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Race Report – Round 4 Onza Mini Downhill Series, Forest of Dean – Kate Gries

flow mtb rider kate gries ski run round 4 2017 onza mini downhill

Flow MTB rider Kate took part in the fourth round of the 2017 Onza Mini Downhill series at the Forest of Dean

Round 4 of the Onza Mini Downhill series was held at the Forest of Dean on Sunday 4th December on the Ski Run track. Here’s Kate’s race report…

I reached a milestone in my racing this weekend gone. This time last year I threw myself into my first Mini Downhill at the Forest of Dean – I wasn’t ready for it in the slightest, I struggled with the track, I didn’t know anybody and at points I was terrified! But I did it and although I was out of my comfort zone and came flat out last, I still had fun and felt a massive sense of achievement with huge relief that I survived.

One year on and I’m back at the Onza Mini Downhill Winter Series on the same track I started on! The Ski Run is an exciting track with sections to suit both downhill and enduro/trail style bikes. With the top section starting fairly flat, there’s roots, a bomb hole and turns thrown in before you’re spat out down a steep chute over the fire road. You then head down into rocky, rooty drop sections hitting some tight turns and nice smooth berms over some jumps and an ace tabletop straight into an S bend that sets you up for a small gap over the fire road into another few rooty turns to the finish line.

The Ski Run is rollable, as are all the tracks used for the Mini Downhill at the Forest of Dean this makes the series appealing for all abilities to take part. As I’m writing this I so want to be back shredding that track!!

Saturday’s practice welcomed some new faces to the mini downhill and all in all there were just over 30 girls taking part in the race and a number of girls joining in on practice just for fun; this is great news and I hope the girls scene continues to grow. I had a pretty bad cold but I was glad I dragged myself there. I didn’t concentrate on lines this time I just rode the track with friends, I knew I wouldn’t manage too many runs down and needed to save some energy for race day. Getting faster on each run down as we got used to the track I was just loving being on the bike, the track felt so different from my first race, I was riding loose and letting the bike go, skimming rather than my wheels falling into the ruts or between every root and rock – I’ve realised the faster that bike goes the more awesome it feels, it’s just increasing my skills to match that!!

I was pretty excited for race day and with more girls waiting at the start line there was less time to get that nervous belly, I was happy with the track even though I hadn’t looked at lines so I kind of just went with it. Setting off on my run pedalling over the flat section I hear Mark form MTB Instruction egging me on from the sidelines. It certainly gives you that extra bit of grit, gggrrrr and determination. The track had been taped differently in the top section and was proving rather sketchy, I scrubbed a little too much speed to make the corner safely but I’d rather that than end up through the tape after watching other riders in this section. The first chute onto the fire road was a little hairy, with some gnarly roots at the head of it my back wheel slid out over the brow so I could see it next to me luckily my weight was over the front so the bike naturally straightened out much to the whoops and cheers of the marshal Simon. Phew, could have been so different!!!!

After surviving that I still needed to get my foot back on the pedal straight so I sacrificed some pedal strokes to sort myself out (I’m actually starting to remember pedal strokes in race runs and even the odd change of gear! Haha)

Coming down to the bottom of the track there’s a tight corner where I’m still losing a lot of my speed before the jumps and I did so on both my race runs. There was a great buzz towards the finish line and near the table top where the majority of spectators gathered. It gives you that extra push to use every last ounce of energy left. Crossing the line and eventually finishing in 4th place, my second run kept me that 4th place by the skin of my teeth with Amanda so hot on my tail you would not believe!

The ladies master category was so competitive it made for some very close times and great racing and there was a fantastic
atmosphere between everyone as we cheered each other over the finish line. I was really pleased with my time knocking off 18 seconds from last year’s effort, my times are coming in more competitive and I’ve got a bit closer to the girls I admire so that feels like a podium spot to me. I hope I can continue to improve next year, there’s certainly enough encouragement and help from all the girls I’ve met riding this year to help make that possible.

Thank you to Flow MTB for your continued support!

@flowmtbapparel / @griesey82 / photo @alcphotosleeds