Straight out of the blocks and Josh started the season as he meant to go on, with a win at the opening round of the British Downhill Series (BDS) in Combe Sydenham. It was a fantastic start to the race season considering the team was just an idea at the start of the year. It’s no mean feat to go from an idea to the top of the podium in the Expert Category in three months, phew! We are lucky that we are sponsored by and energy product!
From the south coast of England we headed north to the Scottish Highlands for the second round of the BDS in Fort William. With plenty of World Cup Downhill regulars in attendance it was a fast and furious weekend on the mountain. Unfortunately a front puncture in Josh’s race run, just over a minute into the track put paid to any chances he had of a podium repeat. Fortunately it’s four from five rounds that count t the overall, but it’s still a really long drive home after a disappointing result like that!
Round 3 was always going to be a tough one, falling right in the middle of Josh’s A-level final exams. Had he done well in Fort William the plan was to miss this round so he could focus on his exams. To be fair he managed to forget the pressure and focus on getting his championship challenge back on track. Josh finished in seventh place with the top 10 split by a matter of seconds; it was good to get some more points in the bag and get Josh home in one piece to finish off his exams so he could focus on his racing for the rest of the year.
With his A-level’s complete it was time to hit mainland Europe with a trip out to Leogang in Austria for the first round of the IXS European Cup Downhill. The IXS is a stepping stone between the BDS and the Downhill World Cup. With the opening round of the World Cup in Fort William also in the middle of his A-level Exams it was the first time this season that Josh would test himself against the best in European downhill racing. Coming home in 37th place against such a talented field underlined Josh’s potential.
Then it was back to the UK for the fourth round of the BDS series which took place at Llangollen in North Wales. Llangollen is a fast and twisty track that suited Josh from his first practice run and he was flying down the track in practice. Going into the race it was his to lose and for and for the second time in the season Josh crossed the line with the fastest Expert time to take another win and really ignite the race for the BDS Expert series title.
With Josh moving to from the junior category to expert in 2013 the aim of the year was to move straight through the category and get a converted place in the Elite category for 2014. With Josh leading the British Cycling rankings at the mid-point of the season and with two wins at the BDS series already in the bag there was a real possibility that this would be a very achievable goal.
With that in mind the British National Championships were the first chance to see how Josh would fair against the best riders in the UK. Whilst at the BDS there are categories based on age and ability for the National Championship only the rider’s age matters. With one senior Championship category Josh was up against the best. Not only the best in the UK but with Gee Atherton leading the World Cup Downhill Series and racing legend Steve Peat looking for a ninth British title the best racers in the World were in attendance too.
Practice went well and Josh qualified inside the top 20 achieving the first target for the weekend. In the finals he put together a near perfect race run to stop the clock on 3.35.16 good enough for 18th place and a sign of things to come in 2014.
With the World Cup heading back to Europe, Josh had done enough to earn a converted place on the Great Britain Mountain Bike Downhill Team and was eligible to race at round 3 in Vallnord, Andorra. If it’s a step up racing in the IXS Series it’s a leap to racing the World Cups. The first target is qualifying and with only 80 places on offer for the men this isn’t easy. Unfortunately a puncture in qualifying put paid to Josh’s chances. It wasn’t the end of the world though, just the end of a frustrating weekend.
Off the back of the World Cup it was straight back into IXS action. With a point to prove Josh headed to Pila in Italy for round 3 of the IXS European DH Series. Pila has a monstrous downhill track that’s a favourite with the World Cup racers. Coming home in 46th place in a stacked field of over 200 riders Josh chalked up another great result. From Italy the team travelled to Switzerland to race round 4 of the IXS series on the popular Wiriehorn track. Again Josh pushed his Trek Session to its limit for the whole weekend and finished in 44th place, closing in on his target of a top 30.
Back in the UK it was business as usual at finals of the British Downhill Series in Bringewood. Josh came home in 6th and secured second place overall in the series. Whilst he was so close to wrapping up the overall title, second was an amazing achievement in his first season as an Expert and would be enough to guarantee him a converted place in the Elite category for 2014! “Job done” as they say.
The season wasn’t over though and it was time to head out to Chatel, France and round 6 of the IXS European Downhill Series. Chatel is like a home from home for Josh and he had high hopes of showing just what he was capable off. However the weather had other ideas and it threw everything it had and more at Josh and the track in the form of a monstrous alpine thunder storm just before Josh’s run. The fact that he slipped and slid his way to a 52nd place finish just shows what could have been.
With the World Cup Series starting late in 2013 there was still two rounds to go! The first stop was at Hafjell Bike Park in Norway. It’s another monster of a track with some massive jumps up top and it was an instant favourite with Josh. He was again chasing that covered top 80 qualifying position and he came home in 88th just 2 seconds off of qualification, a move in the right direction, but so frustrating to miss out by such a small margin.
There was no time to think of what could have been though, as Josh travelled from Norway to Austria for the following weekend and the World Cup Finals in Leogang. All eyes were on the 2013 overall title chase, with it coming down to straight fight for the overall series honours between Gee Atherton and Stevie Smith.
For Josh having raced here earlier in the season he had high hopes of securing that covered top 80 qualifying slot. However so did many other racers and with 160 plus riders chasing 80 qualifying slots it was always going to be a tough weekend. Josh came home in 127th not the result he was hoping for, especially considering how close he’d come the weekend before. Never the less, it was another valuable weekend of racing experience in preparation for 2014.
At the sharp end it was Canadian Stevie Smith that edged out Gee Atherton in a thrilling finale to the series to take the win that wrapped up the men’s overall title. It wasn’t all bad news for the Brits/Atherton’s though, as Gee’s sister Rachel Atherton won the women’s 2013 World Cup Downhill Title. Dominating the series and adding the Downhill World Cup Series title to the World Championship title she’d won earlier in the year.
At the end of September as the domestic race season was fast becoming a memory, there was still the final of the IXS European Downhill Cup to come. Maribor in Slovenia is another legendary European track and one that has a reputation for being fast and furious. Yet again the weather had other ideas and a wild weekend of racing awaited all the competitors. For the second IXS in a row Josh slipped and slid his way down the track, this time to a 51st place finish. Leaving him to wonder as to what might have been had the conditions not been so epic! Josh rounded out the IXS European Downhill Cup in 58th place and 6th British finisher.
Heading back to the UK after a long hard but very rewarding season Josh rounded out his year of racing where he’d started it back on top of the box at Penshurst with a win at the final round of the PORC downhill series.
What a season! 5 wins a stack of top 10 finishes, second overall in British Downhill Series and British Cycling’s Expert National Rankings. Along with promotion to the Elite Category for 2014! Thousands of miles travelled and hundreds of miles ridden in training and races. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a good job we are sponsored by an energy product!
Blockhead Energy Chewing Gum launched on the 1st May 2013 – made from a brand new gum technology, Blockhead energy gum increases concentration and performance and it’s digested 5 times quicker than an energy drink. One pack of 10 gums is comparative to 4 cans of energy drink! At £1.95 per pack they are great value for money. For more details see www.block-head.com
Firecrest Mountain Biking provides skills and fitness consultancy providing a range of mountain bike skills courses on Aston Hill for riders of all ages and abilities along with fitness and performance coaching for keeping fit through to racing professionally.
To find out more about Blockhead Energy Downhill Team and Firecrest’s range of MTB Skills courses click over to the website www.firecrestmtb.com
The Blockhead Downhill Team was sponsored and supported in 2013 by Blockhead Energy Chewing Gum, Firecrest Mountain Biking, IMB Magazine, Trek Bikes, Kali Protectives, Speedsport, Tesa Tape, Shoretrax Portable Mountain Bike Trails, Lezyne and Whackjob Clothing. We’d like to thank all of our sponsors for their support throughout the season.
For the Blockhead Energy Gum Downhill Racing Team the adventure continues! See you at the races in 2014!
We are currently seeking sponsors for our 2014 race program if you’d like to work with one of the most dynamic and exciting race teams on the circuit then please get in touch. E-mail email@example.com