Pendle Proves a Breeze for Ryding & Watson

Snowsport England Grand Prix Series
Race 1 - NWSF Grand Prix
Sunday 3rd May, 2009

With the current financial squeeze biting harder than a hungry crocodile and general corporate belt tightening of Simon Cowell proportions going on just about everywhere the loss of Grand Prix series sponsorship was hardly the most shocking news of the winter. Indeed given the state of the once valued British pound and the doom and gloom overwhelming the foreign travel industry it would possibly have been more of a surprise should Inghams have not suspended their generous sponsorship of the event.

The sport however has to go on and so with a reassuringly chilly and extremely blustery Pendle Hill providing the first challenge for racers in 2009. With the exam season on the horizon and little time to train plastic post Meribel a somewhat sparse start list assembled at the top of the hill, snapped their bindings closed and commenced battle for 2009 Grand Prix supremacy.

In the girls race a familiar figure returned to haunt the ambitions of every female in the field. With a knee injury sidelining Pendle racer Jo Ryding for the best part of 2 years it was going to be interesting to see if the rest of the field had been able to close what was - pre knee injury - a somewhat dominating gap. Indeed was there anyone out there in a position to mix it with the best of the best on plastic?

The answer, when it came, was about as conclusive as it gets and 15.25 seconds after Ryding flicked the start wand open she metaphorically swatted away the rest of the ladies field with a genuinely classy display of power skiing. Only Telfordís Charlotte Gould managed to limit the damage to less than a second as Ryding re-established herself as the female to beat in 2009. A safe second run allowed the field to limit the overall time differential between themselves and the winner but a winning margin of 1.72 seconds proved to be pretty conclusive.

With Charlotte Gould unable to maintain the fine form of her 1st run and 4th placed Alexandra Bullock perishing on the bottom section of run 2 there was plenty of opportunities for the rest of the field to compete for the overall podium places. However, consistency proved decisive as Gloucester duo Charlotte Davies & Emily Goddard combined experience and speed to close out the minor podium placings.

In the categories Hannah Parker posted 3rd in the seniors behind Ryding & Goddard, whilst Charlotte Gouldís super first run proved enough to claim 2nd behind Davies in Jun 2 with Emily Dawes claiming 3rd. Charlotte Shrimpton proved to be the best in the Jun 1 field with Alexandra Greasby and Georgina Gould claiming 2nd & 3rd respectively. In the Childrenís categories Stephanie Davies edged out home racer Beth Widdup to claim the win with Nia Jenkins claiming 3rd. The closest category of the day however proved to be the youngest category as Beatrice Martin-Harrington edged out 2nd placed Megan Jenkins and 3rd Place Emma Peters by 0.05 & 0.20 seconds respectively.

Unlike the ladies the menís overall race proved to be a real tussle as Cardiff duo Andrew Watson & Tom Hales found themselves split by 0.04s after run 1. In run 2 third placed home favourite Andrew Roose turned the screw on the Welsh pair with a fine run & time and suddenly the pressure was on. Who would crack? Who would prevail? Penultimate racer Hales gave it his best shot but a time of 14.53 opened the door of opportunity for Watson. A door that was ripped off its hinges moments later as the younger Cardiff racer faultlessly basted to a time of 14.14 and the first of what promises to be a number of Grand Prix wins in 2009.

In the categories the podium threesome of Watson, Hales & Roose locked out the rest of the Jun 2 field, whilst in Jun 1 another Cardiff racer Samuel Stephens managed to build daylight between himself and 2nd Placed Swansea racer Ashley Richards with Kaigan Witts in 3rd. Indeed it was quite a day for the Welsh male contingent with Masters victor Rob Hales posting 10th overall and Colin Davies (tied 7th) ensuring that 7 of the top 10 men came from that pictuesque corner of England that is hopeless at football.

In the childrenís categories the Telford double act of Ashley Breese and Jordan Fellows claimed the honours with the Gloucester pairing of James Davies and George Davis 2nd & 3rd in the older category whilst the Pendle duo of Zach Burrow and Dougie Whitelock closed out the rest of the Chi 1 field.

However, this was most certainly Jo Rydingís day. After the horror knee injury that every parent and racers fear it would have been easy to pack the skis and boots away and never race again. Ryding isnít the average racer however and somehow I think that the rest of the girls field may well be reminded of this fact three or four times over the summer months.

The sponsor might have gone but the summerís premier series is, like Joanna Ryding, most certainly back.