Round 5 of the SRAM SA Downhill Series was held on the first weekend in August and turned out to be quite a race! With the top two Elite Men, Ngari Jenkins and Steve Gebert, desperately trying to get that advantage before coming into the final round, the Under Nineteens were looking to close the gap on an in-form James Chambers.
The track was a surprise pick for the season and had never been raced up until now. A part of the Fox Creek trail network, the ‘Fast’ track was included to the calendar due to popular demand. Different to the average race track, Fox Fast is a short burst of fun with long sweeping corners that lead you into a gully full of wall rides and, on this particular weekend, mud!
After a great deal of attention from the club’s track fairies, the course was turned from wide open corners with bumps into wide open corners with bumps, hips, doubles, triples and things that made you think twice. Having done such a great job to adapt the course, the track builders just needed a bit of sun to help the soil settle but, unfortunately, the clouds had different plans!
By the time Saturdays practice was upon us, the course had seen more than its fair share of precipitation from the sky. Although it stopped raining by the start of practice, the forecast told us to expect more rain over the course of the weekend. Riders had no choice but to gear up and layer on the tear-offs. There were very few clean race kits getting around as the majority of pants and elbows had evidence of sliding down a hill on them! It was great to see Troy Brosnan back on the bike after his off in Leogang earlier this year; looking fast, as always, and seemingly floating over the mud.
Despite the amount of water that had landed in the week leading up to the race, the top half of the track had been quite resilient and was offering plenty of grip and rolling speed. As Saturday’s practice session continued, the rain stayed away and the second half of the course began to dry into deep, thick, clay that stuck to and clogged everything. It was hard to tell who was looking fast and on their game as most guys battled with the ever changing ruts and lines in terrible conditions.
We woke to a wet Sunday morning and clouds that promised to hang around all day. A lot of guys rolled up sporting swamp or mud tires as all hopes of a dry track were dashed. Conditions had deteriorated considerably overnight and after a lot of juniors struggled to hold enough speed to navigate over a small rise cut into the gully wall, special rules were applied to allow racers in specific categories an option to accept a time penalty to go around the feature.
Under Nineteen seeding saw Giant Bikes’ James Chambers once again seed fastest in 2:34.85, but not far behind him was Matthew Taylor who rode a 2:37.2. Jake Adams was up there in third, after he posted a 2:41.39. Seeding fastest in Elite was another rider for Giant Bikes, Craig Yates, who flew down in 2:24.5, ahead of Adelaide Commencal Racing’s Steve Gebert who finished in 2:28.05. Third fastest seeder, Trak Cycles’ Steve Marsh, posted a 2:28.3 in front of another ACR rider, Darren Hobby, who crossed the line in 2:28.94. Seeding in fifth place was Monster Energy Specialized’s Troy Brosnan after recording a time of 2:29.1.
Throughout the day of racing, the rain was on and off and many people were hoping it would keep up so the track didn’t dry back into a thick mess! In his first ever race appearance, Cameron Heading took out the Novice class in a crazy 2:47! Not too bad for a first timer. Scott Roberts had some fun on his hardtail to post a respectable 2:55 while youngster Toby Cosh steered his hardtail across the line in 3:08 to win the Junior Hardtail class. Other honorable mentions go to Shane Garner in Super Masters, finishing in 3:13 and Masters rider Joff Medder narrowly edging out Paul Nelson, by less than two seconds, in 2:58!
In the junior ranks, Under Fifteens rider Will Badger dealt with the tough conditions in 2:55.86 while GT Bikes’ Callum Morrison won Under Seventeens in 2:30.87; nearly twelve seconds ahead of second place getter, Drew Gartery.
At the business end of the day, the Under Nineteens were all trying to win some points back on James Chambers who had a couple wins under his belt and was beginning to run away with the season. Crossing the line in 2:46.12, for third place, was the man who will put it all on the line when he has to, Jake Adams. Just squeezing into third was Conor Clancy who put down a time of 2:45.82 but was no match for Chambers who was way out in front after railing the course in 2:33.11! Chambers has now cemented the season win with one round to go but the battle for second will be on at Willunga!
The Elite Men category has been entertaining all year to say the least! With four different winners from as many rounds, it seems like it will come down to the most consistent rider throughout the year. Although Troy was back and racing, many eyes were on the boys contesting for the overall season win.
With 0.17 seconds separating third and fifth, Adelaide Commencal Racing’s Darren Hobby snagged fifth place and his first podium for the year in 2:25.69. Trak Cycles’ Steve Marsh managed to better that time by 0.06 seconds and snuck into fourth in a time of 2.25.63! The second ACR rider on the podium was Steve Gebert who rode into third place in a time of 2:25.52; his fifth podium in as many races! In a time of 2:24.76, the third ACR rider, Tyson Schmidt, claimed his first ever Elite podium in second place and completed the set of ACR team riders to master the trying conditions for a podium position! Well out in front was not surprisingly Monster Energy Specialized’s Troy Brosnan who cracked the twenty second mark to blitz the course in 2:19.69! “It was a good run. I tried to hold as much speed as possible but sat down peddling at the end,” Brosnan commented.
After a crash in the iXS Euro Cup in Leogang left Troy unable to ride for quite some time, he reports that his spleen is at one hundred percent and his shoulder is feeling pretty strong. After some more rehab we should be set to see Troy out shredding on the world stage again soon!
With a solid result this round, Steve Gebert has taken the lead from Cycleworx Santa Cruz’s Ngari Jenkins for the first time this season but it is not by much! Keeping in mind the ‘drop-a-round’ format used in the series it is the closest finish we have had in recent memory! Cam Ryan can’t be discounted to steal the points, nor can Steve Marsh. The final round at Willunga will definitely be full of tight racing!
Words : Tyson Schmidt
Photos : Kane Naaraat