Ritchie returns to win Slalom at Hillend

Nicole Ritchie returned from a summer training camp in Argentina to one of her favourite hills to successfully defend the Scottish National Dryslope Championship title. Ritchie was the leading female racer in the field and while Claire Winthrop took second it was Isla Ward in third who had most of the large crowd talking about: Ward was racing in her first Scottish Championship races in the Open field.

While much of the talk in the weeks leading up to the races had been on the clash with the English Championship race, Ritchie is one of the leading racers that competes on the Indoor snow surface as well as on the dryslopes as well as successfully on snow during the winter. Ritchie had it all to lose by competing but she did give the rest of the field a measure of just how far they still have to go if they want to be successful in ski racing.

The first run saw two of the expected challenges to Ritchie crash out as both Eilidh Ryan and Carla Gardiner both made errors on the infamous wall and saw their chances of a result in the only zero penalty race in Scotland this summer evaporate. The Hillend slope can be very harsh to racers but it is a supreme challenge to the racer that is not seen anywhere else in the UK. It is the longest and steepest slope in the country and a challenge when trying to ‘tame’ the hill at breakneck speed!

Ritchie took a lead of over nine-tenths of a second into the second run with Winthrop chasing her. The perfect conditions were great and provided promise for attracting and keeping racers in the sport. The field may not have been great in terms of numbers but gives the sport a solid foundation for the future.

Isla Ward had made the jump up to the Children’s age group from Lassies (Minis / U12) racing with ease and in posting the third fastest time on the second run she moved ahead of Jemma Clarke and Beth Whatford and onto the Overall podium, not bad for an Under 14 racer! Whatford crashed on the second run dropping her out of contention and Clarke finished fourth with Holly McKey taking fifth.

The promise Ward has shown is great for the future. The problem for the sport is to keep athletes like her involved in the sport especially when bigger sports come calling with their larger budgets. Ward is one of the leading snow racers from the Lassies age groups and will be a force to be reckoned with on the snow scene this winter.

The gap between Delancey British Team athlete, Nicole Ritchie who won the race, and the rest of the field may be large to the naked eye, the watching Finlay Mickel, ex World Cup downhiller and now coach explained, her performance gives the younger racers a heads up in showing them how much more work they have to do to get to the same level.

The age groups were won by: Under 14 – Isla Ward (3rd Overall); Under 16 – Jemma Clarke (4th Overall); Under 18 – Sophie Ross (10th Overall); Under 21 – Claire Winthrop (2nd Overall) and Seniors – Nicole Ritchie (Race winner)

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Picture – Nicole Ritchie – credit Racer Ready – all rights reserved

Action shots will be on www.racer-ready.ifp3.com