Report: Southern XC Round 1 - Bordon, Hants
Event Date: 26th April 2009
To quote from memory HG Wells (forgive me if it's wrong - it's been some years since I was at school), "cycle tracks abound in Utopia". Never had this quote seemed so apt than in reference to the first round of the Southern XC Series at Bordon.
Although Steve Jones and the SMBC team expertly promote the Series, the first round was organised by former Southern XC champ and West Drayton Mountain Bike Club chairman, Chris Denham. After last year's snowfall (how many of you remember that? Snow in April?)WDMBC could have been forgiven for rolling out the same course. However, never ones to rest on their laurels, the team set about designing a course worthy of that Utopian society. As if 5.6 miles of twisty super-fast single track wasn't perfection, the WDMBC team threw in bomb holes, power climbs and even bermed corners to make each lap a leg-burning-grin-inducing- painfest!!
Above: Over 540 riders entered the first round of the Southern XC series. Here's the start of the Elite race.
With 260 riders pre-registered and a further 300 taking advantage of the glorious spring sunshine this was record numbers for the Southern XC and further proof that XC racing is alive, well, and coming to a race course near you!
Above: Jenny Copnall XC National Champion - Look RT on her way to victory
Kicking off events was the U10 and U8 boys and girls categories. Cheered on by proud parents, these pint-sized Copnalls and Beckinsales battled it our over one or two laps of a specially designed circuit. Although short in stature, these kids were long of passion with racing often going right to the wire. In the two lap U10 boys race, it was a family affair as brothers Toby and Nathan Martin took a one/two for Team Darenth, with Nathan holding off Jacob Trench by a mere two seconds. In the U10 girls' field, Gemma Heath (Sutton CC) took the win with Lauren Peacey (Muddybum) and Kathryn Snook (unattached) finishing in second and third respectively. The U8s were equally competitive over the one lap course and impressed with bike handling skills that belied their age. In a 10-strong field, Sam Stonebridge took first place with Daniel Groome in second and Oliver Purser in third.
Above: Stuart Bowers leads Adrian Lansley and Chris Minter
Moving up an age category, the U12s raced over a half lap of the full course. Tom Franklin (Herne Hill Youth CC) followed in his old brother's footsteps taking first place with only two seconds separating second place Jack Philips (Chapel Tri-Stars) from third place Sam Shepherd (Primera). In the U12 girls, Elizabeth Keating (Team Keyne) took first place with Alex Earl (Beyond Mountain Bikes/WDMBC/Specialized) taking the second podium spot.
After a brief hiatus, it was time for the Youth and Juvenile races. The Youth Boys competition is rapidly becoming one of the most competitive categories in southern XC racing with at least six or seven riders with the potential to take the top spot. Hugo Humphreys (Lee Valley Youth CC) once again stamped his authority on this race leading from the beginning and extending this advantage into the second lap to win by almost 40 seconds over Max Sykes and Alec Briggs, (both Arctic Premier RC). Despite being the only rider in the Youth Girls category, Rachael Denman Beyond Mountain Bikes/WDMBC/Specialized) put in lap times worthy of a podium position in the female Sport category and as she moves up will be a woman to watch.
While the Youth categories raced over two full laps, the Juveniles raced over one lap of the increasingly dusty circuit. Having seen his younger brother win the U12s category, it was down to Harry Franklin (Herne Hill Youth CC) to make it a Franklin family 1-2. Victory was Harry's but not before a cat and mouse battle with, recent Midlands XC winner, Matt Godden (unattached) and a sprint finish worthy of an Elite race. Despite a strong ride, Harvey Lowe (G.A.Cycles/HOPE/CLAccountancy) was unable to keep in contact with 'in-form' Harry and Matt and finished in third place. Gretel Warner (Team Darenth) lacked some female competition in the Juvenile Girls category but finished the one lap race in a respectable 33m 24s.
Grass roots racing in the UK is going from strength to strength and this was once again in evidence through the sheer numbers of riders signed up for the Open and Fun categories. With over 90 riders in the three-lap Open men's category there was always going to be a fierce battle to get to the singletrack first. Despite a lacklustre start, Al Fairbairn (unattached) was able to pick his way through the field to take first place with Simon Culliford (unattached) some 14 seconds behind in second and James Horton (Primera) in third. The two-lap Fun race may have been shorter but was no less competitive. Murray Thompson (1st Gear Cycles/Felt) started strongly leading into the second lap but was unable to hold off the attack from Matt Eley (unattached) who pipped Murray to the win by 14 seconds. The third podium place was filled by Jason Hints (unattached) who was some 60 seconds off the pace.
Whether it's the success of the GB women's track and road team or just a coincidence (who cares anyway!) it's clear is that women's mountain bike racing is definitely on the rise. A 10-strong field of women lined up for the female Open race competing as hard as any for top honours. In the end, Anna Cippullo (RideTheQuantocks.co.uk) finished ahead of Clare Muir (Leisure Wheels) with Renee Diwell (Hayes Hawks BMX) in third. In the one-lap female Fun race it was a Beyond Mountain Bikes/WDMBC/Specialized one-two. Emma Rembalski rode strongly from the off to take first place with Karen Sawkins comfortably ahead of Rosie Nelson (unattached) by the end of the lap. Race three also included the Veteran and Grand Veteran women's categories. In the Vet Women, Nicky Hughes (Active Cycles) took a familiar place at the top of the podium, joined by Debbie Burton (Activ/Trek) in the Grand Vets. Unfortunately, Jackie Roberts, owner of Beyond Mountain Bikes and WDMBC club sponsor, had a fall going "way too fast" (her words, not mine) breaking her wrist in the process. Get well soon Jackie!
Although somewhat inconvenienced by the speed that they caught the back markers, the 13-strong junior male category was only really ever a two 'horse' race. The battle up front belonged to Steve James (Mountain Trax/Berks on Bikes) and Luke Grey (Hargroves Cycles/Trant/Next/Specialized). Luke led from the off and while in sight for the first two laps, Steve was unable to bridge the gap and had to settle for second place. Despite putting in times worthy of the Elite category, Ben Roff, in distinctive Orange Monkey guise, was unable to match the pace of Grey and James and had to settle for third place. A special mention must also go to Steve who is off to Houffalize to represent GB this weekend. Good luck Steve!
Setting off right after the juniors was the Veteran and Grand Veteran Men's categories. In the ruthlessly competitive (and 69 strong!) Vets category, it was once again all about a small numbers of riders battling it out for medals. Mike Chadbourne (ridebike.co.uk) went off hard leaving Lewis King (Ride), Roland Tilley (Beeline Bicycles) and Jef Sharpe (Ben Hayward Cycles) to their own close fought battle. In the end, Chadbourne finished first with Tilley managing to drop King and Sharpe to finish second. In the Grand Vets race, Ray Crosthwaite (Pedalon.co.uk) and Dave McMullen (Evans Cycles) regularly exchanged places with barely a tyre's width separating them over the first two laps. However, ultimately Crosthwaite was able to impose his dominance taking the win over McMullen. The clash for third was no less dramatic with Garrett Hill (Two/Zero Four Bikes), Donald MacGregor (Weston Wheelers) and Ian Petherbridge (Beyond/WDMBC/Specialized) all riding out of their skins. In the end there could only be one third place and it fell to Petherbridge who was able to break away from his two rivals.
With the sun still high in the sky and the competitors and spectators all visibly enjoying themselves it was finally time for the senior races. With important BC ranking points up for grabs, fields were bulging and in danger of reaching capacity. First off were the Elite men. From the start the familiar figures of Chris Minter and Adrian Lansley, riding for series sponsor Pedalon.co.uk, were hot on the wheel of Stuart Bowers of Scott UK. This nail bitingly close racing raged on for four laps before Stuart was able shake off the Pedalon.co.uk duo in the fifth lap and seal top honours. Chris also, eventually, broke free of Adrian to finished second.
Next to disappear into a cloud of dust was the men's Expert and Masters fields. Over the four laps race Mateusz Wielgos (unattached) fought tooth and nail with, fellow expert riders, Jon Pybus (Pedal Power/Loughbourgh Uni), Gary Record (VC Deal) and Duane Stander (unattached). Wielgos ultimately proved the strongest rider outsprinting Pybus in the final lap. Record finished second a mere 10 seconds ahead of Stander. In the brutally competitive Master's men's race Scott Forbes (Pedalon.co.uk) pushed hard from the beginning staying ahead the chasing pack of Dan Lewis (RAF), Mark Hutt (AW Cycles), Nick Onslow (Pedalon.co.uk) and Paul Hopkins (Offcamber). Forbes built on his fast early laps to keep ahead of the others taking the win and leaving Lewis and Hutt to a sprint finish for second and third places.
In the men's Sports field, Martin Delves (Beyond/WDMBC/Specialized) is rapidly becoming the man to beat with impressive rides at the BMBS and local Gorrick races. Despite a lack of gridding, Delves was able to fight his way from the back of the field to take the win 11 seconds ahead of Russell Turner (Team Certini) and Mark Field (MSC Bikes)
Last, but by no means least, it was down to the women to close a great day's racing. Hot on the heels of the men's Sport riders were the female Elite racers. National Champ, Jenny Copnall (Look RT) showed why she is a popular favourite to take the BMBS putting in strong laps to keep ahead of Maddie Horton of Team Certini. In the Expert female category Carla Haines rode strongly to stay away from Fran Mundy (Torq) in second and Natasha Litherland (Progression Fitness) in third. In the female Masters competition, Beyond/WDMBC/Specialized rider, Kim Hurst stamped her usual prowess all over the race before succumbing to mechanical problems, which cost her valuable time. In the end Hurst could not hold on to the win with Torq's Emma Bradley relegating her to second. Theresa Jackson (Luton CC) came in third to complete the podium positions. In the final category of the day, the female Sport category, Maxine Filby (A5 Rangers) rode a sub-one hour race to take the win ahead of Elizabeth Foot (unattached) in second and Sonja Bye (unattached) in third.
The general consensus from racers and spectators alike was that this was a brilliant way to kick off the Southern XC series. The course provided thrills, spills and enough hills to suit even the most hardcore racer and combined with beautiful spring weather it was as close to perfection as could be. To quote HG Wells once more,
Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. You can't argue with that!
Round 2 of the Southern XC series is on 17 May 2009 at Crow Hill, Ringwood full details are available at www.pedalon.co.uk. For those fancying something a bit longer check out the WDMBC organised Bucks Offroad Sportive (www.bucksoffroadsportive.co.uk) - probably the hardest one-day offroad enduro in the UK. Can you handle it?