If You Can't Take The Heat….

Well you were in the wrong place at Rossendale on Saturday.  Pure blue skies, blistering temperatures, and two ripping courses set along 200 metres of rumbling dendix were all that separated the nation’s best young skiers from realising their hopes, dreams and aspirations in the 5th and concluding Inghams sponsored Grand Prix of Summer 2008.

Indeed, with course setters Craig Ruddick and Lee Bennett setting 18 & 20 gate headaches respectively, it was fairly obvious that any exposed skin wasn’t just in danger from the sun gods. Get your inspection wrong, under-estimate the difficulty and technicality or simply fail to respect the challenge set and a trip to the matting loomed large. Like a walk through the lions den, one loss of concentration was sure to end in a bite on the backside.

Not that these were bad courses, quite the opposite in fact. Inspect properly, prepare thoroughly and apply all those little things that your coach keeps saying to you, and there was a route home. Add a bit of nous and experience into the equation and the racers who could find the right blend and were able to balance the equation were going to be fast and clean.

In the female race, previous winners Rachel Adcock and Emily Evans slugged out two runs of genuine heavyweight proportions for the victory spoils. Marginally behind Adcock after run 1, Evans produced a sublime 2nd run of courage and skill, three times looking in real danger of being spat out, the young racer utilised every ounce of her flexibility and balance to attack and increase speed where others may have looked to defend and scrub pace. A tactic that proved decisive as Evans overturned a 0.12s deficit to storm to victory and leave Adcock with the runners up spot.

In third place finished Alessia Thomas-Jackson who, with the whole series in her hands, produced one of the gutsiest runs of 2008, risking everything in search of the few tenths of a second she needed to turn the screw on Evans & Adcock. Completing the top five overall positions finished Charlotte Davies and Georgia Luck with 4th and 5th respectively.

In the categories, overall 6th placed Stacey Luck claimed the Jun 2 runners up spot behind Davies with Melanie Wilcockson placed in 3rd. In junior 1 Frances Bryon placed 3rd behind Thomas-Jackson & and Georgia Luck respectively. Charlotte Shrimpton posted her best career result taking 7th overall and 2nd in CH1 followed home by Caroline Powell in 3rd. Shrimpton’s Telford team mate Kelly Greenbank claimed top spot in CH1 ahead of 2nd placed Klara Hommel and Georgia Hallet in 3rd.

In the males race blown wide apart by the failure of a number of the pre-race favourites to negotiate both courses, Andrew Crawford again proved master of testing conditions placing himself in a position to strike with a faultless 1st run and then producing arguably the best single run of the season on run 2, magnificently slicing his way through Bennett’s minefield with sniper like precision, leaving the rocket launchers and mortar bombers behind him to fight for the minor placings.

In runners up spot Gerard Flahive ensured that his recent excellent form continued, again producing a wonderfully clean 2nd run to finish 0.30s behind Crawford with clear daylight between himself and 3rd placed Bromley racer Benjamin Clark. In 4th place overall (& 3rd placed senior racer) Colin Armstrong proved the old adage of there being no substitute for experience whilst CH1 racer James Grant simultaneously proved a young man can bring also an experienced head to the battle with a super 5th place overall.    

In the categories Sam Goodlass’s 6th place overall was good enough to claim top spot in Jun 2 in front of Tom Hales in 2nd and home slope racer Niall Misell in 3rd. In Jun 1 8th & 11th overall finishes were enough for Andrew Davies and James Milstead to claim 2nd and 3rd respectively behind Flahive whilst in CH 2, 9th & 10th overall were good enough for Samual Fairbarn and Richard Leeson  to claim category 2nd & 3rd places. In CH1 Ashley Breese produced a superb 7th place overall to claim top spot with team mate Jordan Fellows claiming 2nd and Nicholas Phelps in 3rd.

And so the final Grand Prix of the season had produced yet another stunning race for 2008. Amid the heat haze of a wonderfully sunny Lancashire hillside, spectators and racers alike drew breath, wiped perspiration from their brows, quenched their thirst and reached for the calculators.

Have they done enough? Did they achieve their aspirations and ambitions for 2008? Personally I hope that each and every one of them did. Amid the blood, sweat and cheers of Norfolk, Pendle, Sunderland, Suffolk and Rossendale we have all been privileged to witness the youth (and occasionally not so youth) of today doing what they do best. Making the very most of their talents.

If you can stand the heat…………..then you’re almost certainly a ski racer.