Race Report | 661 Mini Downhill Forest of Dean, UK
The race organiser of the very popular Mini-Enduro’s, Chris Roberts also runs the Mini-Downhill series at the Forest of Dean over the winter. These Mini-DH’s are extremely popular events and like usual it was a sell-out, also BC (British Cycling) national points were available, enticing even more riders who needed to top up their points. There are four rounds in total, all using different tracks, with each of the runs around 1½ minutes long. The Forest of Dean is a great venue with many different tracks to choose from, with an easy push/ride to the top, there are also showers and a café ideal for racers, spectators and families alike.
The Mini-Downhill’s are becoming increasingly popular with Enduro riders, due to their short and pedally tracks, in fact if the DH regulars own Enduro bikes they normally choose them over their big-hitting heavy DH rigs, as they suit the tracks better. It is really good to work on that extra speed, it’s very competitive and the pace is a lot quicker than multi stage Enduro’s. This was to be my first downhill race in almost ten years and I was also reviewing the short travel Vitus Escarpe VRX, so I was quite apprehensive and a little bit nervous to be honest.
Out of the various trails they chose to use the Sheep Skull track, the track was great fun to ride, testing the bounciest of rigs. Out of the start and it was a flat out sprint around some sweeping corners, trying to get as many pedal strokes in as possible. Next up it was over the fire-road, into a bomb hole with a steep G-out, a few long fast corners and it was onto the trickiest part of track, this consisted of a mass of roots in all directions, just waiting to take your wheel out from underneath you in the blink on an eye. This section took many riders out, me included, with a massive over the bars in practice, which ended in yet another helmet ready for the frickin bin. Next up it was a drop onto, then off another fire-road into a flat-out section along a dodgy off-camber. A short slightly uphill sprint followed by a tight shoot between some trees and you were into the final part. The final section consisted of two jumps followed by a number of large tight berms with a few small jumps and a sprint to the finish. The track was running great, with the dirt being nice an tacky, this led to some fast racing and seriously close times.
I pushed up early for both of my runs to check out some of the racing, it was so good to see all the young talent out there, these kids really are flying. With the finish close to the cafe there were plenty of spectators lining the final few jumps, with a busy finish arena and constant live commentary adding to a great atmosphere. My first run I tried to ride smooth, nearing the bottom part of the track I slid down off the line and lost some time, crossing the finish line with a pretty poor time. The slide had cost me but also I wasn’t pushing hard enough, the pace was just so much quicker than at Enduro’s, although the Vitus Escape is seriously capable, I felt under-biked, especially on the faster parts of the track. I was determined to attack hard on the second run, but with it approaching 4 o’clock in the depths of the British winter, so it was just too dark to put in any improvement. Eventually I was homeward bound, feeling a tad disappointed, but having enjoyed the ride and more importantly the Enduro stage practice.
Hope Tech’s new signing Craig Evans took the win in the Pro AM class on his Santa Cruz Nomad. Matthew De Villanueva, an Enduro regular took the honours in the Masters category with a very impressive time, I think we will be seeing a lot more of him on the UK Enduro podiums this year. Fastest time of the day went to junior rider Charlie Hatton, this kid has such a smooth style and his riding looks so effortless, expect big things from him. Another big name was Tim Ponting in Vets, winning by over four seconds, he is expected to smash the UKGE’s this year.
I really enjoyed the Mini-Downhill race and even though I had a pretty poor result it’s showed areas I need to work hard on, I will definitely be back for the next round and hopefully see an improvement.
Words Andrew Cooper
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