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This past weekend saw the first DH Nationals in the Cape for 2013. With rather uncharacteristic wet weather for the middle of summer, but not enough to stop some great racing!
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I woke up on Sunday to a complete white out of mist & drizzle, which is rather common in the Jonkershoek valley, but not in summer! It had done the same the morning before & cleared to a nice cool summers day & was hoping it would do the same for us. As I was getting ready to head across the valley the light was looking too good & thought I'd leave my flashes at home for once & just took my 70-200mm & D800 to try get as much done as possible & not waste time setting up lights in perfect light. My challenge for the day was 1 lens, 1 race run & no flash.
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I caught a shuttle up & made my way down the track scouting for some spots. The top was really slippery & could see guys were taking it a bit easy in the beginning. The track was the same, but I hadn't shot it since they'd cut the trees down & gave a very different feel.
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I just caught the last few qualifying runs, the last bit of rain got squeezed out of the clouds & it was race time!
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The usual dusty roost was turned into mud layer over dry dirt & think most guys had a controlled drift to the bottom, because I struggled to even walk on some sections. On the riding side it made things more challenging, but on the shooting side, the air was so crisp from the rain & light was so good through the clouds I really wasn't missing my flashes at all & the D800's ISO was a treat compared to my old D200. I had to make friends with the continuous focus (never really used it before with DH because of flash setups) & got the odd nice sharp bush with blurry rider, but managed to get that under control fast enough.
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The first class was fun men & fun definitely doesn't mean not serious. There were a few taking it easy, but most were riding like the track was tarred. I didn't want to stay at any one spot too long & the light in the first corner I shot in made it difficult to leave, but I had a lo to get to & slowly moved down the track snapping on the way.
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The sprogs (juniors) were up next & I hadn't seen some of them ride in a year & there has been a lot of growing up & can see some serious potential in some of the young guys. The track was drying out a bit & there had been less rain lower down, so it was just getting faster & faster, but you could see the damage the water had done in a few corners.
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The shoot was next & is the steepest drop in the course into a long loose right hander. With the trees gone the cliff before the shoot looks much more spectacular. The shoot used to be smooth as a supertube & thought I was going to struggle getting down, but with all the riding there is almost a perfect staircase of breaking bumps all the way down. Needless to say from there on out speed is not a problem to find.
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After the shoot there is a small double in to a steep slope & a few jumps, bumps & corners & then the crowd favourite, the road gap. I normally steer clear of road gaps during races because that's where everybody with a camera, phone or go-pro is & not much spectacular happens there during racing. I'm glad I did stop for one. My timing was perfect to be there to catch Myles Kelsey throwing down some serious style. That was it for the gap, wasn't going to get much better, so I made my way into the flatter fynbos section for the last few riders. As I looked up from the fynbos I saw Luke Le Roux flying down the mountain. He lost it in a corner before the road gap, got thrown onto his bars & bucked off by his forks & into another berm. Medics quickly rushed to help him & sounds like he broke his wrist quite badly & will need some surgery. Hoping for a quick recovery & to see him back on his bike soon! Luckily that was the only casualty of the day.
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The last section is super fast & any mistake can get you off course quite easily, but in the top riders everyone stuck to their lines & were looking quick as hell. In the end Needles managed to kill the competition by 4.5 sec with a 02.17.82.
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Full Results

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