Hazel Wakefield recounts her trip to the Death Woods!
This is my round up of the BDS race Saturday consisted of this:-
1. Broken down smoke filled van
2. Abandoned van at a random ladies house, Bev. Her five year son had bad chicken pox and would only speak welsh to me!
3. Rescued by friends and eventually arrived at the race site.
4. Mick marched me over to the signing on tent and wouldn’t take no for an answer (I was late there so had missed the signing on time) we got lucky and Micks sweet talking did the trick.
5. 2 slow and dodgy practice laps completed
6. Burger, beer and bed.
Sunday was like this:-
1. Scary practice lap.. like riding on an oiled cake tin. Death woods will eat me alive!
2. Seeding run was partially spent wrestling a tree that I got stuck behind whilst trying to pass a couple of girls in front. But still managed to seed first.
3. Ate two babybell cheese things, handful of grapes and ran to the ports loos around 50 times due to nerves
4. During my category a tree fell down (sounds about right) so my race start was delayed. Did a few star jumps to keep warm. Dropped in and managed to ride a clean and steady race run, and even rode one of the steeper death wood lines. Very proud of myself. Crossed the line in 1st which I was really surprised with.
5. I conquered Llangollen!
6. Van remained in North wales for nearly a week.
7. Finally got my van back from the garage today and the mechanics can’t work out why it filled with smoke.
8. Maybe i dreamt the whole weekend up?
Llangollen Downhill track is famed for it’s steepness without the addition of the top woods or to give them there official title ‘Death Woods’
Myself, Mick and Liam travelled down friday and once we were settled in our cosy holiday cottage we set of to the track for registration and track walk. The bottom third of the track was nothing new as its been used for many races, the 3 infamous drops and sprint finish preceded by the steep switch back section. After climbing this and chatting to Rachel Atherton about death woods we were soon looking at them ourselves and now understood her wry smile as we questioned her about them! We’d seen them in the dry and even ridden them, but in the sopping wet – well that was going to be interesting to say the least.
On the way back down we bumped into Peaty who decided to change the track – apparently the drop was dangerous at the speeds the top boys were hitting it – old boy Mick asked why didn’t they just put there brakes on then but this seemed to fall on deaf ears and a route to the left of the drop was tapped in!
We soon retired to Llangollen and some pub grub and the best karaoke we’d heard in a long time!
Saturday morning saw us meeting up with the rest of the team, Coupes and Mick Hill had already bagged a decent spot when we arrived and soon the van doors were open and wheels were going in bikes. I’d be lying though if I said we rushed to get in the uplift queue – Liam was man though and he went up asap with Seb Frost the man behind Roots and Rain – the rest of us decided to wait in the vain hope it would stop raining! Well that was never going to happen so eventually we decided to get out first run in, the uplift queues were tiny a sure sign that a lot of riders were thinking the same way we were or had already sacked it off!
Once at the top we found out why the queues at the bottom were so small, everyone was waiting at the top – it took an hour before we made it to the start line! with 20 second gaps between riders to try to help the flow it was obvious that it was carnage in the woods, just listening to the marshals radios confirmed this ‘red flag at 1’ or ‘red flag at 4’ were being repeated over and over again.
Soon it was my turn to tackle death woods (the rest of the gang were already in there somewhere) and sure enough ‘red flag at 1’ greeted me as I entered the first corner, from then on it was a mixture of half off’s, walking, riding where i could until I’d cleared marshal point 4 from here on down it was fairly ridable even in the wet – once out of the wood a pedally roller coaster traverse took you to the steep switch backs and on down to the drops and finally the finish line.
Back at the vans we all looked like we had been through it, not much was said, the looks on people faces said it all! With reports of riders dropping out left right and centre even the resolve of The mighty TRG wavered slightly but after a dose of man the f**k up it was decided we all had to get back up the hill to complete your 2 runs to enable us to race on the sunday. This time there wasn’t a queue at the top of the hill and we were soon under way with our second practice runs – with mixed results for us all.
I called it a day after 2 runs and decided to sort the van out for our return to the digs, the rest of the team braved it out with another run and to be fair to Liam he couldn’t get enough, clipped in and running dry tyres he was smashing it!
Back at the cottage we cleaned the bikes and our kit, and then heading off into town to meet the rest of the gang for some food and what would turn out quite a lot of beer! I think there was definitely a ‘last supper’ feel to the evening and the thought of a hang over in the morning was the least of our troubles.
Race day! and the sun was shining! but the track so far wasn’t with practice runs still being a messy on off affair. soon enough it was time for seeding and my initial thoughts were to break the beam and sit it out until race runs, but once up there and waiting to go the F**k it whats the worst that can happen attitude kicked in and I was soon away down the small sprint to the first steep corner, making a right mess of this set the tone for the whole run through death woods and I was soon caught by team mate Mick Waud who was faring slightly better than me, but basically we bumbled our way through until we could enjoy the last 2 thirds of the track.
Time for race runs and the sun had been beating down all day so hopefully the track was drying and the good news it was. With a terrible time in seeding I was first away, this time the death woods were dry and I was able to scrabble ride much more than in practice and soon was out of them and in to the long traverse down to the switch backs, I’m not sure who the supporters on the hill were that day bit thank you for the chants of TRG, TRG, TRG they really do make a difference and soon I was exiting the switch backs and my team mate Mick nibbling my back tyre, he was on a flyer, unfortunately he could hold the long left had burn after the tree drop and I un-laped myself as Mick Hill put it! well I was down and I was happy to have survived Death woods – with 101 riders that had entered either not turning up, going home or not finishing the race I was very happy to have crossed the line. The rest of the team did brilliantly, another podium for Becci (after a DQ farce!) and very nearly top ten finishes for both Coupes and Mick.
Bring on RD5.
Liam McDermott 25th Experts
Michael Coupes 11th Masters
James Hurst 31st Juniors
Mick Waud 11th Vets
Richie Molloy 13th Vets
Becci Skelton 3rd Womens