Gee Atherton punctured for the second year in a row at the 2015 Red Bull Hardline event in Mid-Wales, leaving the door open for former junior world champ Ruaridh Cunningham to take the win.
Gee flatted near the top of his run and clattered down the rest of the course, unable to hit any of the massive jumps on what is probably the most technical downhill courses in the world. The GT rider had qualified first and was on a flyer, but his run ended prematurely, just as it had last year.
For most riders at Hardline it’s more about surviving the monstrous course than shaving seconds off their run. The track has been ramped up in difficulty from its inaugural year in 2014 — the Renegade hip has grown to a bonkers 45ft and featured the sketchiest run in we’ve ever seen. So gnarly was it, not even Gee was hitting it.
Hardline was born last year, the brainchild of Dan Atherton, who wanted to create a course tough enough to challenge the best riders in the world. This year rain on the practice day made the feastures even more challenging — a 60ft road gap, 45ft step down and some of the steepest, slickest Welsh hillside imaginable challenged everyone.
Almost every rider crashed hard at some point over the weekend, with Taylor Vernon retiring after casing a jump and hurting his foot, winner Ruaridh Cunningham going over the bars on one of the many step downs and even Dan Atherton breaking his shoulder in the days before the race even started.
Only eight riders completed the gruelling course, whittled down from the 15 who signed on to ride. Red Bull invites the top 30 world riders to compete, but coming right after the finish of the World Cup season and just before Rampage, just half that number turn up. For 2016 Red Bull is hoping to boost rider numbers by potentially casting the net wider and inviting more riders, as well as offering appearance fees and prize money.