The only way is up for Borders College’s downhill racers

Elena Melton was third in the Women Under 21 Final of the Enduro World Series race in Wicklow, Ireland.
Elena Melton was third in the Women Under 21 Final of the Enduro World Series race in Wicklow, Ireland.

Students on the BASE Downhill course at Borders College are currently enjoying great successes outside of their study time.

There are two groups of ‘Downhillers’ – those who prefer the classic ‘Downhill’ style of competing, and those who are favouring the newer style of ‘Enduro’.

The main differences between Downhill and Enduro are that Downhill races are carried out over one single stage which can be physically demanding and allows no room for error or lost time. Enduro on the other hand, is broken up into several stages, allowing competitors the chance to improve their time and performance on each consecutive stage.

Most of the students dedicate their weekends to competitive racing, with weekdays spent focusing on College work (both practical and classroom-based).

Level 2 student Jake Gilfillan, who is from Manchester but lives locally during term-time, said: “The time spent on training really helps and I am definitely fitter now than I was last year.”

Jake tries to enter a race every three weeks – he achieved first place in the Junior Men category in the British Enduro Series at Dyfi Forest in Aberfeldy in May, taking poll position again in the local Tweedlove International Enduro on May 21. Jake’s sponsors are Remap Clothing and Chemical Bikes Ltd.

Another student making the most of their weekend race time is Lewis Summers who won the Senior Men category in the British Enduro Series in Aberfeldy in May – a great achievement considering it was only Lewis’ second Enduro race.

Lewis, sponsored by Stephen’s Bakery in Fife, races mainly from March to October, taking part in the occasional Winter series. Lewis says of downhill racing: “The pressure really builds up before a race and there is not much rest but I love the craft.” With coaching experience already under his belt, having coached his team manager’s son for part of last season, Lewis is considering a future career in coaching.

But, if you’re beginning to think BASE Downhill is just for men, the female students are making impressions of their own on the racing circuits.

Student Rona Strivens, from Kingussie, said: “Participation in downhill by young women has increased but there is still a majority of men racing.” This is Rona’s fourth year of competitive racing and in April she travelled to Australia to compete in the second round of the World Cup. After a great start, winning her qualifying round by 20 seconds, she went on to sustain an injury during the race.

Rona – who counts Highland Bikes amongst her sponsors – has been accepted onto the next level of the Downhill course at Borders College after the summer but has also applied for the HNC in Applied Science at Dundee – if she is accepted onto the Dundee course she could then consider progressing to a degree in Pharmacology or Physiological Science in the future.

Elena Melton, originally from Grantown-on-Spey, heard about the course through word of mouth and decided it would be the perfect preparatory course before going to Stirling University to study Sport and Exercise Science. Elena began racing cross-country but has now switched to downhill, and more recently enduro.

Elena loves competing, and in May she came third in the Women Under 21 Final of the Enduro World Series race in Wicklow, Ireland.

Last, but certainly not least, level 2 student Cairn Bell took second place in the Junior Women category at the 2016 Shimano British Downhill Series race in Fort William in May. More recently, Cairn secured third place in her first UCI World Cup race in Fort William in June.