What we learned from Dave, the Downhill comp #1
Track (location and layout)
The track at Dave worked really well. It was a ‘medium’ track which meant that is was gentle enough for novice riders to feel ok some of the time and challenged some of the time, and for pro riders to gun it all the way and enjoy it. The location of the track (just off an A road) meant it was easy to find and not too far away from civilisation.
Obviously, timing at a DH comp is really important. We used a simple synchronised clock system that has been around for decades (maybe even longer, who knows?). The advantages of this system is that it is really really simple and it doesn’t require any communication between top and bottom. What it does require, we found out, is reliable switched on people running it, and doing the calculations. Well, as I found out, a simple spreadsheet can do the second part. Formatted as ‘time’, the spreadsheet will do calculations that we can’t do with a calculator (because our system for measuring time isn’t decimal). The spreadsheet can be run on a laptop, which then brings in the issue of power on the side of a hill, on even on a smart phone. Now that’s truly the future of DH comps.
When the track is over a mile long an uplift is essential. The idea setting off six riders and following the sixth one down in my car to bring them all back up before setting off the next six was, I think, a good one. Although I’m not sure why it didn’t work out that way. It provides a safety check of all the riders and makes them easier to manage as they are in smaller groups. Having a big uplift to get all the riders to the top in one go has obvious advantages. The main disadvantage is the cost of hiring in a 4×4 and trailer, van or minibus. The other problem with uplifts like this on tracks like this is that it needs to drive up the same track that the riders are coming down (although hopefully not at the same time). Can’t really see a way around this one.
Dave was run with just two staff. One at the bottom recording finish times, and one at the top to record start times and drive the uplift. Compared to BX comps which take ten times the staff, DH are already pretty streamlined in the (human) resources they require to run. Having more organisers would certainly help, especially with things like live scoring (see below) and splitting the job of driving the uplift and running the top of the hill.
Suggestions for improvements made by the riders include some kind of live scoreboard so they can all see their times, which seems simple enough with a wipeboard or paper and pens.
The idea of having three DH comps next year is still very much top of my to do list at the moment. Dave seems to be easy enough to replicate next year, we’re just going to have to try to get in with the town committee and see if they can get around paying the FC loads of money. Scotland seems very likely as there are a very riders up there who want to get it sorted. And the Lake District is a possibility, although only on the back of an off-hand conversation with the ranger of Whinlatter Forest, but I’ll be following that up shortly.