St Helena’s first ever mountain bike race, on Saturday, was a big success, with local rider, Alonzo Henry finishing in first place, in a time of 27 minutes and one second.
More than 100 people gathered at the Millennium Forest car park to spectate and support the 13 riders who lined up to tackle the newly ‘constructed’ track. The route snaked around the beautiful ‘Paint Box’ and then an adrenaline injected downhill drop, carefully avoiding the prickly cactus bushes, finishing in the gut below Cox’s Battery. Then a gruelling uphill slog, to complete the looped track, finishing at the same point as the start.
Apart from some gasping for breath at the end, there were no serious injuries or accidents reported. Remi Bruneton took second place and Ross Leo finished third. The only female entrant was Hannah Lowe. The presentation of prizes took place at the Millennium Forest gate. Scott Thomas from Longwood collected a prize for winning the junior bike race through the forest.
“It was a brilliant event, I really enjoyed the course,” said winner, Alonzo. “The ride down into the valley was absolutely brilliant; coming up I would almost say it was too much!”
Youth rider, Louie Youde also found the uphill a “challenge,” but said, “I felt the beginning was quite good, nice and fast.”
A mountain bike race on a mountainous island seems obvious now, however, the idea to build the track and stage the event was introduced only recently by Tourism Director, Cathy Alberts. The success of Saturday’s well organised event throws up so many exciting possibilities for developing the sport as an attraction for both locals and visitors. This first race was set against the spectacularly rugged backdrop of The Barn and Horse Point, interlaced with colourful volcanic geology and the flourishing endemic forest. Yet the impact on the environment from this track was virtually nil. The thoughtful provision of a hot food stall, tea and coffee and the absence of alcohol all contributed to keeping the focus on the sport, making its St Helena debut.
Mountain biking was recognised as an official sport in the early 90s with a world championship event in Colorado, USA. It has since grown with major competitions all over the world with disciplines that include downhill, marathon and mountain bike orienteering. In 1996 cross-country mountain biking was added to the Olympic Games.
On St Helena, fresh new events such as SHAPE’s ‘Gravity Rush,’ swimming with whale sharks and now mountain biking, are slowly changing the flavour of the island’s event calendar. It’s an exciting time.
||This report and more in The Sentinel for 25 September 2014