Joe “Smitty the Red” Smith takes the Welsh National Championships and has his own little tale to tell.
For 2009 the Welsh Championships were held at Caersws in Mid Wales. It was also the first time since I started racing that Jason Carpenter of Dragon Downhill wasn’t organising the race. Caersws is a local race to me as it is only 30 minutes from my house, I used to race there regularly, however, it’s been 3 years since my last race on the hill. The track started with a small road gap into a sharp berm before hitting some really steep technical corners, after this the track gets faster with some bus stops and a small jump. After trying to keep low over the jump it was hard on the brakes for a set of switch backs before you enter the tunnel. There was time for a few pedal strokes before blasting out into a fast dusty section with a couple of corners and small drops. Next you entered the steep dusty part used for National Points Series races back in the day. This time the track turned sharp right making you do the top line with the drop of the fallen tree. This section dropped you steeply into the original left berm before a jump onto and off the fire road at the bottom of the hill. In the field there was a sender wooden ramp into a long off camber corner and another wooden ramp before a quick pedal to the line.
Practice on Saturday went well and as the track was so dry it was changing a lot on the steep corners at the top and getting really loose. With the track being short and the lift to the top being really quick you were able to do lots of runs and have time to check lines out and chill out. I managed 9 runs during the day, I’m sure the keen younger riders will have been busting out a couple more than me easily. Sunday practice started early and I managed three runs. The track was running fast but after a bit of drizzle during the night some of the roots were really slippery. My first run was just after 1:00 in the afternoon and after a couple of hundred riders had raced the track it was a little blown out in places. The wind had been low all morning but picked up just before the elites set off. I had a good clean run and hit my all my lines smoothly. As I entered the field at the bottom I could feel the wind so I took it easy off the jumps and lost a bit of speed. After the first runs I was sitting in first with a time of 1.47. I knew that I could take a couple of seconds of my time if I really pushed it and was feeling good for the second run.
While I was waiting to head up for my second race run it started to rain lightly, this paired with the wind was causing some big crashes in the field. Luckily the rain didn’t dampen the track too badly and the field dried up so I didn’t have to change to spike tires. As we got to the top the wind wasn’t too bad and the track seemed to be holding up well. As elite was about to start there was a problem with the timing system and this caused some delays. The rain started to come down again as we were all waiting at the top. After a while the timing was sorted and racing was resumed. The rain had already left its mark and the track was a little greasy, especially the field. This didn’t stop me sending the jump in the field as the wind didn’t seem as bad when I was approaching the takeoff. In the end most of the results stayed the same and I stayed in first position. The rain cleared up towards the end of the podium presentations just in time for me to be crowned Welsh Champ. After everything was over everyone went home happy after a really well organised and fun event.
Photo courtesy of Scott Cartwright.