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Race Report – Pearce Downhill Series, Round 3, Hopton – Rebecca Smith

The bike flies when you’re having fun!

Hopton has always been one of my favourite venues, it’s great fun come rain or shine and there’s always a good crowd. Round 3 at Hopton looked like it would be no exception; there was a whopping 13 ladies entered in the 19+ category and I didn’t know half of them. As the weekend approached I was looking forward to meeting new people, making new friends and racing bikes in the sun.

The forecast was excellent, the track was going to be drier than I had ever seen it and I was feeling excited. I set up my tent, track walked with friends and left my phone in a portaloo… thankfully Pearce races are like a big family and some kind soul handed it in and we were reunited.
After a lazy start chilling in the sun in my pjs we went up to get that first run done. I had forgotten that the woods were full of huge wood ant nests and spent a few minutes admiring their hard work at the uplift drop off point. They were all marching around with purpose and several riders got warned after putting their helmets down next to the nest haha! No one wants ants in their hair! The downside was watching them carry the bodies of their comrades back to the nest as they got trampled by riders and uplift trucks. The organisers had cordoned off the immediate area but the ants roamed quite far and it was impossible to protect them all.

The dust was incredible and it was running so fast that we were soon drifting and hollering through corners despite this being the chilled first roll down. The race wasn’t on my favourite right hand track and was on the smooth jumpy middle line which I always had fun on but never went very fast on. I have always found it hard to commit to the jumps on this line so I had set myself a target of hitting a couple that I previously avoided. I planned on building up to them over the Saturday… I ended up hitting the triple near the end on my first run when I came round the berm too fast and couldn’t avoid it. Wahoo I had already won as far as I was concerned so the weekend could only get better from there.

The corners turned out to be a huge challenge; the normally tacky and grippy corners were full of a lovely fine dust that billowed up as I slid through. The grip was unpredictable and sometimes there was the perfect amount of slide and other times the whole bike cut loose sending up a cloud of dust revealing me lying down shuffling through it like a blackbird in the garden.

The second run down saw me hit the step down I had decided to try so that was both of my objectives ticked off before lunch on day 1. Then on run 3 I got a little full of myself and decided to really send the step down. I got my wheels on the floor just before the tight left hander but after landing a little heavily I bounced up and out of the corner straight at the spectators lining the edge. As they scattered and threw themselves out of my way I squealed loudly and somehow kept my back wheel in the rut. With my front wheel on the bank and back wheel in the rut I slid sideways in a perfect grind which would have looked cool if not for the absolute terror on my face! I held it and with my heart in my mouth slid perfectly into the hairpin to ride off. One spectator shouted “get in lad” to which I replied “I’m a girl”! Obviously correcting my sex was the most important thing my adrenaline flooded brain came up with which was shortly followed by lots of OMGs and sweary disbelief that I didn’t crash. That continued through the rest of the run and for several minutes after until I got my pulse back under control and calmed down.

The rest of the day was awesome and the challenge was trying not to do too many runs and get too tired whilst the track was so good it was difficult to stop. There was one tree in particular that I kept hitting even when I knew I was looking past it and there were a couple of corners I kept stalling in. I needed to slow down into two corners but could never remember which ones they were! The evening was spent discussing lines with the help of a go pro and several people who are much faster than me and Amanda. It saved us another track walk but also provided a couple of new options that we could actually see not just discuss. We also watched the world cup wahoo, technology at its finest.

Sunday morning was another warm one lounging around in pjs before finally getting on track for practice. I did a couple of practice runs trying to hit the new lines I’d seen on the video and keep it smooth through the corners. I was way off the pace of the others and still stalled in a couple of the corners but having hit the jumps I wanted to and sorted my lines I was feeling happy regardless of speed.

I lined up for my first race run and set off for what turned out to be a good cruisy run. I hit my lines, missed the tree for the first time all weekend and was surprised to find myself sitting in 5th place not that far off the pace after all. It was a rowdy run and I knew that if I cleaned it up a little I could go faster so I got back on track for run 2 with that aim. I had also spotted that my speed through the speed trap was not very fast and given it was on a flat pedally section I vowed to pedal harder on my next run.

Run 2 was smoother, I again hit my lines and missed the tree but I also made the corners more smoothly. I went 3 seconds faster to hang on to 5th place. Despite pedaling as hard as I could I only increased my speed through the speed trap by 0.64km/h which was barely worth the effort!

Another great race organised by Pearce with a smooth uplift, good marshals and great track. I surprised myself by performing better on the track than I expected and being bold with the jumps I normally shy away from. It was great to race in the dust and the slippery conditions were great practice for the race the following weekend which was forecast to be a wet swampfest that would be even more slippery!

Rebecca Smith, Flow MTB rider

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing100% UKGlower ClothingFINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.