Sheffield goes downhill to national admiration

Steel City Downhill Mountain Bike races at Greno Wooods: Jonathan Dennis
Steel City Downhill Mountain Bike races at Greno Wooods: Jonathan Dennis

“SHEFFIELD is the envy of the rest of the country,” said Tristan Tunstall.

He had travelled to Grenoside from London to take part in one of the city’s less well-known sporting events, pitting himself against 200 others including a Chapeltown-born world champion.

Steve Peat, downhill mountain biking world champion and many times world cup winner, was part of a team of volunteers staging the second Steel City Downhill mountain bike race, aiming to raise several thousand pounds for the Greno Woods Appeal.

“Mountain biking is really big in Sheffield because we’ve got seven big hills and lots of great terrain to ride in,” said Steve.

The idea of the race was for Sheffield mountain bikers to get together to put something on that was both a lot of fun and gave something back to the city.

And the Sheffield Wildlife Trust appeal to raise £1m to buy and improve Greno Woods has been a success, with £750,000 already raised (enough to buy most of the woods), with the ongoing appeal to raise the final amount. Organisers estimated that Saturday’s event raised £2,500.

“The Wildlife Trust’s achievement is awesome and we’re working closely with them to help the cause,” said Steve.

The Steel City Downhill has achieved a national reputation and the 200 competitors had signed up within three hours of notification, said fellow organiser Nick Hamilton.

“We’ve had riders aged from 10 to 56, from as far away as London and Brighton. It’s a lot to do with Steve Peat, who’s one of the biggest names in mountain biking in the world, and this is his local race, and it’s for a good cause with money raised going to the Greno Woods Appeal.”

Volunteers from local mountain biking groups Ride Sheffield and This Is Sheffield (and Steve Peat) have helped design a special trail for mountain bikers in the woods, built by Sheffield track building company BikeTrack.org, and designed to avoid the main ecologically important sites in the woods.

“The work in Greno Woods is good for the city and with good management the woods will become a better resource for everyone,” said Nick. “There have been good trails in the woods for a long time but now we’ve got much better and more suitable trails for mountain bikers.”

Steve Peat said that in addition to the various official trails in Grenoside, which include the family-friendly Trans-Pennine Trail, in a few weeks, work will start on another mountain bike trail at Parkwood Springs.

“When that’s done there will be trails all round the city,” he said, “and Parkwood Springs is unique because it’s so close to the city centre, people can bomb up there really easily.”

Nick Hamilton reflected that Sheffield may be well known as a climbing and walking capital of the UK but for mountain bikers the city is seen as one of the world centres for the sport, thanks to the hills, the proximity to the Peak District and the presence of popularisers such as Steve Peat.

“Mountain biking is good for Sheffield because it gets people healthy and off their bums and out into the countryside enjoying themselves.

“But actually, you don’t need to be out in the countryside, you can go out into Sheffield and ride locally at Grenoside and Parkwood, for example. You can jump on a bike and go out for a half an hour and have an incredible ride.”