16 February 2018

After the success of the inaugural Howard Street Dual last year, the dual slalom race will once again challenge the stars of the UK mountain bike scene when it comes to the city centre on Saturday 10 March.

And spectators are in for an extra treat this year as, among the impressive talent set to participate, are mountain bike legend Steve Peat and one of his most successful protégés, Craig Evans.

This exhilarating dual slalom race – similar to skiing – sees riders battle head to head down a purpose-built course on Howard Street in Sheffield city centre. It brings Sheffield’s thriving mountain biking scene out of the woods and into the heart of the city.

It is one of four headline events at The Outdoor City Weekender, an action-packed adventure festival taking place at locations across Sheffield from 9 to 11 March 2018.

The event is being held later in the day than last year – from around 4pm to 7pm – making the final rounds even more dramatic as darkness falls and the course is lit up.

Entry to the competition is by invitation only, with around 64 men and women taking to the track on the day. Alongside Steve Peat (aka Sheffield Steel) and 50:01’s Craig Evans, the racing line-up includes last year’s winners Brett Penfold, Ben Moore, Carrie Poole and Anya Tolwinska. World Cup winner Josh Bryceland and his 50:1 counterpart Josh Lewis, National 4X champion Sam Dale and Joe Wallbridge are also ones to watch.

Craig missed out on the competition last year due to schedule clashes but is now raring to race on the track he first helped design in 2017.

He has competed all over the world and won the hardest ever Red Bull Hardline in 2017 but Wharncliffe in Sheffield remains his favourite place to ride.

He sees the Dual as a brilliant way to showcase The Outdoor City’s unique mountain bike scene, and many of the people who make it possible.

“Sheffield is cool because of the proximity of the trails to the city centre, being able to ride out to the Peak and to Wharncliffe,” he said. “There aren’t many cities where you can do that.

“There is a lot of support from the Council and local business who are pushing hard to get stuff done and make it accessible.

“In dual you go head to head, so you have another person next to you who you are trying to compete with or not get taken out by. As for where I would rank myself, not very highly! I’ll be the one trying too hard and crashing!

“Watch out for the slippy carnage corner, I think that could be where it’s won or lost.”

The Dual is organised by two stalwarts of the Sheffield scene, Nick Hamilton and Jon Dallow.

Nick, a sports engineer at Sheffield Hallam University and co-founder of digital bike hub This is Sheffield, organises a host of races in the region as well as sharing his experiences and reporting on events for the international mountain bike press.

Jon, from Sheffield City Council’s Parks and Countryside team, is behind the creation of a number of Sheffield’s purpose-built mountain bike tracks, including Parkwood Springs and Lady Canning’s Plantation. Over recent years, he has worked with communities, business, governing bodies and local athletes to create them.

With the Howard Street Dual, they shine a spotlight on Sheffield’s thriving mountain bike scene – recognised as one of the world’s best – and bring it to the wider public.

Nick said: “We’re really excited to be bringing the Howard Street Dual to Sheffield City Centre for another year.

“It blows my mind that the Council is forward-thinking enough to put on a dual slalom race in the city centre. We, Sheffield, are The Outdoor City and this is just one way they show that to the world. There is also a great bike industry in Sheffield with manufactures like Cotic, Airdrop and Planet X.

“People love the idea of the race and are happy to be involved in any way they can. I think that speaks volumes for mountain biking, riders and Sheffield.

“We’ve invited the best riders we know to put on the best show possible to demonstrate to Sheffield what racing mountain bikes is about. Last year was just incredible; passers-by didn’t know what they were watching and hung around for hours.

“This year, there are also a load of mountain bike films playing at the Showroom for the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – another element of the Weekender – so we’ll head over there when the racing’s finished.

“The stars really have aligned over Sheffield on 10 March.”

Jon said: “People might wonder why a woodland officer at Sheffield City Council is running a city centre mountain bike event, and at 6am on race day I am sure I may be asking myself the same question.

“But the Sheffield landscape that mountain bikers use is the countryside we manage, one shared by wildlife and a host of recreational users.

“I work with businesses, volunteers, and other land managers so we can all enjoy what’s on our doorstep.

“Working as a collective, we have created fantastic facilities such as the dual slalom course available at Parkwood Springs for anyone to use. And events like the Howard Street Dual lights the spark that gets other people to participate.

“So our message is: come and see the race but also get involved in the scene. Buy the merchandise, support campaigns to improve facilities and access, get involved in nature conservation, and then get on your bike and enjoy what we’re lucky to have on our doorstep.”

Riders will race two at a time from the top of Hallam Square, across the front of Sheffield Hallam University’s main building and down to the bottom of Howard Street. Along the way they’ll negotiate a series of obstacles, from man-made constructions and street furniture to flat grass corners and custom wooden features.

It’s a knockout-style event so the fastest two riders of the day will then take each other on in the grand final.

This dual slalom style of riding has its roots in the Sheffield ‘mates racing’ scene. These informal races see everyone from world champions to amateurs pitch up and race each other. The success of these events is thanks in large part to the profound sense of community in Sheffield’s mountain bike scene – which will certainly be in force on the day of the Dual.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield City Council, said: “We’re really proud of our status as The Outdoor City and everything it means for the people who live in and visit Sheffield.

“Sheffield is bursting with opportunities for those who love city culture and the great outdoors in equal measure.

“And events like the Weekender are not only brilliant ways of inspiring local people to watch these stars in action – or even take part themselves – but they also recognise the dedicated people, like Jon and Nick, who ensure outdoor adventure in Sheffield continues to thrive.”

As well as the Howard Street Dual, the headline events of The Outdoor City Weekender will be the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF), the Rab Climbing Works International Festival (CWIF) and The Magnificent Seven cycle challenge, alongside a host of fringe events.

For more information on the Weekender, visit the website at www.theoutdoorcity.co.uk/outdoor-city-weekender