... to the British National Championships, a Downhill Mountain Bike event held this year just outside Llangollen, North Wales. I've not been to a Nationals event for about 8 or 9 years, I use to cover the events for either Dirt or MBUK magazines, or both. I have to thank Dave Franciosy and Si Paton, the organisers, for letting me have media accreditation for the event.
I've photographed both Dave and Si at numerous events in the past, Si had helped me out as test rider on a bike test article for Dirt magazine once. It was great to see the event they had laid on, the events of old were usually very low key, all the spectators were usually friends and family of the racers, but with a good understanding of media exploitation and the need for good sponsorship the guys have turned the competition into a major event for all the family.
As well as two ice cream vans (it was a hot day), good food vendors and a beer tent, there was a pump track with bikes for kids to play on, team vehicles with competition bikes on display in the pit area, various companies selling bike and leisure wear. To be honest it wasn't far different to an International competition.
The track was insanely steep, the section at the top in the woods was so steep they'd had to install ropes for spectators to use to pull themselves up to watch the action. Plenty of people took advantage of the ropes, there were almost 3000 people watching the racing either along the course or down in the finish area.
Some were more sensibly dressed than others, this guy had dressed up for a drunken bet, he must have had the soggiest pants on the hill.
I have to say I really enjoyed being there and snapping all day long, I got a chance to meet up with old friends and hopefully made some new ones, the racing was incredible, it was great to watch current World Champion Tracy Moseley and former World Champion Steve Peat racing, it took me back.
When the boys bring the event back to Llangollen I'm pretty sure I'll be head over to watch and I might very well take a camera with me. I might take some body armour too, I got hit in the chest by a rock dislodged when a rider took off from one of the many jumps on the course, it still bloody hurts!