I spent last Sunday battling through mist and mud down a wooded hillside surrounded by a baying crowd. For that minute, I couldn’t have been happier.
Darren Wilson of the Eckington Trail Collective in the south of Sheffield put on a fund raising mates race, round 3 of a series, to get enough money in to hire in some serious machinery. Darren and the ETC have been negotiating with the land owners and have recently had permission from the estate to build a series of trails with a view to creating a legitimate bike park. This is a massive step forward for Sheffield and if Sunday was anything to go by, there’s already plenty of interest and potential.
Me and Mandy rolled up about 9:30 not quite knowing what to expect. I’ve ridden in the woods twice before but this was new track and it has been raining pretty hard for a few days. The spikes were already on the bike. Gordan Jould’s smiling face and pocky rear greeted us was we pushed up. He was already ruing the decision not to go a pick his wet screams up but said the course was good fun but hard work in the middle. At the top of the track Daz had an EZ Up and table ready to take our donations and give us our number boards. With racing starting about 11 we had a while to get some runs in. First time down the track we took it real easy and enjoyed the first set of flowing bermed corners picking their way around the trees. Crossing a fire road, things got a bit steeper as we traversed the hill side through a series of steep cut in corners and switch backs. This set us up for a the Somme, very reminiscent of this years SteelCity race, a long peddally flat section secreted with sniper roots and stumps under 5 inches of finest loam derived slop. Things got steeper after a long loose right hander with a couple of tricky corners to set you up for a big booter over a small gap which could be hit just as hard as you dared. Keeping the speed in to the bottom section through a couple of small drops and boosting out in to the finish field. A fun little track with a lot of time to be made of lost in the middle.
We sessioned the top and the bottom sections for a while before heading back to the top for the start of racing. The young guns were off first and Sam Taylor was first down the start ramp, he’s been looking good in practise. Jake Monk, Marco and Joe Mallo had made the effort to get over and were racing as had Dean Dobson. I’m afraid I don’t know many of the locals by name but Dom Bent was on hand to help with timing and Heckling and Chris Jones was looking pinned all day.
Race runs took a while but the new beam break system meant there could be no arguments over tenths and with 60 riders it was always going to take some time. I had a reasonable run and was knackered by the end of the peddling section. Mandy wasn’t so lucky and washed out on the first fireroad then had a lovely ball ride a bit lower down. We both had to get home so took the opportunity to ride a couple of the other trails in the woods. Making the most of the gradient they’re plenty to play on and we went home with a grin on our chops.
The racing continued though and everyone got a second run in before dark. Then KRad turned up with his Sound System and the fireworks were lit in an end of season toast the the future. The potential at Eckington is huge, they have a great hill to play on with plenty of room to fit in 5 or 6 tracks all with land owner approval. With the money raised from the race the diggers are coming in this weekend to start work on 2 new lines and improvements on others. However, there is a lot of hard work still to be done and a lot of it by hand. Please get in touch with Darren Wilson of the ETC if you can lend a hand or cash to their efforts.
Many thanks to Darren and the rest of the ETC for all their hard work putting on the race and thankyou for inviting us along, I look forward to the next time. Many thanks also to Laura Wilson from Never A Dull Moment for the great set of photos below, theres many more over on her Facebook page.