Round one of the Yakima Sunshine Series for 2014 opened at Cedar Creek for a weekend of loose runs down Nik Jasinski’s track – “Hell’s Descent”. The famously steep and dusty track was raced late in the 2013 season, the dusty brown powder from last years race was replaced with grip and hero dirt for the 2014 opener. Chris Kovarik said the track was in the best condition he had seen it. The prime conditions set the scene for a fast weekend of racing, with a stacked top end of the field showing up to start the season.
Despite the perfect conditions, the track still proved to be a big challenge. Saturday practice saw a heap of the corners starting to get blown out – a sign of things to come. The gradient of the hill left little room for error, bad line choices had a bunch of riders taking trips through the bunting and over the bars. Each run revealed new loose rocks and tree roots were gradually being carved out of the dirt. Riders were working out the fine balance between holding it wide open for the fast top and bottom sections of the track, while trying to carry momentum through the technical switchbacks down the middle.
Some epic dual slalom action on Saturday arvo saw young DH pinner Max Warshawsky take the win in the final over XC weapon Ben Forbes. Both of these boys were coming off big experiences at the WC in Cairns and showed their class drifting between deck chairs in the backyard slalom setup. Following the slalom on Saturday arvo it poured with rain, classic QLD – if you want it to rain, just organise a bike race! Thankfully it didn’t hang around. Racing on Sunday was set to go.
Sunday morning came around with a huge turnout of nearly 150 riders, a good chunk of them were looking down the track for the first time wondering what they’d signed up for. The 4WD’s started pumping out the shuttles and everyone was trying to workout which corner/rock/line their mate was trying to explain to them.
There was a huge range of riders out on track, from pinned elites; Ben Power, Mat Dodd, Max Warshawsky, Lindsey Klein, Remy Morton and Rhys Willemse also getting back in the mix, to the brave hard tail class riders and everyone in between. Chris Kovarik was also out on track during practice sharing a bit of wisdom with a handful up and comers.
Race time. Elite men, women and the under 19’s headed to the top of the hill. Plenty of nerves were about with a fairly stacked line up and qualifying on the line. The veteran Chris Kovarik and young Max Warshawsky put down the hot times with only a narrow margin splitting them at 2mins 14seconds. The rest of the field descended, plenty of riders showing speed and style through the top & bottom jumps. As the crowd headed up the hill the rock drop and forest section became a rowdy, narrow tunnel of spectators – essential at a DH race!
The elite finals show cased some of QLD’s best talent from both young and old generations. A few sections of the track were starting to turn into the dusty terrain that Hell’s Descent is renowned for and the crowd of riders who had just skidded down the track were sure to have dragged some sniper rocks out. Sam Fraser put on a show for the crowd, throwing down a back flip on the final jump in his race run. Ben Power and Max Warshawsky both looked pinned down through the loose switchbacks, but Maxy blew through a berm towards the bottom of the track costing a few seconds. Chris Kovarik came down looking fast and in control. When the dust had settled it was Kovarik with the win, Ben Power in 2nd, Rhys Willemse in 3rd, Max Warshawsky in 4th and Mathew Dodd in 5th to round out the podium. Kovarik concede from the podium that if Max had stayed on the bike, the win might have been his – but that’s racing! Under 19’s was taken out by Akira Yamada in his maiden state level win, followed by Harri Jones in 2nd and Harry Bush in 3rd. Jodie Harris won elite women with Tracey Knight in 2nd and Amanda Lawrence in 3rd.
Healing vibes go out to the expert rider who injured their spine over one of the final jumps. Thanks are due to Downhill From Here MTB club for putting on a successful event and to the Jasinski family for their property & support of downhill in SEQLD.
Round 2 of the Yakima Sunshine Series coming soon from the Mackenzie Frenzy DH trail in Toowoomba.
Full results can be found HERE
Words : Chris Starrett Photos : Matt Rex