Two weeks after receiving an invitation to race at the Red Bull Dark Knights, I confirmed with sponsors and fans that we would be going for the worlds only night time urban downhill race….
Wednesday 1st June was the date set to start the 16 hour long journey to Singapore. As usually the first few hours were spent on UK motorways sitting in traffic on a rammed coach! After this things perked up and the flight turned out to be pretty empty meaning a nice row for my lanky legs and extra food to maximize my carbohydrate levels. Upon arrival at the Changi international airport I was greeted by Rob who recently joined the Orange family and is now importing Orange mountain bikes into Singapore. Couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming guy to meet me after such a long journey. Rob took me for a spin around the city taking in some of the highlights of Singapore.
Friday was a critical day to boost energy levels and check bike set up ahead of tomorrow’s showdown. We ran through some tyre testing and it turned out I needed to adjust pressures to cope with the sweltering 35 degree celsius heat. We had a quick look at the track area before getting an early night, tomorrow was going to be a very long day.
Race day! We headed to the track for riders briefing at 8am. The head commissioner ran through some of the courses most dangerous areas and also read out the rules! The track walk was done in groups of 20 as the full field of 400 riders wouldn’t fit down the tight corridors! Course looked good and the adrenaline was starting to flow… Rain settled in and it looked like a wet race was ahead of us for the entire day. This delayed the start of the practice runs but keeping mentally positive was vital.
The riders were not keen to be the guinea pig tackling the course as the first rider so I stepped up and got a full run in on the treacherous surface. The bike handled remarkably well considering the horrible conditions, I managed to get 2 full runs in before heading to the riders paddock to rest and prepare for qualifying.
Qualifying run was a smooth and safe one, all I needed to do was be in the top 100 riders to make the next round. Managed to qualify in 1st place setting the course record at 1.10.007 just 0.073 ahead of the Indonesian pro rider Chee Keong Ng.
The ‘top 100’ round went well and I took 1st place again setting a new course record of 1.09.768. Starting to feel confident and relaxed now! Next round was the top 40, this was the semi final and only the top 10 riders would qualify for the final round. I resorted to my plan in the first qualifier; play safe and get into the top ten. This would ensure I still had energy to use in the final. I qualified 3rd in the semi final which boosted the confidence of two other guys… Final round was among us and I was hungry for a big result. I ran through a bike check with Rob and his team (Orange importers in Singapore) The tyre pressures had dropped slightly so I increased to reach our desired pressures. A quick flick through the gears and the bike was set. I sat myself down to get mentally prepared and psych myself up. The next minute could be the most important of my season and I’m not settling for anything other than the win.
Walking up to the start ramp in the dark was an incredible feeling! The twin Hope R4+ lights on the handlebars were started up and lit up the start gate like a chequered flag inviting me to prove what all the training had been for. The 15 second countdown began so I turned on my Kaiser Baas helmet cam and clipped in to the pedals. Before I knew it 15 seconds was up and I broke through the start gate like an angry Englishman hungry to put my bike on the podium. The top section of the course went smooth and fast, bursting out of the national stadiums fire exit I headed towards the main drop using all the race track ensuring to hit the 2 apexes I had planned for. Into the chicanes and keeping it rubber side down I weaved through before setting up for the big step section. I had a different technique to everyone on this section, I jumped from one set of steps on a downslope to the next downslope missing out the flat section connecting the two. This was a technique I had not tried before Singapore but looked like the fastest route down. Into the final straight this was where I could show what my training had done over the past two months.
Power, stamina and strength I smashed through the line in 1.06:011 I knew this was fast and Red Bull put me in their hot seat. I had to wait for two riders to come down before knowing if it really was enough.
I DID IT! I won and was crowned the Red Bull Dark Knights champion winning by over a second in the final. Possibly the best day of my life! A very happy Ben stood on the top step proud to represent British designed Orange bikes as well as all the other companies that helped me get there.
Here is the race video from my final run…
On behalf of all at team Orange I would like to say a big thank you to the residents of Singapore for their hospitality and generous welcoming throughout the weekend. You are an incredibly polite nation with etiquette and manners we would like to see everywhere we go! Ben.