Red Bull Dark Knights

Over 200 riders loitered at the Kent Ridge park on Saturday, decked out in colourful race kits and spotting all sorts of mountain bikes. Red Bull Dark Knights is downhill with a twist. It was Singapore’s first night downhill race.

Hundreds of spectators turned up to cheer the riders on as they tackle the course in the darkness.

Familiar riders from around the region showed up to try and compete for the $1000 elite prize money. Indonesians showed up earlier in the week for practice. Seasoned riders also came from Malaysia as well. It was nice finally being to play host for a change!

The event ran like any downhill event. Team tents were set up, banners were flying, bikes parked and maintained. Some elite riders were even spotted with their warm up bikes rigged to a trainer. Riders were alternating between practising, watching other riders and discussing lines.

Before riders were allowed to race, they had to go for a compulsory practice. Compulsory practice saw many riders fall. Some riders pulled out at this point as well. However this was the first time I see a queue just to ride a course. Even the practice runs were well thought out, a timer was there to make sure there was enough of a gap between the rider. Ensuring collisions didn’t happen.

The Race

The Junior, Women and Open riders had 2 chances. It was a best of 2 runs. Again, the race ran like clock work. Exact start times were given to the riders so they won’t need to stand around the start gate waiting for their turn. Each rider was given a 30 second gap from the previous rider which was more than enough because of the short track.

It was quickly my turn at the start gate. I imagine everyone on the start line would experience the same jitters-a mix of uncertainty and the pressure to perform. Didn’t help when there are tonnes of supporters cheering you on, adding more pressure to not crash!

The first run started around 5pm. There were plenty of natural light left and many riders clocked in their best run on the first. The second run, semi-finals and finals were all done in the dark. Lighting fixtures on the key locations of the track but there were also parts in total darkness. Light setup on the bike could make or break your run.

Riding in the dark certainly felt faster but the timing says otherwise!

In the end, Singapore’s Syahdu took junior’s top spot besting Melaka’s Rahman and Indonesia’s Daniel James.

Exa from Indonesia took women’s top spot besting Sally Chew and Kallista from Singapore.

For the Open category, Isro from Indonesia took first followed by Malaysia Ahmad and top Singapore bmxer Chee Keong.

They took home prizes from Unsprung with the top prize being a frame for the open and junior champions.

After the junior,women and open were over. Everyone focused on the main event as the top ten elite riders went through to the semi-finals.

Ex BMX world champion Daniel Sprague clocked in at 59seconds. Tan Hong Chun did a minute even with a slip at the wall ride. The crowd knew the race could go either way.

The crowd grew silent as Tan Hong Chun took his final run. He clocked in at a minute. The silence continued until Daniel exited the wall ride. It was so perfect that gasps were drawn from the crowd. The crowd finally erupted into cheering when Daniel’s timing of 59.141 was shown on screen. Being Australian didn’t dampen the cheering! There certainly wasn’t a shortage of high fives!

Conclusion

The event was only as good as how the riders/spectators made it out to be and still it was great. There was a good balance of competitiveness and support from the fellow riders. Cheers for everyone regardless of nationality. The wonderful crowd were united at “oohs” when the riders fall at the rock garden or clapping when the riders did well.

The event was very well ran. There were no complains as the dirt traction guys work tirelessly. There was also a huge screen that showed live feeds from certain parts of the track and the timing making it feel like a legit downhill event. Only gripe was the crowd and hot seat were situated at the top of the hill not at the bottom of the track.

Music was spun by DJ Koflo. Not forgetting the lovely redbull girls!

However, the music, big screen, redbull girls and even the quantity didn’t make the event. What made the event was the hard work and enthusiasm by everyone involved.

Oh, if you missed out on the event. You would have missed out on Winson Peh’s proposal to his long time girlfriend Sally Chew when she was on the podium. Memorable indeed.

The Course

There were many that argued that the course was not a real downhill track. Well, I dare say the builders did manage to capture some elements of a “real” one. Skills, guts and fitness were requirements to race the track.

The course was roughly a minute long. A gnarly rock garden greeted the racers at the start followed by a nice short descent to the second rock garden.

The second rock garden was one of the highlights of the course. It was a tight downwards switchback littered with rocks and ends with a wall ride. It was not uncommon to see riders bang the wall straight on. Thing is, those rocks are dangerous no matter how slow you were going. A real test of the rider’s skill.

Than a short uphill will lead to the course’s 3feet drop continued with multiple berms. Berms that were described as tight.

The course than ends with a steep chute to the finish line. The elites will have to take the 10 feet gap or suffer a 15second penalty.

Close enough I say.