This years Red Bull Foxhunt took us north, to Cavehill overlooking Belfast city. The Red Bull Foxhunt is a mass start enduro event where Gee Atherton sets off slightly after the rest of the pack of riders in an attempt to hunt down as many riders as he can before the finish.
This years course was extremely tough and with wet weather for a lot of the weekend it was only getting harder as the weekend went on. This event is a massive spectacle as anything that is run by Red Bull naturally is, with the race overlooking Belfast city it was definitely one of the most photogenic races in the world, hence the amount of pictures I have gathered from the event.
It was really cool to get to race in the public eye for a change, there were a lot of people at this event who have never seen mountain biking before and seemed really interested in the event and the racing. Hopefully this will encourage more people to get into the sport in Ireland as The Red Bull Foxhunt really brought mountain biking to the masses this year.
Well anyway, on with the racing. On the Saturday there was a qualifier race, this went relatively well for me. At the top of the first climb it was bar to bar with Gee Atherton, Glyn O’Brien, Andy Godfrey, Jimmy Mac Ferran and myself. Glyn got into the lead with Gee in second and slipped into 3rd. As the race went on the gap spread between alot of the riders. Andy Godfrey came from behind on the descent to take the lead and started a battle with Gee to the finish. I got passed Glyn and into 3rd. For the latter half of the race there was no one around me apart from Andy and Gee just within my sights, so I got into a good rythym and rode steady enough to the finish to conserve my energy for Sundays main event.
Sunday morning was a cold and damp affair but everyone was smiling around the pits in anticipation of the days racing. Upon arrival at the top for the main race we soon realised how big a race this was going to be, with crowds covering the hilltop and riders and bikes everywhere, it was quite a sight.
Everyone lined up for the start and the megaphone came out in the hands of Stevie Bell to give some kind (or not so kind) words of encouragement. The helicopter set itself hovering over us and the horn blew, 120 riders all set off flat out sprinting with elbows out and everyone aiming for that first singletrack. I managed to get a good start and slipped into the first singletrack in 3rd place. This was shortly followed by a sharp climb, on which I took over the lead, at which point Gee had made his way into 2nd place behind me. I held the lead for about a short time after this before getting cross rutted and crashing, this dropped me to 3rd place and the leaders got a gap on me. I passed Glyn O’Brien for 2nd place and couldn’t see Gee in the distance at all. We came onto the main climbing section of the course and I caught a glympse of him in the distance so got the head down and dug deep knowing he was within reach. I eventually caught him and made the pass at the top of the climb leading into another descent. At the end of this descent I made a mistake at a river crossing allowing Gee to catch right back up to me again, he then put a strong pass on me on the inside of a corner and regained the lead.
I knew that this was going to be a hard fought race, we were both gasping and groaning with exhaustion and had nothing left in us, whoever would win would truely deserve it as we were both giving it our all. Coming around the last corner into the finish area I managed to get passed Gee again, after very nearly crashing in the last 100 meters I managed to fend him off in the sprint finish and take the win. I was absolutely exhausted but delighted, I couldn’t believe that I had won the race and beaten one of the world’s best to do so.
Gee was wearing my GoPro for the main race so I stuck some of the footage together to make a little video of the race:
There is an official video due from the race so watch this space and I will post it when it is released in the next few days.
I didn’t think it would come to such close racing given the format of the race but it was great to have such a close battle with one of the world’s best downhill riders. Soon after we crossed the finish line there was a frenzy at the finish area with TV cameras, newspaper reporters and spectators all crowding around myself and Gee for interviews and pictures.
BBC news did a feature on the race, while it may not be all positive, all exposure is good exposure, right? Check it out here:
This race received massive media coverage in local papers, on the internet and just generally everywhere. It really was one of the biggest events of the year. Have a look here at just some of the media exposure that has come from this race so far, only two days after the event. I have also thrown in some extra pics and the ones already included in this post;
James from OC Suspension did a great job of keeping my bike running sweet all weekend and making sure everything went smooth for the whole weekend.