Aston Hill was the venue for this the fourth, and probably
best so far, round of the SAMS. Aston Hill has a permanent all weather(ish) course
which you can ride all year round. The course, maintained and run by the Aston Hill
Mountain Bikers club, is probably the finest disignated mountain biking in the south
at present. The course is almost entirely through woodland giving it its all weather
status, although this weekend sunshine was in abundance, or at least for the downhillers
anyway. It main have been wet for the XC boys, but hey!
The start featured pedally top section through woodlands before dropping accross
the fire road and into the bombhole section. The drop onto the fire road was hairy
enough to ensure that maximum instablility had been reached by the time rider hit
the bombholes, and many a rider experienced the full effect of high speed body/ground
interfacing. The bomb holes at Aston hill are doglegged, first slightly bending to
the right, and the second sharply to the left. whilst the first is negotiated with
some ease the second requires a bit of a mid air turn as you fly from the first to
the second to ensure you can exit the second with the greatest posible speed. James
Allaway (Santa Cruz/Stif) showed us all how to do it by taking a line around the
outside of the first hole to allow him to be lined up for a smooth entrance into
the second without needing to collect air miles on his way through.
From here on the trail skirts the top of the hill, only really pretending to be on
a slope. Luckily its smooth and straight enough to carry good speed but some pedalling
is still required. At the end of this flatter part the hill really gets going with
a dropping right hander into a berm with takes you into the switch back section.
Its fair to say the switchbacks are steep, rooty, and real tight. Add to this the
fact that theres four in the space of about 30 yards, and you see why this is a part
of the course where runs can really be made or broken. Out of the switchbacks riders
shuffle uncomfortably accross loose and mostly traction free chalk, through the poorly
named Cocaine Alley. Descent of the hill is quick, but with a reasonable length to
it, and from here and the bottom of the hill comes up rapidly as trees and spectators
merge into a blur. At the bottom riders scoot across another fireroad and briefly
wall ride a bank on the other side before crossing the finish line.
All in all it was a good course, only really let down by the fact that there is a
bloody big walk back up the hill after your run and there was no transport.
The Elite men’s category was won by James Allaway (Stif/Santa Cruz), posting his
4th podium place of the season finishing in 1:34.38. Second place fell to Welsh regular
Gareth Hopkins (Team Skene) followed by Paul Everrett (Grossman Attitude). A fine
performance from Ian Daniels showed that even the older generation can still find
a turn of speed when they want to. Taking the fastest time of the day with a best
run of 1:33.69 in the Masters category.
The full report with complete results listings can be found on the ukdownhill site.