Nicole Ritchie has set the target over the last few years in terms of being the one to beat at Hillend and the rest of the girls have raised their games. The records will show that Ritchie won the race with Eilidh Ryan in second and Carla Gardiner in third but this was a battle down the demanding hill and a race that saw experience of the hill a key ingredient to success.
After the first run, the Delancey British Alpine Ski Team member, Nicole Ritchie, found herself in the unaccustomed position of not being in the lead. Rising talent Eilidh Ryan had taken a commanding half second lead and Ritchie knew she had to react if she was to keep her proud record intact: Ritchie has won every Giant Slalom at Hillend since 2010. This was the most serious challenge she has had in that period.
Ritchie felt that she did not attack the first run but that it had been clean she explained. Mutterings of home slope advantages for Ryan did little to appease Ritchie. In essence this was the wakeup call that Ritchie needed. She is one of the older and more experienced racers in the field and is the hunted. In time the other racers have seen her as the one to beat and Ryan, five years Ritchie’s junior, put down a run that was worthy of winning the run.
The second run would see the pressure on Ryan and with Ritchie going second last, the Glasgow Ski Racing racer would be able to pile on the pressure for the younger Lothian Ski Racing racer. This would be good for both racer. Ritchie does not like losing and Ryan is starting to close the gap on her.
Ritchie put in a much improved run. Where she had just skied in places on the first run, she attacked on the second. The fact that Ritchie had not skied on the dryslopes for over a year, was forgotten as she posted a time almost a second quicker than any one else.
What could Ryan do to respond? Would her half second lead be enough?
Eilidh Ryan could not quite match the perfection she had put together on the first run and maybe the pressure got to her a little as mistakes crept in and her outside ski slide away from her at critical gates. Ryan did enough to hold on to second place but Ritchie was relieved to keep her record intact.
Carla Gardiner banished illness from her mind and talked after the race of a desire to race again on snow after taking third place with Claire Winthrop in fourth and Kate Taylor fighting her way into fifth.
While Hillend is one of only two slopes that are realistically long enough to race a Giant Slalom on in Britain, the enjoyment shown by all the racers, is always there to see.
The age groups were won by: Under 14 – Isla Ward (9th Overall); Under 16 – Beth Whatford (6th Overall); Under 18 – Eilidh Ryan (2nd Overall); Under 21 – Claire Winthrop (3rd Overall); Senior – Nicole Ritchie (Race winner)
Picture – Nicole Ritchie – credit Racer Ready – all rights reserved
Action pictures on www.racer-ready.ifp3.com