Last night saw the Whitelines and Ion Action-sponsored November Knockout Tour hitting the Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead, for what has to have been the biggest, baddest event so far. The Hemel Park Crew led by Joe Rackley might have spent the previous weekend and the whole of Thursday night working on the setup, but damn was it worth it. With an eight-foot wallride, a specially constructed stair set, a down bar and of course the enormous Shred Collective down-flat-down rail, this was truly next level.
A strong turnout ensured that the level of riding was equally high - so high in fact that several seriously sick shredders like Sparrow Knox and the Tamworth tour winner Ollie Dutton didn't even make the knockout stages! Hotly contested quarter-finals saw several other big names eliminated before the final pitched Si Cudlipp against Gazza Andrews. While both had been riding super-strongly throughout the night, it was Gaz who eventually took the win with a super-tech half cab on, 50-50 to back three out on the down-flat-down. Will Smith, who'd been unlucky to miss out on the final himself after a (slightly controversial) decision to give him and Si an extra run each, couldn't quite beat Andy Nudds in the third place playoff, leaving Nuddsy with the bronze.
In the women's category, competition was once again fierce between Orla Doolin and young Becky Menday, both of whom were getting stuck into the down-flat-down in a serious way. Orla narrowly avoided a couple of nasty slams and came very close to killing an all-too-enthusiastic photographer at one stage as she cranked out her frontside lipslides through the kink. In the end though she triumphed, taking her second title of the tour.
An extra element had been added to the action at Hemel thanks to Head's international team rider Alex Tank. As well as shredding himself, he was offering a wild card invitation to his Head Jib Factory event in Germany to be given to the rider of his choice. In between watching the others shred, he spent the evening lapping the park with Tom Guilmard and Will Smith, but was seriously impressed by Nuddsy's riding too. In the end, he couldn't decide between Smith and Nuddsy, both of whom had killed it consistently all evening, and so (perhaps harshly) a coin was flipped to decide on the winner. Unfortunately Will Smith's run of bad luck for the evening continued and he lost out to Andy again, though he took it well.
After all, it would have been hard to be pissed off at the end of a night that had seen some of the best riders in the UK hitting what's probably Hemel's most innovative setup to date. Keep your eyes peeled for our Ion camera edit dropping soon. Roll on the fourth and final stop of the tour in Milton Keynes next Friday!