Steel City Downhill – a LITTLE race living up to its BIG reputation

Following last years stellar event, Polaris were incredibly proud to be able to sponsor both the women’s and men’s Masters Category this year. Steel City Downhill is now well renown as the biggest little race on the calender and since Polaris is Yorkshire founded, born and bred it is an event that we just wouldn’t miss. This year not only did we sponsor two of the strongest fields in the race but we also fielded a strong Race Team of Oliver Watson (Senior Men),Ben Lord (Senior Men) and Lucy Follett (Master Women) and hopes were high that Polaris riders would bring the fire to the event.

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(Lucy Follett tearing up the Grenoside Track on her way to a top 10 Women’s Masters Finish)

This year the legendary Grenoside track was reworked by Biketrack.org making it challenging yet smooth and very fast.  The finish line is located where the 3,000 strong crowd swarm in bottom of the infamous  bomb hole. Polaris had prime position here to watch The Rat (Josh Bryceland) get down the track in an incredible 1.13 to secure overall first.

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(The Polaris Bikewear stand in prime position to see the close finishes)

We caught up with Anna Glowinski as she hung out on the stand in between runs:

This was my second steel city race, my first was two years ago when they had first really started doing a massive push for more women to race. This year the field had doubled in size, so the camaraderie and friendliness of all the racers was brilliant. I had so much fun! – Anna Glowinski (Sigma Sport / Team Mule Bar Girl)

The race boasts eleven categories, three of which are for women. The promotion to get more women involved paid off, with one of the biggest ever fields in UK downhill. 72 of the 300 riders were women, some racing for the first time and ranging from 10 to 71! The organisers have advocated equality in cycling with the cash prize split equally between the fastest men and women. Joey Gough who was 2nd fastest women through the speed trap comments on the atmosphere below.

This race really is unique, the crowd were amazing, making every rider feel like they are racing a World Cup!It’s such a fun relaxed event, it was great to see so many women racing, and winning a prize just topped it off! – Joey Gough (2nd Ladies Speed Trap)

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(Polaris rider Oliver Watson finding grip in the wet on his way to 3rd in Senior Men)

In comparison to other tracks, Grenoside is a reasonably short course, most events normally average around the 1.35 mark for a run. However Polaris rider Oliver Watson was no where near this mark due to a flying run of 1.21.38 in the wet on his second run of the day. Following a first run mechanical, he pulled on his steamed up goggles, sprinted out the gate and put in as many pedals as he could,  before playing it safe in the greasy turns to come home to a fantastic double podium for team Polaris.

Oliver reflects on his race runs below:

Coming into the steel city this year again was an exciting prospect, I had a top five result from last year I was intent on beating. Red-flagged 15 seconds into the track (a rider in front of me had eaten the dirt in a bad way) … the jitters came back as I pushed back to the top for a re run. Too enthusiastic perhaps, I then felt the tyre tear from the rim. Gutted, I rolled down the remainder of the run on a flat,still I threw in some jumps for the crowd! I’d placed about 30th with a flat and wasn’t happy as it began to rain. I thought all chances of a podium had all but disappeared as the course was greasy and slick at best as the rain had set it as I pushed my repaired bike up to the gate for a third time. I had an extremely tense wait at the Polaris tent as the rest of the riders put their second runs in. – Oliver Watson (3rd Senior Men Category)

(Video of team Polaris celebrating their double podium)

Polaris rider Lucy sums up below why this race is so important :

Peaty’s Steel City Downhill Race reflects everything that is great about living in Sheffield and being passionate about mountain biking. I race for fun and to push myself out of my comfort zone from time to time… This year I got to race for Polaris in their newly designed trail kit. My favourite piece was the perfectly fitting trail shorts which were just the right length, gave me lots of room to move and stayed really dry despite the drizzle in the afternoon. Looking very colour co-ordinated, I felt quite fast even before I left the start ramp! Despite the nerves, I managed 8th in a female masters category stacked with some superb riders (many local), so I was happy with that. I’m looking forward to next year and the possibility of an even bigger female turn out! – Lucy Follett (8th Masters Ladies Category)

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(Polaris riders  Ben Lord and Oliver Watson enjoying Champagne celebrations with Steve Peat)

Our male riders, Ben Lord and Oliver Watson stepped up their performance from last year to find themselves both on the podium following some tense runs.

To pack a small woodland out like they do is incredible, it’s almost daunting how busy and loud the crowd gets, so a win was awesome for me! I’d tell anyone who rides to get booked on next year, I’ll be racing again for sure – Ben Lord (1st Senior Men Category)

I’ve ever been so happy to finish third,  after putting down a decent run on a slick track that was good enough to put me amongst the faster times of the day. The best thing about the day was seeing Polaris rider and best friend Ben take the win. I’ve never been happier to have champagne sprayed in my face. Happy days! – Oliver Watson (3rd Senior Men Category)

One thing is for sure, Polaris will be back supporting Steel City next year and our thanks go out to Ride Sheffield and the incredible team (Steve Hardcastle, Nick Hamilton, and Henry Norman) that devote so much voluntary time into producing such a fantastic experience for racers and spectators alike. Also all of the money raised goes back into trail advocacy in the woods to ensure people can develop their skills for years to come and that is something worth shouting about!

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