Andrew “Smiley” Watson demonstrated just why he is the best dry slope racer of his generation with a commanding victory in the third round of the 2013 GBR Outdoor Series at Pontypool. Watson was fastest on both runs of the race despite not having trained much this summer due to work commitments, yet he gave the rest of the men’s field a rude awakening as to just how much they need to improve. Chris Corr, one of the rising talents coming up the dryslope ranks took second ahead of another of the rising stars of the dryslope scene, James Sieber. In the girls race, victory went to Hannah Bozier with Alice Hales taking second and Ellen Hathway in third.
After having seen large fields in the Club Nationals at Gloucester the previous week it was disappointing for the organisers to see smaller fields assemble for the third round of the premier outdoor race series of the summer. Maybe now is the time for the governing bodies to understand that the racers are looking for more than just a two run race for their money. With slopes booked for the whole day on most occasions, innovations like Giant Slalom and dual slalom racing should be looked at to encourage more racers to make the step up to the top level of national racing. Snowsport Wales put on a great day fo racing and Pontypool is one of the best slopes in the country with its undulating slope and unique dogleg design.
With the first run set by Guy Hornsby, some poor decision making by some athletes saw a high number of racers crash out, including the course setters son, who managed to gather his sticks and skis together after a spectacular fall to cross the line albeit out of contention for the overall win. David Hatcher’s late entry had seen him start first of the men and he held the lead long into the top fifteen starters on the first run. Hatcher held on to finish fifth overall after the second run, Tom Hales taking fourth place, just under a second behind Watson’s combined winning time. There was an impressive set of runs by young Declan Huppach as he came from a start number of 27 to place 13th overall, Huppach is in his first year as an Under 16 racer.
In the girls race, the small field was reduced by one on the first run and then saw five of the top racers, including two of the leading three after the first run, fall out on the second run. As in the mens race, the competition was tough but the depth of competition was not as great as it could have been. The fickle nature of racers decisions as to what races they take part in proving decisive. Bozier was fastest on the first run and having heard first Emily Hopkins and then Sarah Lambden crash out on the second run, skied safely and securely to post the fastest second run time as well for the Overall win ahead of Alice Hales and Ellen Hathway. The winning margin was very impressive: 1.44 seconds. At the end of the day the best racers can only beat who is in the race. You had to feel for young Lolli Brooker in the Under 14 age group as she was the only racer entered in the girls race: Should she go hard and fast and hope that she did not make a mistake and crash or ski within herself to ensure she took the series points?
Once again, another great day of racing for all that made the trip to Pontypool. Well done to Snowsport Wales for putting on a great event yet it was sad that the elements conspired to deny the racers of the GS. The GBR Series needs to be innovative and having such races as part of the series is vital is encouraging racers to take part. The GS at Pontypool, one of the few slopes in the UK that is capable of holding a GS, is part of the scene, it should be part of the GBR Series.
Round 4 to come.
Click here to see pictures from the racing by Racer Ready