The West Australian State Downhill Championships is always one of the best events on the calendar and 2014 did not disappoint! After extreme rainfall on the Friday before the race, organisers Peel Districts Mountain Bike Club were nervous that competitors and spectators would face trying conditions. Fortunately the weather gods were kind and race day conditions could not have been better, with a recently dried track running very fast with good grip. Over 130 competitors saw a six year record broken and a huge number of spectators were trackside to see who would walk away with the crown of State Champion.

There was plenty of entertainment for the weekend with a friendly crowd, great racing, hot competition, and an awesome track with plenty of jumps. That’s not to mention local band Slick Rick and the Sunday Blues playing all day Sunday, fresh coffee available, Monster Energy truck, food and drinks as well as spot prizes and giveaways. Goat Farm Mountain Bike is always a favourite being close to Perth and having several great fun downhill tracks – the bottom sections are always a favourite for spectators – mainly due to the big jumps and high speeds. Primary event sponsor Carine Cycles provided a mechanic on Sunday to help with any urgent bike work as well as some demo bikes so anyone could get a feel for what the latest and greatest feels like.

 

Before the real racing began Sean Lee and Chris Daniel organised the Whip off Comp – 20 top competitors were selected and judged based on whips pulled in front of the big crowd being kept entertained by great music. In the end the top 10 were all very close but Jacob Parker (Georges Bike Shop Willeton) showed he isn’t just fast on a bike and took the win using a little bit of ET flair to get him over the edge. Dane van Ryt has style for miles and it showed – second place. Jordan Prochyra (Carine Cycles/ Giant) took third throwing all kid of shapes with his bike. Thanks to Malaga Cycles each of the top three took home great prizes.

On Sunday the real racing began! Live timing means the event is able to follow the World Cup format – qualifying was used to seed the riders in each category so that the fastest went down last, hoping to sit in the hot seat. Last rider down gets the pleasure of knowing straight away whether they have done enough. After racing was done the top 30 riders were then sent back up the hill to do one more run – either for the spectators or to try shave another second or two!

With a high calibre of competition it could have been anyones race – in the men Carl Pickersgill, Ryan Litterick, Jodan Prochyra (Carine Cycles/ Giant), Jacob Parker (Georges Bike Shop Willeton) and Sam Payet (Morewood Bikes/ Pushie Enterprises) were all in contention and in the womens it was looking to be a battle between Rachel Gaskin, Chelsea Blakers, Catherine Bonnet and Louise Wallace. All of them know what it means to win and had something to prove.

Jacob Parker (Georges Bike Shop Willeton) had a mechanical and was out of the race early which meant he wouldnt be able to back up his stellar 2013 result and crowd favourite Jack Madigan was injured in Saturdays practise – get well soon Jack. Qualifying showed the track was running very fast with times in the mid 1 minute 30s! Daniel Woodward jumped up a few notches on his qualifying run to sit in the hot seat for a short period, and finished with a strong result in 5th, making up the last place on the podium 1:34.175.  Luke Ball (Carine Cycles) has only recently returned from a serious injury but was able to hold his qualifying position of fourth despite shaving three seconds off his own time for a 1:33.671. Also going fast constant podium threat Jordan Prochyra (Carine Cycles/ Giant) came into third place with a fast and stylish run of 1:32.746. Shane Wode (Lusty Industries) hasn’t been seen much this year however was still able to put in a great third place qualifying which was then back up with a huge race run and a time of only 1:32.462!

With Wode sitting on the hot seat, fastest qualifier Ryan Litterick started smashing his way down the hill as the commentator asked “Will we see sub 1:30?”. It wasn’t to be, Litterick has a very fast run but his 1:32.462 couldn’t topple Wode’s time, leaving him in second place and Shane Wode the new WA State Downhill Champion! In the Top 30 race run, Prochyra went all out and got within .1 of a second of Wode’s time which was the second fastest time of the day. Payet also went faster than his race run, with the fourth fastest time of the day. Although there are no prizes for Top 30 they did get to spray some consolation champagne.

In the Elite Women there was a battle with nearly all the big hitters attending. A big field meant all the ladies had to push hard if they wanted a podium. Qualifying saw Chelsea Blakers fastest and coming down the hill last to try and protect her place. In the end finals followed the same order as qualifying with most riders saving some time. Penny Holmberg rode a solid 2:18.800 into fifth place, and WAMBA president Louise Wallce maintained her fourth spot with 2:16.663. Rachel Gaskin is going to be a serious threat in the future and made the jumps look effortless, airing into third place with 2:06.870. Just two seconds ahead Catherine Bonnet showed her technical skills and finished with 2:04.469 – one second faster than Blakers’ qualifying time! All eyes were on Chealsea Blakers as she stormed down, destroying her own time by five seconds in only 2:00.938 and being crowned the new WA Downhill State Champion!

In the Juniors Bernard Scott (Loose Riders Global Alliance) took third spot on the podium with a time of 1:40.387. Bill Carruthers (Georges Bike Shop Willeton) has been winning all year and looked great coming down the track with a time of only 1:38.372. Noone was able to get close to winner Alex Jaeger (Carine Cycles/ Straitline), his time of 1:35.495 would have placed him 7th in Elite.

The Single Crowners was wide open with solid contenders Kose Michielsen (Carine Cycles) racing in a different category and Graeme Adriaens on holiday. Jimmie Pritchard pedalled like his life depended on it with a ridiculous time of 1:33.749, nearly eight seconds faster than second placed Jamie Dunlop! Expert was won by Chayse Pengilly on 1:37.053, Adrian Walsh took home the title in Vets 1:38.220 and Shane Dobson wanted it more than anyone else in Masters and took the victory 1:41.232. Tyrell Akers made his last race in Australia count winning the tightly contested Sport category with 1:45.107.

In the Under 17s Aaron Leagas (Loose Riders Global Alliance) continued his winning streak (by only 0.3s!) with a 1:39.686. Yuliang Seow amazed everyone with his huge jumps and won Under 15s 1:45.046 and Nicholas King won Under 13s with a solid time of 2:14.735 – the Under 13s will be beating everyone else before we know it.

The event could not have happened without all the supporters of the event and the Peel Districts Mountain Bike Club – special thanks to all the amazing volunteers on the day, the Club Committee for their tireless work, and Club President Paul de Klerk for organising the whole thing.  Sponsors also deserve a huge round of gratitude - Carine Cycles, Giant Bikes, Malaga Cycles, EMR Suspension Servicing, G-Form, Bike Fixer Perth, Morewood Bikes, Lusty Industries, WAMBA and Hanson Construction Materials. WAMBA also need a special mention as thanks to a grant they provided Peel was able to purchase tools and equipment that allowed the event to be set up efficiently and safely.

The 2014 Western Australian Downhill State Champions have been crowned and congratulated, the champagne has filtered into the ground, title jerseys are being worn and we already can’t wait until next year to do it all again!

There is still one Club Downhill race, one State Downhill remaining this year, before we head to Pemberton for the season finale Roller All Mountain race and Race Series presentations and awards night. More information can be found at pdmbc.com.

Sam Russell

Photo: Chelsea Blakers