Report: British XC Series Round 2
Killeen Back On Top, Matthews Arrives On Elite Scene
Liam Killeen and Lily Matthews were the big winners in round two of the British XC Series held at the brand new venue of Wasing, near Newbury.
For Killeen it signalled a return to the head of the British XC field after finishing off of the podium at round one in Sherwood, while for Matthews it was confirmation that the hard work as a full-time mountain bike rider is paying dividends.
Both races had notable absentees - for the men round one winner Oli Beckingsale and third placed David Fletcher did not start, both having endured a heavy schedule of early season racing including two World Cup rounds. Enduring a similar calendar Annie Last was ill and elected to rest rather than race.
Regardless, both fields were still competitive and included some unexpected additions - Gareth Montgomerie picking up a notable fifth place in the men's field, dusting off the mountain bike to return from the road scene.
On lap one of that race Killeen was joined by Paul Oldham, Lee Williams, Billy Whenman, Dave Collins and Jody Crawforth, and on a course where close racing was the formula nobody expected to see a split in the early stages. Killeen however was intent on riding a clean trail and keeping mistakes to a minimum, so led from the front. In doing so he left Collins to puncture, Whenman to encounter another mechanical and the rest to suck up a relentless pace.
Lee Williams, usually so consistent to battle in the early stages, elected to fall back to the tune of thirty seconds on lap two, Oldham and Crawforth twenty seconds up the road chasing Killeen's shadow. Come the latter stages of the hour and forty five minute race though, that decision was vindicated, Williams moving through to third place and challenging Oldham to the finish.
Killeen was already getting cleaned up at this stage, finishing two minutes ahead of any challengers and the only rider to keep sub-eighteen minute laps for the duration.
Elite women's winner Lily Matthews was similarly assured, finishing one minute 17 seconds ahead of Kate Potter. A first lap lead of 28 seconds was the foundation for Matthews' first ever British XC Series win, slowly increasing the gap across each of the five laps to win convincingly. Third place was Maddie Horton, whose performance signalled a return to form of previous years.
IN THE CATEGORIES
The day of racing started with Ed McParland outsprinting Ryan Fenwick for the win in the Youth men's competition, while Bethany Crumpton managed to overhaul Amy Roberts for her first win of the 2010 series.
Tracy Moseley was the surprise addition to the women's Sport race, proving beyond any doubt that downhillers are XC race fit. Winning the race and at one stage up to second in the Expert category, Moseley was in preparation for the opening round of the downhill World Cup which takes place next week. Adela Carter was the Expert which eluded Moseley, who took the category win by some six minutes.
Katy Winton took out the Junior women's race, while a three-way-battle in the Masters category featured Jo Munden, Caroline Goward and Emma Bradley at the head of proceedings. Eventually Munden took the win, with a similar race story in the Veterans, as Nicky Hughes finished ahead of Jackie Roberts and Jane Cumming.
In the noon races, Steve James took his second Junior win from two appearances, although Luke Gray was only four seconds back, signalling good form. Kenta Gallagher and Grant Ferguson elected to sit out the long journey from Scotland, instead racing a road event closer to home.
The qualification to the Elite ranks in 2011 became clearer, as Giles Drake took another win in the Expert category. Marked closely throughout by both Matt Page and Niall Frost, neither could match Drake's explosive sprint in the closing stages. Both could however be pleased that a top-5 national ranking and Elite status was one step closer following this race.
The mid-afternoon events consisting of the 30+ categories, Sport and Open attracted the highest entry of the day, making round two another sellout event.
Scott Forbes seemed unbeatable in round one, dominating the Masters race and riding clear for the win. By Wasing however, it was a different story. Whether Forbes was a marked man, or if Simon Ernest, Chris Rathbone and Matt Dennis had been in secret training, it was unclear. Without dispute though, Forbes couldn't escape and had three riders for company in the early stages. Eventually, both Forbes and Ernest would escape together building a small but crucial lead over Matt Dennis, allowing them to duke it out for the win. Ernest finally emerged the winner, but it was a painful three second wait for Forbes to take second.
Racing was equally close between Paul Hopkins, Mark Chadbourne and Ian Jeremiah for the Veteran win. For a time Chadbourne took the lead, but Hopkins' consistent lap times were enough to haul back the few seconds Chadbourne led by. The Grand Veteran battle between Gregor Grant and Ian Wright was decided in a sprint to the line, and although Grant was dying a thousand deaths, he still managed to find power for the win somewhere.
In the Sport category Lee Westwood led throughout, having a variety of riders for company, none of which could stay with him for longer than a lap, while Anthony Windle and Hannah Minter took the Open men's and women's races respectively.