The UK is famous for its downhill scene, with our small isle producing some of the world’s top racers. But with both the British Downhill Series (BDS) and Scottish Downhill Association (SDA) cancelling races this year and BDS organiser Simon Paton announcing that he’s stepping down, it begs the question, what’s happening to UK DH?
Luckily for racers and fans alike, the doom and gloom of uncertainty about the future of domestic racing has cheered up somewhat. The announcement of a 5-round 2018 national series and a one-off National Championships are the silver lining to the cloud of the BDS’s demise.
2018’s race series, now called the 2018 HSBC UK National Downhill Series, will visit:
Round 1 Cwmcarn 7-8 April
Round 2 Fort William 12-13 May
Round 3 Rheola 30 June – 1 July
Round 4 Rhyd-Y-Felin 11-12 August
Round 5 Bringewood 22-23 September
National Championships Glencoe 21-22 July
The series will no longer be organised by one individual company, instead it’s being run by three different organisations. Welsh Gravity Enduro will organise round 1 at Cwmcarn. Round 2 at Fort William and the National Championships at Glencoe have been taken on by the SDA and the remaining three rounds at Rheola, Rhyd-Y-Felin and Bringewood are being organised by Mij Downhill Events.
Two of the rounds – Fort William and Rhyd-Y-Felin – are class 1 UCI events with UCI points up for grabs. UCI points are required to race World Cups and riders need at least 40 points to enter a round of the 2018 World Cup. Riders competing at either of these two events will have the chance to get points if they finish in the top 15 overall. 15th place gets 1 UCI point and 1st place gets 60. UCI points weren’t available last year so this is a great move to give talented riders the chance to make the step up to World Cup racing.
All of 2018’s venues have been raced at before, but some haven’t featured on the national downhill scene for many years. Cwmcarn was last raced at a national level in 2005 on the then freshly built Y Mynydd downhill track. The track has just seen some new improvements (find out more in issue 351 of the mag) and there are rumours that it’ll have a new top section built in time for 2018’s race. Cwmcarn’s Y Mynydd downhill track is a classic and you should check out Rowan Sorrell from Back On Track riding the original course back in ’05, just after it opened:
Rheola is also a fantastic old-skool DH venue. The last time it was used for a national level DH race was back in 2010, but the first time it appeared on the downhill racing calendar was in ’99 as a round of the exceptionally popular Dragon Downhill series, run by Jason Carpenter.
Rheola’s flat out and technical track caught out plenty of people and the infamous, root-filled Star Wars section was feared by even the world’s best riders. Rheola is a gnarly track and event made it in to Earthed 3! We wonder if it’ll be as much of a challenge in 2018 as it was back in the late 2000’s?
Glencoe has caused controversy in the past – the mountainous location, gnarly track and super-slow chairlift all mean that problems or issues can be compounded. But, if the weather plays ball the challenging track and stunning location make Glencoe one of the best races of the year. Fingers crossed that the 2018 National Championships go as planned and the only drama is between the tape. If you’ve never been to Glencoe or seen any race footage, familiarise yourself with just how wild the Scottish venue can be:
Features Editor Alex calls the mellow rolling hills of Dorset home, but before he started on MBUK, he lived in The French Alpine town of Morzine for seven years. Here he developed a scary ability to make the steepest and gnarliest trails look like a walk in the park. Occasionally his speed caught up with him, resulting in several bone crunching crashes at World Cup downhill level. Since hanging up his racing shoes Al regularly clocks up a massive weekly mileage on his trail bike, so is one of our hardiest testers.