What can I say? Looking back to the early days of mountain biking it looked as if the South Downs were the poor relation. All the best races were up north. In the early nineties there were a collection of journalists and UK manufacturers based north of Watford that dominated UK mountain bike scene, at least in the press. MBUK, despite being set up south of London, perpetuated the myth. However, as a South Downs rider I was lucky in that riding my home turf set me up nicely. It didn’t matter were the race was it was always easier than my training back here. Where else was slipperier? Who had the worst roots? Where else could you get a uninterrupted 200m climb? Where else was harder?
Sometime in the early nineties we had our first races at Stanmer. I can’t remember whether they were Nationals or SAMS but the racing came to us. My recollections are only of four things: incredible and over powering heat, rain and impossible mud, fantastic single track and lots and lots of pain. Time laps, the results team, even tested their computer based results system for the first time at Stamner in 1994.
Move on a few years and the Brighton Big Dog was established in 2008. By now the South was well and truly on the map with top riders, local journos, local brands (USE, Exposure, DMR, Kinesis, Morvelo, Fat Creations, Sick Bicycles, Chicken Frames, anyone else?), great shops and, the main thing, awesome trails. The Big Dog crew took all that was great about mountain bike racing and put it into an irresistible package. This ensured that the racing was really tough and of exceptional quality, but at the same time it could incorporate different levels of ability, including first timers, juniors and the elderly (me). We all race together on the same course at the same time: pro team, solo, mixed, old, young, whatever there is a category for everyone. The course is incredible in that offers some of the best and fastest single track that I have raced but laid out in such a way that there are countless places to pass allowing the better riders to sneak by some of the less experience. I still think that it is my favourite course. If you want to just “have a go” there is the Oneder Dog where you are timed over just one lap. The result is that the Brighton Big Dog is considered to be one of the best races on the calendar in the UK today and riders come from far and wide.
This year was no exception and for the first time I was able to race it. For us the only down side is that it is on a Saturday so that excludes most riders that work in bicycle shops (aren’t we an important part of the local cycle community too?). When I race I focus totally so was worried about the day but once our site was set up it provided a base for a big crowd of Worthing riders all concentrating on their own thing but happily sharing the moment.
If you are a local rider it is a must whether you compete or just soak up the atmosphere. Personally, I can’t go more than two minutes at Big Dog without seeing a friendly face and some that I haven’t seen for years or others that I know well that I meet on the course. It is a veritable festival of everything that is great about mountain biking, the South Downs and our wonderful local riding community.
Top marks must go to Team Blood, Sweat and Tears Mk2 for finishing first Female team. Well done Claire, Kate and Nikki. A big thanks must go to the organisers and especially to the marshals and paramedics. And well done to all that took part.
I was a bit disappointed with our result. We did well but due to one of our team getting injured it seemed to muck up the recording of laps so we only got 8 despite doing 9 with about 25 minutes spare. They say it’s more about the taking part but as a competitor you try your hardest and want to know how fast you really were. Still I am really proud of my effort and the speed of our team. Would we have been top ten without the crash? There is always next year.......
Here are a few more pictures. Natalie was showing off the bike that she built. Its a few grams heavier than mine but has 130mm travel, a dropper poats and set up as a trail bike, not bad at all. Nice job Natalie.
Martin was in full Quest Adventure matching livery but unfortunalety crashed out with concusuion and a broken scapula. To his credit he organised the team and did our fastest lab.
And here's the editor