The 2018 Howard Street Dual lived up to all the hype. Amazing racing on a purpose built urban course, some of the world's top riders and an awesome result for Airdrop Bikes. It's worth a full race report.
If you're not familiar with the Howard Street Dual, maybe take a quick look at our blog post from last week. Or if you're in a hurry, all you need to know is that it's a head-to-head urban dual race through the streets of Sheffield. With the likes of Steve Peat and Josh Bryceland racing, a floodlit purpose built course and hundreds of spectators, it's a little bit more than a mate's race. But a mate's race it remains. Something that could only happen in Sheffield.
First outing for the new Airdrop Bikes EZ-Up. We took a bunch of bikes to show, including some new prototypes... but you had to be there to see them! We also become an impromptu pit for the Airdrop customers in the race and everyone else who 'forgot' to bring any tools.
Brett was the underdog last year, and I guess so was Airdrop Bikes. We like it that way. But as the defending champ he had a target on his back this time around, and the #1 plate on his bike. The course was pretty much the same, as were the conditions, so we knew he could go quick. But the field was even more heavily stacked than last year.
The top part of the course featured some street furniture, wooden rollers and a couple of permed turns which favoured the more skilful riders. But in damp conditions, the race could be won or lost on the flat grassy turns near the bottom. The field started to cut up the moment practice started.
Josh Bryceland, the consummate professional, was taking practice seriously.
With a stacked field, the plan was to get everyone seeded with the fastest qualifiers going up against the slowest in round 1. That way - in theory at least - you end up with the fastest riders going head-to-head in the later stages. With the #1 race plate to defend, Brett went fastest in the men's, closely followed by Steve Peat, with Josh Bryceland and Same Dale making up the top 4. In the Women's, Chloe Taylor took pole position with a clear margin to Carrie Poole, with Gabrielle Gelgotaite and Becci Skelton close behind.
Nick Hamilton, the main man and race organiser gave the riders a full briefing up top before qualifying started.
Men's Qualifying Times
Women's Qualifying Times
Chloe Taylor pinned in qualifying. She was seriously quick all day.
Brett's unbelievable bike handling skills saw him qualify in first, more than half a second faster than Steve Peat.
With qualifying done and the draw complete, it was time to get racing. At 5pm the light was about to turn, so the floodlights came on. By the time racing started, the rain had held off for a couple of hours but the course was slick, with mud carried onto the paved sections, grass cut up and slippery as hell. The race order in both the men's and the women's was fastest against slowest, head-to-head with two halves to the draw. So Brett and Steve were on opposite halves of the draw.
For anyone not able to make it to Howard Street, the whole race was broadcast live on YouTube, which also means you can watch the replay in full here:
The full men's and women's draw is in the charts below, with the winners of each round highlighted. With an asymmetrical course, each round consisted of two runs with the winner being the quickest overall. With 32 racers in the men's field and 16 in the women's field, that meant 48 runs in the first round alone, so there was plenty of racing going on, with only a few gaps to replace the odd broken flag or to allow a downed rider to get back on their feet... and with a greasy course, there was a fair bit of that going on.
Men's Draw and Results
Women's Draw and Results
No messing around. Straight off the line and into a double stair-set which quickly got covered in mud and grass. Full commitment required to hit the wooden rollers with enough speed to double them. Craig Evans up against Jack Sprogis in their first round runs.
After the rollers came two turns down a grassy bank, followed by a drop-off into Chaos Corner. Last year this was an off-camber disaster zone but this year we had wooden berms. Brett heads into that section full gas in one of the early rounds.
Craig Evans smashing his way out of the Chaos Corner berms. Craig's always fast but didn't quite have enough speed to beat Brett in their quarter-final.
Everyone was hauling in their race runs.
After a day of drizzle it turned into a nice evening; perfect for racing under the floodlights. Josh Bryceland was down against Ben Moore in his quarter-final first run but opened the taps in the second. You got the feeling Josh could go as fast as he wanted.
With the fastest qualifying time, Brett was drawn first up against Anthony Croft. He got through that round and beat Aiken Collinge in the second. Meanwhile craig Evans had come through his first couple of rounds to meet up with Brett in the quarters. Craig's a local lad and is seriously quick, so this was Brett's first real test. It was super tight but Brett made it through to meet Sam Dale in the semis. That's a repeat of last year's Semi so we were pretty confident Brett could get the job done. Meanwhile Steve Peat had gone through against another local rider, Dave Camus, then Will Easey to meet Cotic rider James Swinden in his semi. Steve won out and came up against Josh Bryceland in a super semi-final, but Steve wanted it more and went through to the final.
By the time it got to the Big Final, it was properly dark. Steve and Brett were neck and neck almost to the line, with only the last turn and bank to the finish separating them. Steve went down in the first run so Brett took the lead and went into the second run needing to stay within 1.5 seconds of Steve. In the end, Steve went fastest and won the second run and the overall by a hair's breadth. It was so close in fact that the announcer called it for Brett, which was then swiftly corrected as the final times came through.
With racing finally over and the results confirmed, Steve congratulated Brett on his race. It was dead close but Steve just scraped it in the end. With the fastest qualifying time and the fastest run overall, I think Brett felt like it was a job well done. He would have liked to go quicker in his second run in the final, but when you're up against a racer like Steve you have to push as hard as you can.
Maybe I shouldn't have done such a good job of fixing Steve's bike ;-)
See you next year...
A Word Of Thanks
We're lucky in Sheffield. Very lucky. We've got great local trails, a thriving scene, local companies producing awesome product, mates races, a world champion... If you've lived here for a long time as I have, you could almost get complacent about it. But it's important to remember that all this cool stuff is made to happen by dedicated people and a lot of bloody hard work. We're especially thankful to everyone who put in such a massive shift to make the Howard Street Dual happen:
Race organiser Nick Hamilton, ThisIsSheffield, course builders Biketrack, Jon Dallow, Ride Sheffield, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University, Steve Peat, Cotic Bikes, Hope Technology, Red Bull, all the marshals, all the racers and all the fans. #dualrules
Ed is the owner of Airdrop Bikes. A former web and graphic designer, he sacked off his job one day and decided to start up a bike brand.
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