Another Steel City downhill and, crikey, The Force was strong in this one. The Dark Lord Himself, Darth Peaty had issued an ultimatum to the weather gods and, intimidated, they’d capitulated with a month of dry weather prior to the race. Day after day, racers practiced, interrupted occasionally by the Ride Sheffield trail fairies a’fettling and a’shaping, beautifying the berms and tidying the transitions. Come the day, the pessimists of the Met Office were proved wrong yet again as the sun shone and the track stayed snuff dry all day.
And what a day. If only every race was like this, friendly yet competitive, a locals race that welcomes everyone, spectators who cheer on every competitor regardless of whether they’re a World Champ or just a chump. I began to wonder if someone had spiked my energy drink as I rode the track pursued by a stormtrooper on a bike, urged on by marshalls that included a wookie and cheered at the finish by R2D2. The crowd surpassed even last year with some estimates putting it at 1000 people. As always, the jump into the bombhole was accompanied by a crescendo of noise from the Bradfield Brewery fuelled masses.
There were 250 racers in all from rippers barely out of nappies to World Cup racers, nearly thirty women, more than tripling last year’s entry and including 69 3/4 year old Pat Horscroft in her first ever race. The buzz at the start line was electric, first time racers experiencing the heart stopping beeps for the very first time, the marshall’s whistles, hollering of the crowd, hooters, cowbells and saucepans providing the back-beat.
One word sums it all up. Fun. Those who beaver away behind the scenes are to be congratulated for once again making the organisation of such a big event seem straightforward. It’s heartening that what once seemed impossible, cooperation between an environmental lobby group like Sheffield Wildlife Trust and mountain bikers, is now so commonplace. This was the Sheffield mountain biking tribe coming together in the most constructive, enjoyable and cooperative way possible and I for one can’t wait for next year.