Report: Southern XC Round 1
Report and Photography: Joolze Dymond
There was a big surprise at round one of the Southern XC Series today, as Liam Killeen arrived and convincingly won at Wasing. Local favourite Adrian Lansley finished second, with Lee Williams third, while Rosara Joseph won the women's event in what was an event packed with Britain's biggest names in XC racing.
With the brand new venue being used for the forthcoming second round of the British XC Series, riders were obviously keen to study the track, today's race being the only opportunity to recce the course before May 8.
There is always a sense of excitement when new trails comes to light, especially when you're given permission to create and race said trails and the weekend of the 10th April 2010 saw the emergence of a brand new venue, one that has the potential to be a firm favourite for many riders as it develops. The hardworking crew of the Southern XC were given the task of creating and imaginative 4.8 mile course that would not only serve as a testing but fun circuit for the second round in their excellent series but would also hold its head up high as a venue for the British Mountain Bike Series. The venue in question is Wasing Estate, boasting 4,000 acres of woodland, farmland and lakes it certainly is an unblemished jewel nestled discreetly between Newbury and Reading.
Above: New season, new course, anticipation builds
Over 400 riders were eager to see what Wasing had to offer, especially as the British Mountain Bike Series heads there in just a few weeks, and as expected the start list was littered with a veritable who's-who of British racing. First up to get a taste of racing at Wasing were the stars of tomorrow. A feisty field of under 12s, followed by the Under 10s with the Under 8s bringing up the rear got proceedings underway over a shortened version of the course. By 10.15 it was soon time for the Youth and Juveniles to race the newly constructed course.
Above: Action from the Juvenile race
What was in store? A quick spurt across the open field to spread the race out before heading into the woods where the course threaded itself through the trees, singletrack twisting and turning like a coiled snake, with a number of sharp inclines made harder by loose ground, punctuated by a few surprise technical sections, including the now infamous drop off, plus a number of small stream crossings certainly gave the riders a real test.
First home were the juveniles, with Harvey Lowe taking the win over the one lap, with Ffion James doing the honours in the female Juvenile race. In the Youth race Ed Parland was in a league of his own as he romped away to take the race from the front taking the win from Alex Peters by over 70 seconds. In the Youth women's race Bethany Crumpton had company for at least the first lap of her race, as Amy Roberts was keen to keep in the thick of the action. By the end of lap two it was Crumpton who emerged from the woods first taking the win, with Roberts a further 2 minutes 20 seconds adrift in second.
Above: The fun riders take on Wasing's brand new delights
Next up were the Fun and Open races which saw a huge turn-out the trails, which were awash with weekend warriors testing their prowess against their peers. Once again the racing was fast and most definitely fun! Taking the two laps in his stride, Matt Owens took a comfortable win, while things were a lot closer in the three-lap Open race with Franck Lebon setting the pace, while team mate Mike Chaplin had him in his sights. However Lebon had the edge and took the win just 14 seconds ahead of Chaplin. Series sponsors Pedal On had their first win of the day as Hannah Minter took the win in the Women's race.
As the day progressed the course got more bedded in, the roots became more exposed and those innocuous looking stream crossings took on a life of their own! On a beautiful dry day, albeit one with an icy chill, it was weird seeing rider after riders return lap after lap with incredibly muddy bikes and equally muddy legs. The trails had seemed dry and very nearly in the realms of dusty, but never boggy. Then we stumbled upon at least one of the mini mud chasms that had opened up during the racing. I watched from the edge of my ditch transfixed, witnessing the many weird and wonderful ways that riders employed to get to the other side. The best I saw was junior winner Ben Roff bunny-hop his way over, with just a rear wheel splash, which would have soaked any rider on his wheel. As it was, it didn't matter, because Roff had long since dropped the rest of his race.
Above: Roff nails the stream crossing on the way to solo victory.
A few other riders attempted the bunny hop, most with success, but that edge kept getting further and further away! For the Vets they just battered through, mud splashing every which way, as their fast-moving train forged on through. This ultra competitive race had all the main contenders, Paul Hopkins, Mark Hutt, Mark Chadbourne and Darren Shepherd, matching each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke for at least two of the three laps. By lap three, Hopkins made the move that saw him going for gold, sneaking a sub 22 minute lap in to take the win ahead of Chadbourne just 20 seconds down.
Rachel Evans went virtually unchallenged in the Women Vet's race, taking the win with nearly three minutes advantage. In the Grand Vets, Viv Hazelton ploughed a lonely furrow as she went for her win, while Mark Hardwicke had a few more competitors in his race he still came out on top to take the win two minutes clear of second-placed Ian Petherbridge.
Above: The early stages of the Elite race - Lansley leads...
Finally it was time for the Elite men. It was shaping up to be quite a contest, with a surprise entry on the day from Liam Killeen, the on-form Lee Williams, local fast boys Adrian Lansley and Chris Minter plus a good turn-out of riders from TORQ. First from the blocks, stringing the field out behind him was Lansley. At the end of lap one Lansley had opened up the slimmest of margins and was looking strong. By lap two Killeen had smoothly moved through the race to take the helm, with Lansley keeping him company. My lap three it was looking like a Killeen/Lansley sprint finish was on the cards. However by lap four Killeen was out on his own and taking the race in his stride, leaving the rest in his wake. After five laps and just under 103 minutes of racing, Killeen took the win, with Lansley taking second and Williams feeling pleased with third after a heavy week of training.
... but soon Killeen takes control
Rosara Joseph was hoping to race against fellow antipodean Kate Potter in the Elite Women's race, however illness sidelined Potter, leaving a small but perfectly formed elite women's field. Joseph easily took the win but Maxine Filby rode a strong race to pick up second.
Above: Rosara Joseph looks happy and in control on the way to a win in the Elite Women's race.
In the Expert race Mateusz Wielgos and Luke Eggar were locked in constant battle the entire four laps, which was only decided with a thrilling sprint for the finish, which ended up being awarded to Wielgos, by a hair's breadth, while Lydia Gould had no such troubles as she romped away from her race to take TORQ's second win of the day in the Expert Women's race.
Scott Forbes seemingly floated over the course to take yet another win in the Masters category, despite hard chasing by rival Chris Rathbone hoping to snatch victory. However in the Master Women's race it was another closely fought race as Emma Bradley and Jo Munden looked to be replaying their last encounter, with Munden hoping not to get struck by crippling cramp this time. Despite both riders looking equally matched it was Bradley who once again emerged victorious having shaken off Munden in the closing stages to take the win. It was also looking to be a close run match in the sport race with Rob McCarthy and Matt MacDonald both in the running, though with MacDonald stuck in the middle ring, if this came to a sprint surely McCarthy would have the edge. However fate played its trump card and McCarthy crashed out of the race leaving MacDonald to take the win.
As the day wound down there was a real buzz about the new course, it may not have the killer hills of Margam but it more than made up for the lack of climbing with masses of technical singletrack - certainly not a pushover and test enough for all our best riders as they turn up in their droves in a few weeks to find out for themselves.
There is one big incentive on this course though to make sure you're not last... I'm sure I spotted a few Red Kites circling the area looking for a tasty morsel or a struggling rider! Be warned! Get those miles in now to make the most of this exciting new venue!
Scott Forbes - Master Winner
"All I can say is that training is going really well! About a year ago I sat down and thought right I want to win the National Champs and I want a couple of really good seasons, so to achieve this I changed everything; What I was eating, how I was training and a year in it's really coming together, I'm feeling so strong now that even in a racing situation I'm not pushing myself 100%, I'm sort of at 70-80%. I've been doing HIT training, which is basically high intensity, something like 20 second efforts followed by 20 seconds rest and repeat until the session is complete, it seems like you're not actually doing that much training but the intensity really pays off.
"Today was just another good day for me at the office showing that my particular brand of training really suits me and being able to tackle a brand new course like that was brilliant. You have to give it a bit of slack, as it is so new, just a matter of a few weeks. Each lap though it was getting better and better, its certainly shaping up to be an awesome course now rather than just a trail through the woods and with all the racing we've had here today it can only improve it further for the next round of the British Mountain Bike Series in a few weeks time. It's a flattish course, which is a power-man's course a bit like Sherwood, a bit like Thetford where you don't get big gaps between people, so the racing is always going to be close. That said though it is very technical out there - you constantly have to check your lines and make sure you don't hit a root, so yeah it's a good course. Definitely suited to full suss though, without a shadow of a doubt there is no way I could have done that on a hardtail!"
Liam Killeen - Elite Winner
"This was my best option for a race this weekend and seeing how the BMBS comes here next it was a great opportunity to see how the course was riding. It's good, very similar to Crowhill, no sustained climbing but lots of twisty, high-force type efforts needed. We did five laps today and I reckon if we do the same course in a few weeks time we'll be doing six laps out there. It's still soft in places and the more it's ridden the quicker it will be. Saying that, it'll be a lot rougher as more roots get exposed, but it is a fun course.
"I was lucky to be able to follow Adrian (Lansley) for a couple of laps as he's obviously ridden around here a few times before. Compared to Sherwood I felt really good out there. Sherwood was my first outing on a mountain bike for a while and that race for me got progressively better as it went on, on a course like that you tend to get a rhythm and flow as you get to know it, you use the same effort but you ride it a lot smoother so you go faster.
"I started to get a similar feel here, though there was a lot of traffic out there today, but that's just part of racing and you just have to accept it and get on with it, so just like Sherwood I felt better as the race unfolded.
"For me this year is all about enjoyment. Of course I want to perform but I have the time to look after my back now while focusing on the bigger picture of the coming years. Last year I tried to ride through the problems with my back and that wasn't the way for me to go forward. Now I've eased off on my midweek sessions and using races like these to see how my back is holding up, while also working on specific aspects of my technique and for now that all seems to be going in a positive direction. Dalby now is the next stop for me and that will be yet another challenge. I haven't actually been there yet but I've heard good things about the course so I'm looking forward to riding that."
Lydia Gould - Expert Women's Winner
"I had a much better outing here than I did in Sherwood, I felt a lot stronger so I was very pleased with how the day went. I had a few dodgy moments, it's a bit slippery in places and I got caught out and came down pretty hard, it was at the bottom of a hill so I lost a bit of time running up that and then to compound the problems my chain came off, fortunately I had a good lead by then so I wasn't too worried. The course was good for me as there are quite a few tricky climbs and a bit technical and that sort of stuff suits me perfectly. I'm looking forward to coming back and riding here in a few weeks though I'm having to ride as a Grand Vet which I'm not too happy about, however I'll carry on doing the expert category in the Southern Series."
Matt MacDonald - Sport Winner
"Yeah that worked out okay in the end! I had some trouble during the race in that I couldn't get into my big chainring for the whole race, so I spent most of my time on Robert McCarthy's wheel, I do apologise to him for appearing to be wheel sucking I just couldn't get past! Unfortunately he came off during the race and didn't finish but he certainly gave me a good head to head battle for most of the race. It was a cracking course, I can't wait to get back here for the next round of the BMBS, hopefully it'll be a similar day like today. The first part of the circuit was a bit clayey and there was one bit you had to run up, luckily cyclo-cross skills came into good use for that and the bomb hole was a bit hair raising - other than that it was very enjoyable. Hopefully Rob can come back and have a good one next time."
1. Liam Killeen
2. Adrian Lansley
3. Lee Williams
4. Chris Minter
5. Steve James
1. Rosara Joseph
2. Maxine Filby
3. Carla Haines