Northern Downhill returns to Chopwell Woods

Sam Johnson racing for his first time, Northern Downhill’s funduros are certainly a great place to start out

One thing Northern Downhill has a great ability to do is entice fresh blood into the racing scene. This weekend was no exception. Having spoken to a couple of race newbies at the end of the race, they were buzzing and already planning their next.

Kristina racing for the first time put in the second fastest time of the day in the women’s race, utterly awesome

Arriving in style, pick up with bikes slung over the back. So enduro.

With a return to Chopwell woods, a woodland park area on the fringes of Gateshead, it’s not a huge forest at 360 hectares, but what there is has been well built and maintained by the Chopwell Trail Builders. Chopwell also forms part of the Super6 mountain biking trails in Northern England. Kielder, Chopwell, Hamsterley, Gisburn, Grizedale and Whinlatter. The return of the funduro was greeted with dry weather leading up to the race, but early on during the day, there had been some sole destroying drizzle, however, this cleared up fast and left great weather for a race. Who remembers the last race here, wind, snow and grim rainfall.

Early on riders inspect the stage, this one more natural and loam heaven

The race itself consisted of 3 stages, two along what is called the Powerline, so named as it follows electrical pylons down the hill, with the crackling sound of electricity! These 2 main trail centre style trails had superb tabletop jumps, sweeping berms, drops and a few easy roots thrown in. The 3rd stage was a newly opened black route, which was far more natural and far more popular with the loam lovers. With a slightly more technical, steep and dusty feel to it. One area had a good gathering of supporters and hecklers, giving the race a great atmosphere.

John Stephenson about to drop into the steep section on stage 3 and 6, greeted with cheers and heckles, only his second race.

So for the race, there were 2 ultra fast trail centre stages followed by a more natural feeling loam trail. Since the circuit was so short, the riders all had to do the circuit twice, making this a 6 stage enduro race.

Sweeping berms on stage 1, Sarah putting in the fastest time of the day in the women’s race

The last stage of the race, and a short sharp uphill had riders pushing up, legs and lungs burning

An overcast day, but come the race the rain held off and provided a perfect days racing

The overall race was won by Mark Harrison in a total time of 8:38.68. It has to be said at this point, and I’m putting my head on the line here, but Mark is a Vet (40-49 yr olds), so it’s great to see a more wise racer take out the young guns. Tom Mellows 14-18s was seriously close behind recording a time of 8:41.25, followed by Stuart Campbell in 8:46.17. What an immensely close race these guys had, with a fantastic spread of ages. The women also had a great fight amongst them, with the overall fastest being Sarah Vayro in 10:45.84, closely followed by Kristina Lightburn (first in 15-20s) in 10:52.78 and then Melissa Pearson (37+) in 10:54.12, so another superb fight for the top spots. It’s also worth mentioning that Kristina was racing for the first time, this lass can fly and should be one to watch out for if she has caught the bug. For a complete run down of the results, head over to roots and rain here.

Mark Harrison winning the overall fastest time of the day. Vets rule!

Tom Mellows fresh from racing the National Champs last weekend, winning his category and putting in the second fastest time of the day

Mel Pearson won the women 37+, looking super determined on stage 3

Riders comparing times and assessing where they were placed from the days racing

The next race in the Northern Downhill calendar will be Eastgate, a real turn back the time TT race, think a style of downhill race, and one not to be missed. Check back here for further information.

Matt Nicholls looking super quick over the tabletops on stage 2

Joel Prior on stage 3 giving it some style

At just 9 years of age, Jon is one to watch out for in the future

Michael Stratton hard on the peddles through the loam and more natural trail

So a big shout out to Carl and his team for putting on another great race, where hardened racers were put to the test by first time racers, and where maturity and strength won out against the young guns.

See you next time.

Tommy Wilkinson

"I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve" - But I do love bikes.

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