Downhill Varsity Race Report

Since I’ve been at uni there has always been a good association between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam cycling clubs. We’ll often meet a few of them out riding at Wharncliffe and there is the usual exchange of pleasantries. There is some rivalry as you’d expect but it is all in good humour and no one takes the banter seriously (We go somewhere you don’t go, UNI! UNI!, Hallam scum!, etc…). Having the surname Hallam is rather unfortunate and things can get confusing when you’re at Uni and the nasties are flying.

The varsity event is held each year to see which university is the best at various sports. Some are taken much more seriously than others and most of the venues lie in the city. However, in our case the competition is purely for fun and there are no spectators so the atmosphere is very relaxed, just like any other mates race.

The track we used on this occasion started with the top quarter of “Fast Track” and peeled off to the right after the third bus stop, continuing into what is known to me as “track with no name” or “1000 Deaths” by others (some people have no imagination). For those that don’t know Fast Track is a flat out, rocky section of track with small jumps into bus stops off of a push-up track. 1000 Deaths is tight and twisty with a couple of rock gardens and flat corners, also, the trees are quite densely packed which led to a few collisions and crashes.


Yeti Henry

Here’s a shot of Henry ‘Yeti’ Marsh during practice. Everyone that raced should be grateful to him for sitting it out and timing us!

For the first run the track was running almost bone dry as the small amount of rain from the previous night had either been absorbed into the parched earth or had evaporated. Despite this, very few people were happy with their run due to clipping/colliding with trees or just not hitting the lines they’d practiced. Ed Thomsett wasn’t really feeling it so just cruised and didn’t pedal on the flatter parts of the track. Andy Fowles was looking quick in practice but had a tentative run and clipped the odd tree. My run was similar as I just wanted a clean run, I was on the brakes too much in places so didn’t carry great speed in the tighter sections and also had trouble fitting my trendy, 762mm wide bars through the gaps.

During the brief respite before the push up for everyone’s second run a light rain shower began and continued until racing recommenced, this made the rocks on fast track slippery and greased up the last 50 meters of track. The poorer conditions led to more detrimental crashes, although, some people managed to improve on their times. Ed pulled his finger out and decided to put in a good time, this effort was hampered when he suffered a similar fate to others and came to a complete stop to give a tree some close attention. Andy had a crash in his run so there was no chance of him improving on his time. My second run was sketchy at the top after the drizzle, I rode well on the rest of the track and was on for beating my time by at least a second or two, until the last corner before the finish line. I took the inside line as I had done throughout practice but my front end washed out on a greased up root and I ate loam meters from the finish. A couple of others suffered the same misfortune almost at the identical spot.

Duncan was in Spielberg mode so didn’t take many still shots. Keep on the lookout for some race footage though, I’ve seen the clips and I can guarantee it’ll be a corker!

Oh yeah, results! – in short, Uni defeated Hallam!

For full results see below. WARNING! You may want to reduce your screen brightness and wear some shades. Henry made this in paint and he seems quite proud of it.


Varsity DH Results

Varsity DH Results

Stay classy Sheffield

Words: Ruari Hallam
Photo: Duncan Philpott

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Posted in Varsity 2011, Downhill