After a shorter drive than expected we pitched the tents in the field, only for mine to get eaten by the wind, so a drive into Swindon for a new tent was next on the list. A quick look at th track had me wishing I’d packed a change of wheels: a mellow start over several rollers by the fire road led into a sweetly sculpted trail with berms and drops heading towards a wider finish, short and not steep enough for the brake board to be needed- definitely a track for pumping rather than scrubbing…

Race day came far too soon after a restless night in the wind, and it was soon clear that the BX guys were fast here. Phil the Viking, Steve B and Harry were always going to be out front in the Masters, but with such a short track times would be close. In the end the spread of times was only ten seconds between first and last. The Scots filled out the last two spots- but we’ll get you back- the next round is home turf, Dunkeld, on the 24th august. Be there.”

Dave McBean

“A very early start Saturday morning was not what Jamie and I had in mind, but with Dougal raring to go, we dragged ourselves into the car and headed for Sainos to stock up on an impressive amount of swiss roll! Shortly after arriving at Badbury Clumps, and giving up on Matt’s tent ever staying upright in the bitter wind, we took a stroll down the track to see what we had signed up for. Having little experience with woodland riding, seeing the trees hugging the sides of the run and the nettles pretending to offer a safer exit, it didn’t give me a huge amount of confidence. But with encouraging words from fellow boarders it didn’t take long for me to piece the sections together like a puzzle, and soon I was happy to take on the whole track. It was so much fun! After a torrential rain shower things just got better; we had ourselves a giant muddy slip and slide that turned out to include free mud facials for all! Race day followed an evening of not so ‘tag’, tag rugby, nerf gun wars and a feast fit for…well, a lot of hungry mountain boarders. A great turn out led to a fantastic day of riding and wicked competition between all categories. Everyone was loving what Little B had to offer, pushing themselves to get the best time possible. After some exciting runs I finished off the day with some spectating. Watching the pros was incredible, I felt like they had NOS strapped to their boards; the speed and attack they had was insane! I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever downhill and will definitely be paying Little B another visit. Once again, a brilliant weekend with the mountain boarding family!”

Fiona Cruickshank

“For a first downhill I’ve been to Round 3 at Little B was a good way to start. Literally a mini boardercross but instead of spectators there are trees. Was a great day and great event put on by the ATBA-UK. Lots of sick riding from all the categories. Little Fin Davies the first Grom to do a downhill. And the battle between Matt Brind, James Wanklyn, Birean and Mark Adams to get 35 seconds. To round up, sick riding sick venue. What a sport. Thank you Harry for organising it with the National Trust.”

Tom Donaldson

“My first turn up to the competition became my nerves of steel and was very intrinsic. I took on the course which consists of variation that I wouldn’t encounter in my local area. The first section was difficult to judge your speed in terms of the berms which you can lose speed easily; whereas on the second section, it had much velocity. It was hard to maintain, but I felt consistency was key throughout my runs despite suffering single wipe-outs on each run. All in all; no matter what position my outcome was in that round, at least I came out of my shell and proved I have dedication to attack the hills.”

Thomas Holt

The full results can be found on the ATBA-UK website.

Photos by Mark Brosnan. Thanks muchly, etc. See you next time!