Part one of my ride through the people and happenings of Hungary’s mountain bike scene. All in the name of learning what it will take to make Dirt Factory a roaring success.
For those of you who don’t know, the last five years of my life have been spent in the Paris of the east – Budapest. Whilst here, I’ve been working all over Austria and Slovakia, gaining the intel from the locals about their riding scene from the inside. Recently I turned my hand to coaching and mentoring a junior downhill racer by the name of Armin Kiraly, with the aim of helping him make the cut for the World championships team. Tall order I know. Here’s the story so far.
So the other week I was lucky enough to be asked along to the Hungarian National Downhill Championships, in Epleny with Armin’s team, the Mbkse family. It was the pride and joy of team manager, ex racer and trail building aficionado Zoltan Nagy. The Mátra based downhill team consisted of a large number of riders and were a noticeable community amongst the team pits. They were to be my brothers in arms during the weekends ups and downs. Of which there were many.
Things kicked off on Saturday evening with the 4x circus. Steep, fast and technical sections made for close racing and excellent entertainment for the many fans lining the ski slope, which resembles the finish line at Pietermaritzburg, for those in the know. The teams own 4x star Bence would take the win in the small final earning him a 5th overall. A great start to the weekend for the team.
The following morning before downhill practice got underway, the heavens opened. The rock hard fast and dusty clay track was no more. A river ensued and left only ankle deep mud in its wake. Spiked tires were flying around like fish at a market as people frantically tried to make sense of the conditions. I heard from a few that this would be their first time riding in the mud. Almost the polar opposite of what people say in the UK. Riders were coming down with an extra 4kg of gloop stuck to their bikes. The never before used bike wash station most certainly couldn’t keep up with demand. A few people in line jumped ship and opted for the river instead, myself included.
By the time qualifying came around the track was a mess. Erik came down into 3rd with 2 crashes and Ármin into 4th with 4 crashes. Points from this race were crucial for making the World’s team, so keeping the wheels on the ground would be top priority. With the sun now out in full force it was anyone’s race. Finals time and a large crowd had gathered at the base of the track and were cheering everybody along. In the open category, Bence had a spectacular tire blow out off the final jump and rode it home safe to a 5th place podium, much to the delight of the pálinka induced fans. Many of the teams riders crashed out, meaning a clean run was needed from those left on the hill. With no elites in the team, it was up to the juniors. Erik crossed the line and finished up in 8th and Ármin manged to squeeze onto the podium in 5th spot. Fantastic results in those conditions and points gained for the World champs ranking.
During the post race celebrations, it was decided that I would pay a visit to the teams head quarters in the Matra mountains, to check out the plans for the area’s cycling infrastructure, to share knowledge about what we’ve learned with Dirt Factory and to find inspiration to help our project over the final furlong.
Check back for part two where we get wild in the mountains, and see how the right approach and enough belief can make ambitious mountain bike plans, come to life.