Red Bull Foxhunt: Day One
In a typically Welsh way, a giant storm arrived at the camp the night before proceedings got underway. The wind kept most of the campers awake and the rain was testing the waterproofing of my hastily bought tent to its limit.
Unfortunately, my tent turned out to be only drizzle-proof resulting in my airbed turning in a water float and my towels into water retention devices. As the water levels continued to rise in my tent throughout the night so did my apprehensions regarding the status of the track. The tension amongst the ladies kept growing on Saturday morning and after a briefing, we all headed out in uplift vans to the top of our first try of the descent. It was good to see that the team behind Antur Stiniog were responsible for shuttling duties this year.
We were dropped off and after a 10-minute pootle up the hill, we were at the top. After fully submerging your feet in the deep mud around the start it was time to try out the 2017 Red Bull Fox Hunt track.
Red Bull Foxhunt: The Track
From the starting point, the track weaved through moorland over the top of the hill intermixed with tight corners and steep grassy descents. Coming down off the top, the riders entered the forest which is where we were properly introduced to the aftermath of last night’s rainfall.
There was mud. A lot of mud. The mud had me quickly ripping off my mudguard as my wheels squelched to a halt. The track narrowed becoming single file and making swift progress very often depended on what was happening out front. At the start of the forest, there was a small hip jump that led to the first of many lines with a rollable drop and rocky features, the alternative was an easier B line, though in the thick slop it was difficult to tell which line was easier.
If you managed to keep your wheels rolling, or like me gracefully tripoded down the slopes, you were met with another option of either an A-line involving a drop that you could roll (or at least it is what Rachel told me) but you really needed speed to get to it as the drop was just over the brow of an off-camber uphill. In increasingly greasy conditions, the track flowed into two steep muddy corners that, even on the first day, seemed fairly rutted as a result of rain.
If you survived the quagmires along the way the final part of the track opened up a little bit with a rocky canyon-like chute filled with mud (and riders) and a turn across the crest of a hill that led you to a muddy bottom section that would test the riders stamina as they churned their way through the slop to the finish line. If it wasn’t’ clear there was a lot of mud on the track.
Because of the way the track was put together, there was little chance to test the track and re-do technical features. The tight nature of the middle section of the forest meant you had to wait a significant amount of time to try out a section and it was hard to piece it all together.Whilst it was slow going it was vital to make sure that everyone had a go at the trickier sections without any pressure or hurrying, with amazing coaching from both Rachel and Katy along with the way. “Keep it loose” and “let go of your brakes” could be heard echoing around most of the technical features throughout practice.
After a quick break for lunch, we all headed back to the top to do our seeding runs. This year it was not an absolute requirement to do a seeding run however for many riders it was probably the first time that they managed to put a run together, so it was definitely worth a try.
After a bike clean and a shower, the mud free girls gathered in the tent to eat a delicious dinner, cake and chat to Rachel and Katy. Both of them were lovely and made every effort to help out the hundreds of women with the following day’s race looming over them. The pro girls provided helpful insight into bike setup, getting loose and letting off the brakes. All of which would be key to getting down in one piece come race day. We watched a film and the party finished fairly early as everyone was tired after a long day of riding and sliding.