2018 British National Championships
Words & Photos by Mathew Weale
It’s that time of year again, the biggest race of the year, British National Champs. This year the race was held at Glencoe, the gateway to the Highlands of Scotland. The short but intimidating track would take the riders to their limit. Situated on the exposed, steep valley walls and featuring everything from big jumps, fast open straights, steep turns and unforgiving, technical rock gardens, the track is a very deserving venue for the fight to become national champion.
What’s even better is that the track is very spectator friendly for the fans and photographers. The majority of the track was visible from any point. This meant great spectating for the fans and us photographers could easily scope out interesting sections of the track all while being able to see when the elite riders were on track and charging the course.
With consistently dry weather throughout the weekend, riders were getting more and more confident on the rough Scottish track; that is, until half an hour before race runs. The valley filled with a dense cloud just before a fine, persistent drizzle quickly soaked the track. Having only practiced in the dry, riders were unsure of how hard to push on the now treacherously slick granite slabs and rock gardens. This all made for interesting racing and rewarded the few who could ride that fine line between pushing too hard and being overly cautious.
With Tahnée Seagrave and Rachel Atherton, the two biggest names in the world of female downhill racing absent due to injuries and spending time recuperating for the World Cup season, it looked like Katy Curd had her name written all over the top step of the podium. Making her intention known in seeding, Katy managed to back it on race day by going eight seconds faster than her nearest competitor.
In the elite men’s field the battle was a more hotly contested one with Greg Williamson hoping to add a third gold medal to his last two consecutive victories at this race. However, this would be easier said than done with the likes of Taylor Vernon, Joe Breeden, Danny Hart, Adam Brayton, Laurie Greenland, fastest qualifier Matt Walker and many more pushing hard for the coveted National Champs title and the right to wear the Union Jack sleeve for the year.
Like Katy, Matt Walker also had a great start to the weekend with a comfortable win in seeding, meaning he would be last man down the soaked track. With times tight at the sharp end of the field and teammate Danny Hart sitting in second place, Matt had his work cut out for him when the green lights lit. Riding that fine line of caution and aggression, Matt took the win by over two-seconds. This was no small feat on a track that is only 2 minutes and 15 seconds long. Skill, composure and discipline all play a roll when the elements change at the last minute and the course’s traction is greatly unknown. Matt and Katy were able to hold it together while pushing just a little bit harder than the rest and will be flying the Union Jack with pride.