The RAF Downhill Mountain Bike team recently attended a training camp at Antur Stiniog
in Wales.

The week long event enabled 16 riders to receive expert coaching from professional Elite rider Neil Donoghue.  Three riders attended from RAF Coningsby; SAC Chris Goodwin, SAC(T) Paul Rogers and Sgt John Summerton.

Although the discipline of Downhill racing has been established in the UK for almost two decades, the RAF’s participation has been more recent.  As with other cycling disciplines, a CSR (Combined Services Racing) series is held each year in collaboration with a civilian race enabling the joint use of marshals, safety equipment and routes.  The Army have quickly come to dominate this discipline, their success due in no small part to their ability to train together.

By some miracle the weather in Wales was perfect and the uplift service ran faultlessly (you get a lift back to the top of the hill).  Neil’s advice was well received by all, from the most experienced rider to the most junior. At the end of the week everyone was clearly riding faster and with more confidence. The success of the training camp was not solely down to the coaching.  Bringing riders together from all corners of the Service was equally important as it allowed everyone to realise that they are part of a rapidly expanding and increasingly well organised team of talented racers.

To test out the teams newly found skills the Army kindly organised a regional race at Hamsterly Forest only three weeks after the training camp took place. 40 riders (including 8 from the RAF) made the trip to County Durham to compete on a novice and advanced course.  The format of the racing was simple; two timed runs down the hill with the quickest one counting. The fastest rider on the day was the winner. In the end RAF riders occupied seven of the top eight places on the advanced course with eighth occupied by a Navy rider. The Army didn’t get a look in. Hopefully this marks the end of an era of Army dominance and a new dawn of RAF success in down hill racing.


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