Words By Joolze Dymond
Photography By Jacob James
All the rider reaction from Sherwood Pines, including winners Oli Beckingsale, Annie Last, Scott Forbes, Giles Drake and Mark Hutt.
Oli Beckingsale - Elite Winner.
I won here once before in 2006 which was a big relief. It's just difficult, a lot of technical stuff and between us (the elites) it's kind of one speed. We can all ride a bike fast round twisty bends, there's not a lot of ways you can really split it up. It was good today that it rained in the week as it just made it that bit stickier, which meant there was less drafting and more pedalling. It went into quite a small group, quite quickly and was good. I found one little rocky drag at the back of the course where you could give it a bit and that's where I attacked on the fourth lap to get the three of us (Williams and Fletcher) and attacked in the same place on the fifth lap to get two of us (Williams), it wasn't a secret!
So on the last lap I attacked there once again and got the tiniest gap on Lee and then it
was then a case of who would give in first, I was waiting for him to give up and he was waiting for me to give up! It hurt!
Lee's going really well, I know he's been in Cyprus so he's got a bit of racing on me and round here he's a strong boy. It's as flat as a pancake round here.
It's good fun though and it was good to see that the guys we were catching were really cool and let us through and were being really understanding and that's the main thing; at least everyone respected everyone's racing. We asked properly and everyone let our race flow through and by doing so made their races go smoothly too, so I really appreciate the guys in Sport moving out the way. It's so close between us that you only need a couple of backmarkers to not let us through to be game over for those of use caught at the back.
To be honest I preferred it here in the older days a bit less singletrack would make it a lot better. Today there was hardly any fire road and I think we could have done with a bit more of the kickers as well as a bit more fire road, it was nearly 3/4 of singletrack out there and I think half and half would have made it a better race, personally speaking.
My card is always marked, even if I won here or not, it doesn't make too much odds really, it's my job to be shot at really as I've been a round for a long time. I get paid to race bikes and if I can get a win then all good. I'm really looking forward to the World Cup at Dalby, all my training so far has been geared towards that race, which means I'm not turning up here fresh, I'm just thinking about doing a good job round there so coming here and doing a good ride means I'm going in the right direction.
Lee Williams - Elite runner up
I'm pretty delighted with that, I think the best result I've ever had here before is 14th so I was happy to be coming round in the lead group. I started my racing a lot earlier this year with a trip to Cyprus, plus I had a good cross season, the results weren't there but my form was pretty good. The Cyprus cup races I think brought my form on a lot quicker than normal, so that helped a lot.
Today, everyone was in the mindset for a big bunch race, so nobody really wanted to take it on. Oli put in an effort on the third and fourth lap and whittled the field right down and on the fifth lap he put in a huge effort and split away completely leaving just yards between myself and Dave a further few yards behind, then it was just a case of hanging on to the end. Fair play to Oli he's so strong.
Coming into the first race of the series at Sherwood, it's always a nerve racking start to the series, because of the type of racing it is with such big groups it makes it difficult, you don't know how to judge your form, it just makes you a bit nervous, you never can tell how you are going to go, so today to do this well is so good, a great start for me.
Annie Last - Elite women's winner
That was really good; my first mountain bike race of the season, so I just wanted to see how I felt and see how everyone else is going and then the plan was to squeeze a little extra out towards the end. I felt pretty comfortable sat on the wheels of Kate (Potter) and Rosara (Joseph) and I just wanted to see what I had in my legs. On the third lap I got to the front and bunny hopped the log, which gave me an advantage and gave us a little gap on Kate. Then on the last lap I squeezed a bit more out and in the same place I went again and got the gap on Rosara. It was quite a long race, two hours, but it all felt good, so for my first outing I'm pretty pleased with that!
Steve James - Junior Winner
I'm really pleased with that ride today; I've actually done some training this winter so it's different for now. I'm really trying to up my game again this year. Grant (Fergusson) and myself worked together for a few laps to try and get a gap from the rest of the field and it worked really well. We did a lap on the front each and then on the third lap Grant looked like he was starting to suffer, so I began to up the pace and put a real big attack on a fire road and absolutely exploded from the front and kept the lead from there. I got about a minutes lead in the end. It was pretty good. I really liked the course so much better than last year, there was some slow stuff, and some fast stuff really varied, really good classic Sherwood stuff. Fantastic start to the season and hopefully plenty more wins to come and I'm only really starting to get into my form now so there's definitely more to come. All I hope for now is that Kenta (Gallagher) comes back from his loss, it's really good fun racing him and he's a great bike rider that really pushes me.
Adela Carter - Expert Women's Winner
The aim today was to do one lap and see what happens. I had such an awful time in the SXC race the other week, I bonked really, really badly, I forgot to drink and forget to eat gels, so I had a really bad experience. So today was, do a lap, feel comfortable, move on to the next lap, and repeat, remembering to eat and drink and have fun and forget about placings and ride it like I'm just riding for pleasure. I was riding relaxed, it was a nice day, I seem to be getting a tan and it helped that the atmosphere here was so fantastic; it was so friendly out on the course. It was as hard as I thought it would be, the distance is further than I'm used to racing, as I've only done a cyclocross season and 40 minutes is a fantastic time to race a bike, two hours is silly! We'll see how we go at the next one!
Alice Barnes - Youth women's winner
My legs weren't feeling very good at the start, as I rode Yarborough yesterday where I came third. So when I came here, despite feeling tired I just thought I'd give it everything, so I did what I could and it worked out well. You never know how much of a lead you've got when doing this as there are so many different races going on at the same time so I just dug in and kept going so I wouldn't be disappointed at the end. I don't actually like racing here; the course is always too flat. I just spent my race picking off other riders in the other races ahead of me.
Giles Drake - Expert winner
You never know coming into the season how you are going to go, you don't know who you're against or what's in your legs, but I was fairly confident I could be up there. Obviously Sherwood is a difficult course as one slip, one mistake, you could end up three riders back and a gap could appear and it's very difficult to bridge those gaps and at the same time it's very difficult to ride away on the front. So I tried to sit in on the start, gauged what I had against the other guys, I just took the pace up when I could and pushed on.
Ryan Bevis had a spill early on, so he was unlucky, I came through and pretty much set the pace from there. I had difficulty shaking off Douglas Shearer, but got there in the end and Matt Page had a great ride coming from the back of the grid to take third, so on another day those guys could have easily caught me. I felt good, I had enough left in the tank for that last lap and I rode safely, as those roots were getting pretty exposed, so it was a case of not taking risks and getting to the line in one piece.
Scott Forbes - Master Winner
Yeah I'm pleased with today, it's a course that's difficult to get away from people, as it's so flat, it's more like a road race, with big groups of riders. So I thought I'd put the hammer down on the first lap and see what happens. I turned round after the first lap and I had a 2, 3 hundred yard lead, so I thought there's no point wasting that, so I just kept going. I took lap three a bit steady, I didn't want to blow my lights and felt good on lap four and just put the hammer down again and that was it. Pretty pleased with that, a good start to the season.
I know on a course like this its really easy to get stuck behind back makers and if you're part of a big group if one person gets past maybe the next two don't and you then have to work so hard to get back to the front rider, so I had that in my mind when I started the race, so I reckoned it would be best to be at the front and let the rest of the field battle it out behind and see what happens. So yeah a good start, I had a bad year last year, I know I got the Nationals but the rest of the season was just rubbish for me, so this year I've changed a lot of my training, changed the bike as well, I'm now on a full sus and on a course like this is brilliant, so now got a good grid for the next one and we can take it from here and hope it's a better season for me.
Mark Hutt - Veteran winner
I must admit I was nervous going into this one, it was like going into the unknown, plus a lot of people expected I was going to do well, it just added to the pressure. But yeah quality field, I loved it. On the first lap a few of us went the wrong way, so I had to come back from a long way and by the time I caught Paul Hopkins and Alex Glasgow I think I was on my third lap. When I got up to them I attacked on the gravel climb, Paul managed to come through a few times then we hit some singletrack and I just pulled away and spent the last lap on my own out in front. That has to one of the toughest races I've done and after that wrong turn on the first lap, when I thought that was it game over as I was so far back, I worked that hard and so to get the win after all that was a real result.
Ian Wright - Grand Vet Winner
What can I say? It was a great race, nice weather, good course though hard work getting past everybody, they were all gents and they let you go through. I think Greg may have had more trouble getting through the back markers and so I had the race to myself upfront. It was good. After the second lap I just settled down and enjoyed it.