Red Bull Hardline returned for 2021 with a downhill mountain bike course that set the bar higher than it's ever been before. There were no crowds in Machynlleth in Wales, but that didn't stop 24 of the world's best downhill and freeride mountain bikers putting on a show, and one of the tightest editions of the iconic race. Recap all the action in the links below and scroll down for highlights from the weekend.
Replay the action from Red Bull Hardline 2021
Bernard Kerr is on a different planet
Over the years, British rider Bernard Kerr has proven that he’s something of a Red Bull Hardline expert. The Pivot Factory Racing rider has always finished on the podium since he made his debut in the Dyfi Valley [where the Hardline course is located] back in 2015, and went into this year's event as the only person to have won the hardest race in downhill mountain biking twice.
It was no surprise then that, come race day, he was the man to beat. The last rider down the mountain, it would take a course-record time to make it a hat-trick of wins in Dyfi.
Watch Bernard Kerr's winning run below:
Bernard Kerr's winning run
He was in the green from the first split, edging out his advantage with each time check as he made his way down the track. Not even his foot coming unclipped from his pedal on the massive Road Gap on the course could stop him. Kerr finished more than a second up on second place.
"Experience is definitely on my side," said Kerr after the race. "[Knowing] the jumps definitely helps, so when I come into the week I'm not too scared of them. But [with] the technical bits, I've been here six years now, so it's helping. I kind of know where I'm going. I blew a foot on the Road Gap and I knew I needed it into that next bit, because otherwise I was crashing, but I just got it back in time."
Watch Bernard Kerr's POV course preview:
Course preview with Bernard Kerr
Laurie Greenland and Kade Edwards step up
The two former Junior World Champions from Great Britain have both had mixed results at Red Bull Hardline. Despite their promise and World Cup experience, you've always been left with the sense that both riders have kept something in reserve. That wasn't the case in 2021 when both finished on the podium.
Debutants showed no fear
The Red Bull Hardline course is something that takes years of practise, crashes and race runs to master. Try telling that to some of this year's debutants though.
Lewis Buchanan, Josh Lowe, Sam Gale and Jim Monro put in storming first-time runs, while Frenchman Matteo Iniguez laid down a marker that only five other riders managed to beat.
Although it was dry, the weather still played its part
Red Bull Hardline has always had a run-in of some kind with the weather. Usually held towards the end of September, the course is often caked in mud and super slippery after some seasonal Welsh conditions (aka torrential rain and gale-force winds) up the ante on the hardest course in downhill mountain biking.
Things were looking up for the 2021 edition. Shifted to a summer date so as to not clash with the end of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season, the course was running dry and resembled Red Bull Rampage-like conditions as Great Britain basked in a heatwave. Come qualifying though, the weather had other ideas. Strong winds battered the mountain throughout the day, making riding unsafe given the exposed nature of some of its biggest features.
Although qualifying was cancelled, it did mean viewers were treated to an extended finals day, with 24 out of 29 riders taking to the course for a bumper edition where everything was riding on their one hot lap.
The Step Down is one of the scariest drops ever created
The 2021 Red Bull Hardline course had some notable tweaks to previous editions – the Step Up ramp had been made mellower to help riders carry more speed, the trees had been cut down next to Waterfalls Edge, the iconic Road Gap had been made bigger and longer. But one addition was the talk of the Dyfi Valley from the moment riders stepped foot on-site.
Watch Matt Jones's track walk in the video below:
Track walk with Matt Jones
The Step Down, the Drop, the Cliff Edge. Whatever you want to call it, Dan Atherton has crafted one of the most gut-wrenching drops ever seen on a downhill course. The stats alone are mind-boggling – 60ft gap, 40ft drop in elevation, miniscule case pad, a near-vertical landing, oh, and about two seconds after landing you have to navigate a super-tight left-handed berm.
Riders looked visibly scared by it throughout practice. Its soft landing claimed a number of victims – notably Brage Vestavik and his cords – while others somehow managed to escape serious accidents by the skin of their teeth.
Jono Jones had the biggest save of the weekend
Matt Jones's identical twin’s debut Red Bull Hardline experience in 2019 was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Pumped up by other riders pulling tricks over the Step Up, Jono attempted a backflip with dire consequences. Halfway through the flip, suspended upside down, he decided to bail. Still clipped into his bike by his feet, the Brit spent what felt like forever flailing in the air before landing in a heap on the ground, suffering a bang to the head that kept him out of the rest of the weekend.
Watch Jono Jones's save from 2:36
Daily show – day 2
Fast forward to the 2021 edition, and he was determined not to repeat the same mistake and aimed to get through to qualifying unscathed. It was all going so well too, until riders took to The Cannon. A 17.3m (57ft) gap with almost zero room for error, it’s a jump that riders tend to overshoot, fearful of coming up short. Not Jones though. Setting off on the ski-slope-like jump, it never looked like he was going to clear the case pad. Instantly bucked off his saddle on impact, he somehow managed to hold on to the handlebars and ride it out.
Pit bike racing needs to be at every downhill event
Downhill mountain bikers are a different breed from their cross-country counterparts. While most professional cross-country mountain bike riders might spend their evenings recovering and refuelling after an intense day of practise, downhill racers like to relax in different ways: racing pit bikes.
Watch the carnage unfold from 8:48:
Daily show – day 2
Although some of the tactics were questionable, there's no questioning that this pit bike racing should become a regular fixture at more downhill events.
Red Bull Hardline 2021 results