Joolze Dymond's "View From my Ditch"
It was an epic weekend in more ways than one, the final round of the extremely competitive but equally as fun British Mountain Bike Series took place at the weekend, with plenty to play for and as it was the first clash since the Nationals back in July there was certainly one or two old scores to settle along the way. Our journey started early on Friday morning where we picked up Kate Potter along the way and ended for us 3am Monday morning after the journey from hell, fortunately the weekend itself was fantastic and we soon forgot about endless traffic jams as we relived all those brilliant racing moments.
Annie Last wins the women's race from a grinning Kate Potter
It was to be a hectic weekend, which started Friday night as 12 teams lined up to take part in the inaugural Team Relay. 4 riders representing each team were ready to tackle a shortened version of the following mornings XC course. The stakes were high with a handsome prize purse on offer plus of course the kudos of beating your peers! This format will be a permanent feature of next years BMBS and of course I had to support it fully! So bring on the Dymond Allstars! It took a little organising, seeing how I was let down a few times, but I had my core riders, Chris Lane and Maxine Filby, who were more than keen to give it a go and I didn't want to let them down. Thanks to Christian Aucote and James Hampshire for bringing up the rear and stepping in at the last moment!
Team Savage took the top prize, fielding such a talented team it was hardly surprising, consisting as it did of Dave Fletcher, Annie Last, Kenta Gallagher and Steve James; the rest of us didn't have a chance really!! Dymond Allstars put up a great fight and came home in 8th; well done guys I'm proud of you!
With a UCI category 1 ranking the final round at the Mecca of mountain biking, Newnham Park, that has launched more than one international star along the way, the race attracted more than a passing interest by international racers. The most famous of all had to be the queen of XC herself Gunn -Rita Dahle Fleshja. Just 6 months after giving birth to her first child, Bjorner, Gunn-Rita is on the comeback trail and was using Plymouth as a stepping stone to her aim to get her crown back asap. With a newly acquired, European marathon championship gold tucked firmly in her back pocket; Gunn-Rita cruised round the course letting the race unfold ahead as she concentrated on enjoying herself. Though when she put the pedal to the gas in the closing stages you could see her talent pour through as she surged through the ranks.
However the real race was up front and none to personal, as Kate Potter, our favourite Aussie and adopted Brit was locked in a fierce battle with more home grown talent, Annie Last. After a long World Cup season the well travelled, Potter had her eye firmly on the overall series title, while Annie Last had her eye on her first Elite win. For 5 laps the two women shadowed each other, and the final result came down to a thrilling sprint with the younger Last taking full advantage scoring the most coveted win of her first year as a senior rider, while Potter was happy enough to score second and pick up the series win.
Other notable performances in the women's' races that day had to be Maxine Filby in the Expert, who picked up her first win in that category. She's come a long way in a short space of time, only starting in the sport this year; she's progressed from sport through to Expert and finished an outstanding season with a much-welcomed win. In the master's race, Kim Hamer-Hurst wearing her coveted National jersey was hoping to end her season with a final win, as she now heads to New Zealand with partner Mel, she will be sorely missed. However her wishes were thwarted by local rider Alli Northcott who decided to hang up her skinny road wheels for the weekend and try her hand at the rough stuff and was more than happy to take an impressive win, Kim was happy to settle for the series win to round off her season perfectly. Nicky Hughes once again was dealt a crushing blow in the vets race as a puncture put paid to her claiming a final win, leaving Anne Murray to thank lady luck once again for delivering her another win. Nicky recovered well enough to race back into 2nd spot to secure her overall title win. In the youth race National champion Katy Winton, had a tough battle on her hands as Hannah Barnes vied for the win, however it came down to a thrilling sprint with Katy taking the win by just 2secs.
Oli Beckingsale - Britain's best rider all season
After a mad dash back to the arena, for podiums and a quick cuppa it was soon time to head for those hills for the second race of the day. The 7km course wove itself around the sides of the valley giving spectators plenty of vantage points with in easy walking distance. The most popular spots being the Pipeline a crazy near vertical descent complete with a magnetic tree and hay bales for those who cant quite make the sharp turn at the bottom! Water is also a main attraction and with two river crossings there were plenty of spots to watch as riders either surged or teetered their way through, with some practising their latest diving techniques, I'm sure just to entertain the crowds! After covering the first race at the water, I reckoned I needed to head for another section and thanks to my ‘official' (he's just been promoted) quad man Paul Davis we began a crazy dash as we hurtled first to the killer climb after the Pipeline, (I'd quickly decided Pipeline would be interesting to watch but not to photograph), then deep into Bluebell Woods to check out a new section he had so lovingly crafted. Then it was hang on for all I was worth for another quick dash to finally catch the riders at water crossing no.2 before heading to the arena to catch Oli as he won his race after finally dropping the two Czechs who were clinging to him like limpets. Dave Fletcher brought home 3rd after a hard ridden race, just behind ending his season on the podium, where he likes to be,
With Scott Thwaites hanging up his mountain biking wheels to concentrate on the road, Sion O'Boyle finally had his chance to grab a win and put behind him a season of seconds. However it was not to be as Giles Drake surged through to take the win, leaving Sion to settle for 2nd again, but at least he could now claim the series win it being forfeited by Thwaites. Martin Delves continued his domination of the sport race, having taken 4 out of 5 wins and winning virtually every race around the country, he is now looking forward to moving up to Experts and doing it all again...
Junior rider Steve James seemed to be confused as to which race he was actually in! He'd quickly left behind his own race and had cut through the expert race like a hot knife in butter and was happily picking off elite riders as he went for the win taking the series title with it.
After yet another load of rider comments washed down by a quick cuppa before it was time again to find a man on a quad who could whisk me away from it all.... This time it was Dick who took time out of his important duties to give me a lift to Picnic Rocks, where I set myself up, to have my own picnic picking off riders in the 3rd race, like a sniper as they crested the small climb before they headed off in the direction of more climbing and epic descending. Satisfied that I'd got what I wanted I once again was drawn to water, where the Scottish contingent of the earlier races were there giving full vocal support to all the masters, vets & grand vets as they splashed expectantly across the ever deepening river.
The cheering must have worked especially for Master rider Phil Morris who seemed super charged as he romped for home to take the win closely followed by Matt Dennis who was probably using the race as a warm up for the kids races later that night! Lewis King gave Richard John a real run for his money, leading from the start, it was al Richard could do to contain the damage and despite a fast finish he had to concede the win to a jubilant King, however he knew he'd done enough to take home the series win along the way...
In the Grand vets it was the same 3 riders that colonised the podium. All season these 3, Ian Wright, Roy Hunt and Gregor Grant have been swapping places and the series title hung firmly in the balance. With so much water on course Wright felt he'd gone to heaven, with his background in jet skiing he was used to walking on water and he did just that to walk away with the win and the series title too boot to squarely round of a brilliant season. This was to be old time favourite and constant rival Roy Hunt's last competitive XC race, he heads off into the distance to try his hand once more at enduro riding instead for a change of both pace and scenery.
Just when I thought it was all over, it was soon time for the kids race and Matt Dennis lined up expectantly with the under 8's leading them round the course having fun as the youngsters tried to sprint past him. He repeated it again in the under 12's where Joe Barker did get the better of Matt! Still with no end it sight, as the night was drawing in it was time for the floodlit CX race put on by the Southwest CX community. It was a blast. A core group of keen riders lined up including National Trophy leader Paul Oldham and team mate Dave Collins along with Will Bjergfelt and Stuart Bowers. On the whistle they were off into the night lights blazing a path as they surreally went into the dark and beyond. Highlights included the bridge and the traditional hurdles were replaced with two huge boulders before the riders were left in complete darkness snaking there way round a well marked out course before heading back to the floodlit arena. 1 hour in and it was Oldham who continued his winning ways in cross, with team mate Collins picking up 3rd being thwarted on a 1-2 by Bjergfelt.
Finally at 8.30pm I could call it a day and headed off to the camper for a bowl of pasta and to download the days images, well that was after listening to the live band that was on hand to entertain us, hitting the sack at midnight I slept soundly, ready to do it all again the next day....
It's been a great season, with some exciting courses along the way, some flat some hilly, all challenging in their own right. Congratulations to everyone who came along to the series had gave it a go hope you enjoyed yourself as much as me. Next year there are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline and the series looks to be growing in statue again, attracting some seriously keen supporters. Make sure you come along and have a go or at least come and find out what all the fuss is all about, I'm sure you won't be disappointed, see you soon and don't worry if you don't spot me, cos I'll probably be in my ditch snapping happily away....