8.30am, Sunday 18th September. As the riders and teams walked onto the Red Bull Hardline site for the race day showdown cloud was hanging low over the valley, it made for some amazing pictures but the riders welcomed it more as an alternative to wind!
Tim Warwood and Adam Gendle were on the mikes welcoming the first fans but there was a palpable sense of expectation and a few tired faces - none of the riders had slept much last night.
Course creator Dan Atherton said “ I’m nervous, I think all the riders are nervous, last year we seemed to have more practice crashes , this year there were fewer crashes, but bigger crashes, it’s a shame that we have to go through that process, I didn’t sleep much last night – not sure anyone did. “
Gee had a crash in practice, he came off over a rocky outcrop, landing on his injured shoulder and had to stay down for treatment, Mark Wallace was waiting for a new bike so Qualifications saw just 12 riders take to the hill.
The riders were clearly enjoying themselves with Sik Mik Hannah pulling three suicide no handers on the way down. Al Bond had a small crash near the end of the course but everyone made it down in one piece and the excitement began to ramp up off the scale.
Bernard Kerr 3.36.51
Adam Brayton 3.39.39
Ruaridh Cunningham 3.41.97
Taylor Vernon 3.43.69
George Brannigan 3.45.00
So to finals..
First up was Gee , the crowd weren’t expecting too much after this morning’s re-injury but Gee flew down in 3.35.97, a time that was faster than the winning qualification time and enough to keep him in the hotseat through the next 10 out of a total 14 riders.
Mark Wallace and Al Bond put in clean runs but came in after Gee, Graeme Mudd knocked his leg on his gear shifter and was scared coming into the Jeep Renegade jump that he wouldn’t have the speed, he cleared the jump and put in a clean run but wasn’t in contention, and then Dan Atherton was on course.
Dan had been so nervous all week, not only for his race run but for all of the other riders. Once he was on course he looked totally relaxed and super-stylish, it wasn’t the fastest run, enough for 13th on the day but Dan was very happy.
He said “ All these guys have come off a World Cup season so for my run I knew I couldn’t compete for speed but I just wanted to have fun, to find my flow and I did that so I really enjoyed it. “
Mik Hannah was still having fun too, he was unable to resist another no-hander to finish, crossing into second , enough for an eventual 6th.
Eddie Masters had a good run – crossing into third, then it was into the top 5 with George Brannigan crossing into 2nd in 3.39.14 enough for eventual 5th
Our Trek Factory Racing team-mate 19 year old Taylor Vernon finished his run with a cheeky whip enough for 9th today Taylor said “ I was so scared, I did enjoy it , through being scared but it was a bit of a leary ride! I rode like a squid in the middle – just happy to be down!”
Last year’s winner Ruaridh Cunningham was 1.21 from Gee at split 1, 2.03 back at split 2 but he flew through the bottom section and the crowd went crazy as he crossed into the hotseat in 3.34.86 - over a second up on Gee.
Ruaridh said “ That was a wild run, I lost quite a bit of speed out of the woods and it made me angry – I had to talk to myself and say that’s not how you ride this! It’s been a blast”
Adam Brayton was fast, but not quite as fast as Ruaridh, into 2nd. Then fastest qualifier Bernard Kerr was on course, Bernard had said that he was here to win and he made good on his promise, a second down on Gee’s first split time but ahead of Ruaridh he stayed in the green at split 2 and crossed in 3.32.46 – Winner of the third Red Bull Hardline. By 2.4 seconds.
I Bernard Kerr 3.32.46
2 Ruaridh Cunningham 3.34.86 +2.4
3 Adam Brayton 3.35.50 +3.04
4 Gee Atherton 3.35.97 +3.51
5 George Brannigan 3.39.14 +6.68
So the final word of the day has to go Dan who said “ It was an honour to have these riders come from all over the world to ride this event and to be able to ride with them, it’s so good to see these guys I’ve raced with my whole career on our local turf, it inspires me to keep progressing the event. “
Red Bull Hardline Final Rider List
1 Ruaridh Cunningham
2 Joe Smith
3 Bernard Kerr
4 Adam Brayton
5 Al Bond
6 Gee Atherton
7 Graeme Mudd
8 Mick Hannah
9 Dan Atherton
10 George Brannigan
11 Brook Macdonald
12 Eddie Masters
13 Mark Wallace
14 Taylor Vernon