2 Jul 2013

RAF Downhill Team Training Event 2013

Blazing sunshine, a bone dry downhill track and efficient uplift. This rare combination provided the perfect backdrop for the 2013 RAF Downhill Team training event.
Ex World Cup racer and current UK Gravity Enduro Champion, Neil Donoghue, provided world class training for 16 racers from the RAF Downhill Team. Over two days at Antur Stiniog, North Wales’ most extreme purpose built downhill mountain bike facility, skills and techniques were taught to increase confidence and speed on the most demanding of terrain.
The group was split into two groups of eight: one advanced and one intermediate. Obstacles included: rough sections of bedrock, tight switchbacks, fast berms, vertical drop offs, long gap jumps and a twenty foot cliff face. Riders were coached in body position, line choice and “pump”: the art of generating speed without pedalling. The results were visibly apparent by the end of each day with riders carrying more speed smoothly through sections of track where previously they had been nervous and “sketchy”.

During the bike set up brief, Neil stressed the importance of running the correct tyre pressures front and rear depending on the conditions. Without exception, tyre pressures were adjusted and the results were startling. Despite the razor sharp bedrock shredding rubber, the group escaped relatively puncture free when compared to other trail users. Of course, Cpl Ian Churchill (RAF Leuchars) proved the exception to this rule by blowing a tubeless tyre after dropping off the cliff and bravely clearing both “doubles” accompanied by the hiss of high pressure air escaping from a rapidly developing “flat”!

The 16 members of the RAF Downhill team were accommodated at the excellent Joint Services Adventure Training Centre at LLanrwst. The weather conditions were perfect with clear skies, high temperatures and dusty trails.

Downhill mountain bike racing is extremely competitive and every advantage and opportunity must be exploited. It is not unusual for ten or more racers to finish within one second of each other. It was a rare opportunity for the RAF team to train with an instructor of Neil Donoghue’s pedigree and quality. His insights into race techniques and strategies were invaluable, providing a solid base on which to build for the future. The training event would not have taken place without the hard work and dedication of Sgt Nick “Pops” Larkin (RAF Benson) and the support of the RAF Sports Lottery.

The RAF DH Team competes nationally in the Combined Services Racing series which comprises the Pearce Cycles and Scottish Downhill Association series. In recent years, we have faced stiff competition from the Army and Navy. For the 2013 season, the team has secured a strong support package: Haven Distribution have supplied World Cup winning Devinci Wilson bikes, Decade-Europe provide clothing and equipment support from leading manufacturers like Royal Racing and 100% Goggles, Burgtec have provided British built handlebars and stems, J-Tech offer the team discount on vital suspension set-up and servicing and RSD Sports have designed distinctive new team jerseys.

The team is always on the lookout for new talent from within the RAF. For further information contact: dhsec@rafcycling.org.uk