Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely hate mud with a passion when it comes to this photography lark. It gets everywhere on your kit and clothes and with the usual dark gloomy woods it brings, it’s just miserable to shoot in. And it usually appears every time I cross that Severn bridge. But a little bit of the wet stuff would have been welcome to combat the Sahara like conditions that would prevail this weekend.
Driving along the M4 corridor in the wee small hours of Saturday morning the forecast for the weekend was for some serious sunshine and the hope of mud in its dry powdery state.
Well, the third round of the British National Downhill Series at Rheola in South Wales certainly delivered both of them in spades!
Rheola is a long, high speed technical course that challenged every rider in the dry and very dusty conditions. A course that would prove to be a difficult one for many racers to master. I have never seen so many red flags over a race weekend and with a very serious crash on the Sunday it definitely wasn’t for the faint hearted.
Did i mention the dust….
The sun was already blazing as the Moore Large/O’Neal team assembled in the pits for Saturday practice. Well, when I say team, I mean the ones left that aren’t injured or enjoying a well deserved break.
Which leaves us with three riders then for a weekend of racing at the highest level on the British calendar with a track to match.
The obligatory team manager Insta video.
Sion Margrave has been putting the miles in during training this year and is definitely due a big result. He was looking forward to getting stuck into what would prove to be a very tough race for a lot of riders but unfortunately this would be a race to forget for young Sion.
Sion looking good on his first 2 runs on Saturday morning
Unfortunately this would be Sion’s last run of the weekend.
A high speed crash on the middle woods section would prove to be Sion’s downfall. A nasty crash saw him tumble off the bike onto the roots and rocks and he was soon off to hospital with a suspected broken wrist.
The boy’s still smiling.
And then there were two.
Ellie Dewdney was the next rider due down in practice in between numerous red flag stoppages. A lot of riders were finding themselves coming into the tricky sections a bit too hot in the very dry and loose conditions and finding themselves in a bit of trouble.
Ellie waiting for the uplift between delays.
Saturday saw Ellie launching off the various drops that littered the track.
The tough “star wars” section made line choice very difficult.
Ellie had a great practice day learning the track that was constantly changing due to the loose rocks and inches of dust that covered the whole course. Unfortunately this would catch out a rider later in the afternoon stopping the proceedings for well over an hour. This led to Ellie calling it a day to prepare for whatever race day would bring.
Next and last down was Douglas Vieira representing the team in Elite men and the young Brazilian was relishing the chance to get down and tackle the challenging terrain. And right from the first run Douglas was absolutely on fire.
A quick stop to look at the infamous “star wars” section was all it needed for him to pin through that section with incredible speed.
Multiple line choice down this very trick section.
But Douglas made short work of it.
You are starting to get the picture of how Douglas rides….
Douglas had a fantastic Saturday practice to finish second fastest in Elite men which filled him with confidence for race day.
Sunday morning saw the sun once again shine bright and hot. Some rain was due to fall by early afternoon so the riders were eager to get up on the
gondola, sorry, landrover and get on with practice.
Hold on a minute…..
This ain’t no gondola!
Ellie was again first down and a solid practice and seeding run saw her sit in sixth place going into the single race run.
The open middle section with some glorious views.
With the expected rain now falling steadily it was time for Ellie to make her way up on the excellent Pearce Cycles uplift ready for her run. Unfortunately a very serious crash for one of the young female riders led to the event being stopped for nearly two hours as she was cared for by the medics.
Sun shining again Ellie was on her way down.
Last jump down to the finish arena.
The long delay and some minor errors on track let to a race to forget as Ellie finished in seventh place overall against a tough field.
Hiking my way up to near the top to catch Douglas on the fast open section in morning practice was all in vain as he crashed literally in front of me!
Checking the bike over.
But he was soon back on and the crash didn’t seem to bother him too much.
Loving the O’Neal goggles.
Oh look, Douglas is in the air again…!
Seeding runs done and again Douglas was lying second fastest with high hopes for his first British national series podium finish.
With the rain starting to drizzle again for the elite men the track would become even more treacherous. The loose dust turning to a muddy mess that would challenge the riders even more.
Where’s the sun gone?
Fast and low as the rain falls.
It was with nervous excitement as we waited in the finish arena for Douglas to appear.
Blasting into the finish arena.
Something had obviously wrong as Douglas’s time was seconds off first place and his body language and dirty kit didn’t look good.
That doesn’t look good.
It turned out that he had a huge over the bars crash at the top and lost precious seconds over his rivals. A distraught Douglas thought he had lost his chance of a podium but despite his crash he still finished a brilliant fourth place.
Emotions run high for these guys.
A superb fourth place for Douglas Vieira.
All in all a very challenging weekend for the team with hopes that the bad luck that has plagued the team so far in 2018 is behind them for the rest of the season.