One hundred and thirty-four riders turned out in deep Errington Sunday for the 19th running of the legendary Hammerfest DH mountain bike race, and the face of the sport it seems is getting younger and faster.
“Oh yeah. Definitely,” said Hammer co-founder and Arrowsmith Mountain Bike Club president Kebble Sheaff. “It just seems the speed has gotten faster and the riders are getting younger, and by a huge leap, too. It’s like everyone over 30 has decided to stop racing.”
Not entirely true, but when you consider the Hammer has historically been the domain of riders 30 and over, and that there were only 10 riders in the Expert Men over 30, and only three over 40.
Former national team member and World Cup racer Dean Tennant, 23, from Victoria (he’s been the racing Hammerfest since he was 14) was the fastest rider on the day, blasting down the steep winding single track course in 2:37.38 for first in the field of 40 Expert Men.
Homegrown rider Jordie Lunn, 28, grabbed the number two spot at 2:42.64 for top local honours,.
Jeff Austin, 23, was third at 2:43.28.
For Lunn, who was a regular on the Hammerfest DH for years and a former winner, it was a blast from the past so to speak (it’s been at least five years since he last raced the ‘Hammer), earning a podium finish and also turning in the biggest jump of the day when he grabbed some monster air on ‘the big scary drop’ that had people gasping.
Emily Thy, 28, from Copenhagen, Denmark took first in Expert Women with a run of 3:53.85. Tamara Akerman, 26, was first over in the six-rider field of Intermediate Women with a time of 3:34.16.
Colin Grant, 16, was first in the field of 47 Intermediate Men with a run of 2:57.46. Connor Rix, 15, from Parksville was the top local in at 3:03.85 for 12th.
In the field of 33 Beginner Men it was 20-year-old Anthony Shut taking first at 3:08.62; Billy Garrow, 16, was second at 3:10.93, and Dillon Morrison third at 3:17.18.
Nine-year-old Tharen Markle, from Victoria, sure had people talking, as he was the youngest rider by far to finish the course Sunday, taking 12th in Beginner Men with a time of 3:39.30.
“We’ve had kids nine and 10 in the past do it but usually they start at 13, so yeah, that’s awesome,” said Sheaff.
Heather Mils, 35, was first over in the Beginner Women at 4:12.37.
Also back where it all started was former Qualicum Beach resident Craig Wilson, 33, who spent countless hours helping develop the Hammerfest course as a teenager back when it was just getting going. Wilson has been living in Whistler and while he no longer races, part of his job there is testing mountain bikes for the top manufacturers in the game.
The bike he was using on Sunday, a Santa Cruz carbon V10, is one of only four in the world.
“He doesn’t race anymore so it’s kind of nice that he came back to do it,” said a pleased Sheaff.
Wilson said he rode the Hammerfest Course a couple years back for fun, “but the last time I raced it was about seven years ago.”
“This is a challenging course,” he said after his last practice run, adding “it’s changed a lot — it’s a lot faster. It’s opened up, and it’s a great spectator course, for sure.”
In the end, Wilson settled for 15th in the Expert Men at 2:54.52.
“Another successful year,” said Sheaff, adding, “it was great. We had no hard crashes, a huge showing for volunteers, and it didn’t snow … a big thanks to Guy (Gavin), he’s the one that pulled it all together.”
“It was good — we were really pleased with how it went,” confirmed Guy, also a member of the host AMTB club.
Guy’s son, Reme, who became the youngest rider ever to win the Hammer DH when he did it in 2008 at the age of 15 with a time of 2:41, was missing in action Sunday as he’s in Italy racing on the World Cup circuit.
The Hammerfest DH is Stop #4 of the six-race Island Cup circuit.
For complete Hammerfest DH results go to www.islandcupseries.com.