Soggy Bottom Round 1
With severe weather warnings in place and some of the worst gales and rain blowing in, you wouldn't have been far off the mark to reckon that the opening round of the popular south west XC series, Soggy Bottoms, would be living up to it's name! With this in mind, riders still poured in (pardon the pun) from near and far, armed with their biggest mud tyres and state of the art wet weather gear.
Pre entries for the Soggy were running at a healthy 200 mark, with a stunning 50 ‘fun' riders eager to come and give XC racing a go! As riders arrived they were greeted not only by steaming hot mugs of tea and coffee and lashings of bacon butties, but also by blue skies and a gentle breeze! A complete contrast to the raging storms that hit the area just hours earlier. With the weather in mind, organiser Martyn Salt put his extensive knowledge of the area to good use and with reputable course designer/builder Paul Davis created a 3.2-mile course that took in all the favourites that Newnham is fabled for while missing out on the mud!
The cruellest section had to be ‘Cliff Climb' a real knee trembler/heart pumper of an uphill that started just meters from the start, rising quickly from the arena providing very little traction with a lovely covering of marble sized loose gravel. Just when you thought you'd reached the top, it kicked up once more for a final fling before you could finally take a moment to catch your breath and start admiring and enjoying the singletrack. A quick sortie into Bluebell woods, via the plantation brought riders into the whooping dips of the bomb holes before shooting them down the infamous ‘Cottage return' a long ribbon of technical singletrack on a fast downward trajectory. However what comes down must also go up. The course circumnavigated the river over a bridge before heading off to the Pipeline Return hurtling down to a very soggy second river crossing, before threading back to the finish to start the lap all over again, beginning with that dreaded climb. In the course of the day many a race, along with a few wills to live were won or lost on that climb!
As always it was the youngsters that were sent out to test the conditions first. These eager future XC stars belted from the start line, and belted up the climb. With the older riders who dominated the juveniles now moved onto the youth category a fresh crop of riders raised the bar, with Aidan Roche taking the win over the two lapper while behind just seven seconds separated the next three riders, such was the level of competition. In the youth race Ed Walsh carried on his form from the previous year, but with an extra lap, now he is in Youth, tackle the first climb as hard as he could to open up a comfortable lead which he worked even harder to maintain till the end of the race where he took the win a good two minutes clear of his nearest rival.
A healthy turn out of eight women lined up to take part in the fun race, two laps, a taster of how much fun XC racing can be even in the depths of winter. Lynda McTier taking a break from the road took to mountain bike racing with ease taking the win in her first race, with a very comfortable margin. Behind the fight for second and third was a much closer affair with just four seconds separating Isobel Taylor and Millie Wilson.
With pre entries bolstered by entries on the day the men's fun race now found itself with a massive 63 riders the majority of which were ‘newbies' along with a few who are addicted to this cracking little series. Fergus Anderson proved he was the strongest on the day taking the win a good three minutes from ‘regular' Martin Turpin.
The final race of the morning saw the Grand Vets take on the might of Newnham as well as a good tussle with each other. As the race unfolded and mechanical issues took their toll it was Colin Wright who emerged victorious.
With race one done and very nearly ‘dusted' it was soon time to catch all the entrants of race two get under way and take bets on who would get to the top of the killer climb first!
First underway were the women, all the remaining categories setting off together. Elite rider Maddie Horton steamed away up the climb with Alli Northcott in hot pursuit as the rest of the field and other categories made their own steady ways up the cruel bank. In the Elite/Expert race, it was a real ding-dong battle with Horton and Nothcott playing a great game of cat and mouse. By lap three Northcott finally got her claws into Horton, as she roared on to take the win with Horton just delighted to have some great competition coming home to take an equally happy second. Emma Sargent took a comfortable win in the masters, as did Fran Bullock in Sport and Jane Cumming in vets.
The Horton household went home with at least one win as hubby Jay, despite some discomfort earlier in the week with certain parts of his under carriage, took on the challenge of the masters, chatting and giggling his way to the front disarming all his rivals with his infectious approach to fun racing, leaving Mike Tomlinson to pick up the slack behind to claim second as Horton gleefully bounced on past moving swiftly from fourth up to first on the final climb, to go on to take the win.
It certainly was a fortuitous day for Team Certini, with both Horton's podiuming and now vet Gary Andrews added to the tally with a commanding win in his race, while Russell turner completed the podium line ups for the team grabbing a well earned third in the elite expert race.
However it was close rivals Southfork racing, who took the win in that race, matching the win by Vet Lady Jane Cumming. This time it was team member Luke Eggar, stretching his legs moving up from sport tackling the elite /expert race and its extra lap at first with trepidation, that took the honours As the race progressed he settled into the race relishing the jaunts up ‘Cliff Climb' and finished the race happier than he started. The final race went to Shred rider Harry Smith taking the honours in the sport race just ahead of team mate James Birch.
It was a real corker of a day with the whole arena buzzing with the clink of tea mugs, and the joy of XC racing. The end tally saw well over 300 hundred riders take part in the opening round despite the promise of horrendous weather. The jury is still out who took the honours in the ‘Battle of the Borders' but we reckon that Devon could be a hard county to beat....
Martyn Salt and his team once again pulled out all the stops to provide a wholesome nearly mud free day for everyone.
The next Soggy outing is on the January 10, pop over to see some great racing in the South West or why not give it a go yourself and find out first hand how much fun it really is! See you there!
For more details check out www.xcracer.com
Lynda McTier- Fun women winner
That was fantastic fun, really enjoyable. I've never raced before so I was unsure which category to enter so I opted for fun to get a chance to see what it's all about. The descents were so much fun, the water was a shock I didn't know it was quite that deep, the first time it was a bit iffy but after that I just got on with it! I've only recently taken up mountain biking, I'm more used to riding on road, but I thought I'd give this a go for a change. It was brilliant, I can't wait to come back and have another go!
Martin Turpin - 2nd fun
That really was good fun, great course and loads of riders to race against. My brother in law was out there with me too giving me a real run for my money and he beat me! I love the Soggies, I've been coming here for the last 3 years, it's such real fun, the atmosphere along with the organisation is just excellent.
Colin Wright - Grand Vets winner
That was an incredibly hard race out there today. I only got the lead in the end on the second lap was when the then leaders chain came off and he crashed too. It was still very close out there and I reckon over the whole series it's going to be a real battle between about 5 or 6 of us and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in. The course was excellent and we can't believe how dry it was out there considering how much rain with had and talking to one of the vets who's come up from Cornwall he says the weather done there is terrible, so we've done really well here today. The recent weather has made everyone focus on tyres, we've all been fooled into thinking we'd need mud tyres and we didn't really in the end!
Ed Welsh - Youth winner
I was very with that outcome, I wasn't sure how I'd get on as I did well in the juv section last year and now I've moved up, I was hoping to get a good start so taking the win is brilliant. It was good out there today, a lot drier than I thought it would be and so I didn't have the right tyres, which made some of the corners pretty interesting! I just used the Cliff climb to launch my attack on the race, I went as hard as I could just to see who could come with me and it was a strategy that worked as I found myself with a pretty good lead at the top.
Jane Cumming - vets lady winner
That was excellent, I've not been mountain biking for about 12 years, I've been riding the road and had a few kids in-between and that's been great, but after winning the Exmoor Beast this year, the Southfork guys asked me if I'd like to race for them here and seeing how Newnham used to be my old haunt years ago I couldn't really resist! It was all I remember and more, it was excellent, I can't wait to come and do the rest of the series now. All I need to do now is get the kids involved and it'd be great.
Maddie Horton - 2nd woman
That was tough out there today, but its great to get that level of competition in local races even if we are in the off season! I have to admit my legs aren't at 100% at the mo but it was a brilliant race none the less. I worked really hard on the first couple of laps but Alli was always there just behind me, I knew I would have to work hard for this but she got me at the beginning of lap 3 and that was it I never saw her again, I just bonked!
The course was excellent and I couldn't believe how dry it was. I was going to put my mud tyres on and then thought nah I'll risk it and slip around a bit, I'm quite pleased now I chose that option. It's funny down here, we all ruck up to a Soggy and the sun comes out and we all dance around as if summers come back! It's just brilliant. I bet I'll eat my words in January though wont I???
Racing this hard in the off season is great fun, I'm taking it all in my stride and treating it as fun. Yesterday I was in the gym, so I'm not tapering as I would for mid season races, it's just for fun and we'll go off now and do a long ride on the way home, it's all fun!
Jay Horton - Master Winner
That was excellent out there today, it's the first time I've been out of breath since riding the BMBS here in September, so I didn't know what to expect, so I just went really hard from the gun and yeah I pulled it out of the bag! I was lined up in about 20th spot and sort of cruised around for the first lap then I quickly realised I was with the leaders and just found myself going from 4th to 1st in one climb. I went for it on Clif climb and that was it I was out on my own and on for the win.
I only came along as it's my local race and we're expected to be here and the whole Certini team was out in force and it's great it's just one big social event, in fact the guys I was racing against said they could here me coming as I was chatting to everyone and having a great laugh as I was whizzing around! The course was awesome and the weather caught most of us out as we all mainly opted for mud tyres, all thinking the worse after the recent storms, but in truth they weren't needed out there. Great day, rounded off with a bacon sarnie and a good rub down, what more could you ask for!!!
Gary Andrews - Vets winner
Yeah good turn out today with some excellent results for the Certini team I think we'll all be happy with that. I got a pretty good start and seem to have opened up a bit of a lead on the first climb, which I tried to keep going throughout the race, I have to say I was starting to feel it though towards the end, I guess my lack of training was starting to show by then! That climb at the start of each lap is just a killer I could have easily got off and walked up it the last time round. It's a really difficult climb. The first time up it's not so bad it sort of flies by, but it's there in the back of your mind the whole lap that you're gonna have to tackle it again, and again. By the last few laps it just seems to get longer and longer and steeper! I daren't look back on the last lap as I knew I was fading and knew my rivals would be hard on my heels but I hung on and got the win.
Fran Bullock - Sport Women winner
For my first XC race that was excellent! It was a brilliant course and I had so much fun out there. I thought I'd have a pop at a Soggy as it's a local race for me, though I've never ridden at Newnham so it was an excellent chance to see what it was like here and great to be able to support local races. Mountain biking is always muddy, so starting racing in the winter isn't too much different from any other time I guess! It was brilliant out there on course considering the weather we've had recently, great fun, really enjoyable, can't wait for the rest of the series!
Alli Northcott - women's winner
That was a real battle out there with Maddie and to be honest I thought she'd got it really but I stuck in there and a managed to get the lead on the climb and got the win. I quite enjoyed it out there wasn't quite as muddy as I was expecting I thought it was going to be horrendous, but it wasn't too bad in the end. I still prefer my road riding, but I'll do the rest of the Soggies, it'd be rude not to really, what with such an excellent series and venue right on my doorstep. Plus it's great to mix this into my training plan; it's a great way to do a bit of top end in a fun way!
Luke Eggar - Elite/expert men
I'm really pleased with that result its very welcome after my disappointing ride here at the last BMBS XC round. Plus this is the first race at this distance, I move up a category next year from Sport to expert, which extends my races by one more lap, and that extra distance is a real killer, so I'm really pleased with how today went. The course suits me here, especially with that killer climb, but I was unsure how I'd handle the extra lap. Mind you the first couple of laps were really hard as I didn't do much of a warm up and I was thinking I might blow up, but I pulled through and managed to keep going, so really pleased by that. I really enjoy Soggies they're always good fun!