Nobody could have predicted the amount of interest, excitement and enthusiasm that was demonstrated in Co. Meath on Sunday 27th Nov 2011 at the grand opening of the Ratoath BMX track.
A rider count exceeding 170 and a massive swell of spectators thronged the brand new venue and there was a real buzz of excitement and anticipation about the place during registration.
Food vendors and bike stands were on site, with a few classic 80s tunes blasting out over the PA providing a great atmosphere.
Many riders were sporting blingy new bikes including such back-in-the-day brands as Haro and Redline, and there were even a few classic Raleigh Burners swooping about the place.
Competitors were swapping stories of how they thought they’d get on, whether they’d roll or jump, pump or pedal etc.. regardless, everyone was there to have a good time, and they did exactly that, thanks to the excellent organisation and hard graft provided by the Ratoath BMX club.
Riders from all experiences, countrys and ages were zipping about the place, or in the case of the downhillers, doing a bit of riding then a fair share of posing 🙂
XC riders from EPIC, MAD and IMBRC clubs were to be seen sporting their club gear and “tiny” bikes, all finding the lack of suspension and triple the tyres pressures a little tough to get used to.
XC legend and old-school BMX rider ‘Rigid’ Mikky Dardis was rumoured* to have requested that sliddery roots, mud, rocks and a few uphill climbs be added to the course, but soon after finishing a practice lap hanging and gasping over the front of his 24″ Felt Sector Pro loaner-bike, his request was quickly retracted! (* = probably not true)
British national champion Kelvin Batey was seriously styling it up during practice showing everyone how a bike is ridden at professional level, in a brief interview with commentator Richie Byrne, Kelvin remarked on the amazing work put in to result in such a top quality track in a short space of time, the sheer numbers who had arrived to race and how he was really looking forward to the day.
Eamonn Wyer and Shay McNally and their crew of die-hards reaped the rewards of their dedication, vision and labour-of-love by providing an offroad cycling event quite unlike any other this country has seen in a very long time.
There were blue skies above for the whole day, and while it was a little cold, the riders acted as two-wheeled flamethrowers with the scorching speeds they were laying down on the finely manicured track.
Marshals were even brushing the track during the day to keep it in tip-top shape!
There was a rush to the fence when the moto-boards were posted and everyone was scrabbling for pens to write-down their moto number and gate position details.
The first moto was called-up around midday and there was a hush as the first wave of U7’s planted their front wheels firmly against the gate.
Richie listed off the riders names on the gate and called attention to the significance of the moment, it was unofficially reported that there was a tear in the eye of Wyer and McNally (big tough softies) as the kids readied themselves to make history down that first straight.
Then, the start sequence on the gate was initiated, the gate dropped with a CLANG and the young legends blasted off with a BANG!
A big roar and cheer from the spectator-stuffed berm edges powered the riders on their way, the look of intensity in the eyes of the kids in their big full-face helmets really was a sight to behold, as they pedalled their little legs off to scale the big jumps and rollers.
Shouts of “look at the track!” “look where you’re going!” came from parents and friends on the trackside as the young riders were so awestruck with the cheering they were getting, that they tended to focus on the crowd and not the track in front of them!
Reece Donohue was the first to the finish line and won with a convincing lead, followed by Matthew Fitzgibbon and Lee O’Sullivan.
And so the high-speed action continued all the way through the subsequent age-groups and and motos, with the motos going like clockwork, I don’t think there was a moment when a wheel wasn’t rolling in anger on that track!
As the sunlight faded, the semi-finals and finals concluded under the floodlights and the historic event drew to a close.
Rumour * has it that Shay, Eamonn and several other Ratoath club members were in a catatonic state once they got home, with a perma-grin of stoke and exhaustion on their face, unable to move, repeatedly mumbling “was it really real?”, “was it all a dream?”, “what year is this?”
Fellow Ratoath club legend Lar Massey was luckily able to jump-start them back into life with a few zaps from the defibrillator he had borrowed off one of the medics earlier in the day, (Lar is thinking of hanging onto the device to assist with his gate starts for the next race).
That’s all for now folks, looking forward to the next one already, and remember, ask Santy nicely for a new BMX for Christmas – it’s the best present you’ll ever get!!!
Click for Race results