Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Photo courtesy of Jim McKay from Evenort.

For many years now I have been involved with Steve Peat and the last few years I have helped with
the signage etc for the Steel City Downhill. This year followed the tradition of being last minute like most really well planned and good events are, we carried on the pretense with me jesting with Steve about
how I would have entered but it's obviously too late, only for him to retort, I can get you entered if you like?
This year was different, Nick Hamilton who helps organize the event took this one stage further, the day before, while he was collecting all the signage and number boards we made here at Whitakers Signs he said he had talked to Steve about my race entry and although it was a late request he decided to put my name on the list, so that's it Joe, Your In!
So having not seen the course I thought it may be a good idea to meander over after work and have a look at it, I had a trundle down it on my Santa Cruz Tallboy LT, there were some of the crew still taping up the course and doing last minute grooming of the trail when I approached the bomb hole and rolled in, they were just about to come over and give me a much deserved roasting but they recognized me, oh it's you Joe and we went on to have a bit of a laugh mostly at my expense, fair enough, I shouldn't have been on the trail.
We walked back up and they gave me a few pointers while they continued to tidy and rake the trail, it was immaculate, they had all done a brilliant job and the weather was great that afternoon and promised to be good the following day.
Race day came and I set off to meet with friends from all over the country converging on Sheffield, some of which were in fancy dress as it was themed Star Wars being on the 4th, - "May the 4th be with you''. Martyn Hoyle of The Bicycle Company Poole Dorset met me in the car park, he must have travelled the furthest coming from Poole in Dorset and he came as Darth Vader, truly the force was strong in this one. I have known Martyn for years, he used to be one of the Santa Cruz Syndicate mechanics as well as working for Jungle the Santa Cruz importers and now has his own flourishing bike shop down south.
We did some practice runs together and had a laugh. He went off before me as he is in a younger category and when he disappeared down the trail his cape ruffled behind him in quite a menacing fashion, priceless...
When it came to my first run I rolled up the start ramp and the Start Marshall asked me if I was going to do my run on the back wheel? A nice thing for him to remember me for, it eased the tension I was feeling but soon the beeps that used to make my stomach churn in a previous life as a downhill racer were finishing and away I went breathing like a bull through the vents in my helmet for the next few minutes. 
I decided to do a safe run first missing the gap jump up near the top, I felt this may cost me a few seconds but it would be worth it, as it turned out that and a few other areas where i could have got a better line cost me about 15 seconds and gave me a 20th position so the gap jump was part of the key to a faster line.
I was quite pleased with my time knowing that there was scope to go faster, even more so considering I was one of only a few people on short travel bikes, a 29er at that, most of the bikes on the day were downhill or all mountain bikes with 160mm  plus of travel, mine had only 140mm.
Craig and Jim Mckay had come to watch me and Jim got a great photo of me, they were cheering me on my first run and I was surprised to hear a lot of others shouting my name as I went down the trail, it really spurs you on.
I felt quite confident after putting in a reasonable time in for my first run, on my second run I was going faster on the top section, so had to do the gap jump which led to a much faster out and a better line into the next rocky section, which helped with more speed out of that section and into the berms which went really well until a loss of concentration and the front wheel washed out. Down I went, I was glad I chose to wear my full face helmet as I drew to a stop with my head thumping a large tree stump.
A little stunned I jumped up smacked my brake lever back around the bars and jumped back on with a big cheer from the spectators and carved through the following berms and dropped into the bomb hole with bent bars.
A hopeful glance at the leader board confirmed that I had not been able to better my first run time and once again the harsh reality that a little more practice and finesse was required. The adrenalin eased and a new feeling of pain washed over me as I looked at my battle scuffed knee's, Martyn and myself had been joking about knee pads earlier, I said they are for wimp's, I now have a different view.
Steve Peat topped the leader board with Swinny and Sam Dale close behind, the goodweather and dry conditions helped make for closer racing, previous years have been marred by inclement weather which tends to split the field a bit.   
There were very few injuries on the day and the format of the race is such that it is very racer friendly, the whole crew deserve a big pat on the back for putting on on brilliant event and I think with a little practice I may even enter again next year, with knee pads though.
There was a final warning to us as a parting shot, someone put some kit down and left it unattended for a while, some thieving git walked off with it, so be careful what you do with you gear, they prey on people who are just having a great day. You really don't know who is around you, we live in a world where you can't always trust the likes of Doctors and Vicars etc so trust nobody with your hard earned.
But on the plus side here is a video of the event which pretty much captures the feel of the day, I make a brief appearance at the start, I'm the first rider drifting past in slow-mo. Steel City Downhill Video
It is always good to help a worthy cause, lets not forget that this was raising money and awareness for the Save Grenoside Woods Appeal, if you can have fun while your doing it then there is nothing better, we all had great fun, what more can you ask.
Leaving the bomb hole I walked up the track with Paddy Baker who swapped a BMX for the day for a Santa Cruz V10 and had a good result, not quite on the podium. We swapped stories and he took a photo of me sat on the tree stump I tried to dislodge. I agreed with Paddy that it was a ''great knee's up'' and we parted company intending on doing it again next year.
I got back to the van and Martyn had left me a little present before his long drive home, a nice ''SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BIKE SHOP'' T shirt, thanks Martyn.
Thanks to Steve Peat and the crew for pulling off such a good day, it takes a lot of hard work to arrange, Cheers to you all.

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