Report: British XC Series Round 4
Killeen destroys Dalby, Joseph women's winner
Dalby Forest World Cup circuit was home for the day to the British XC Series as riders from all over the UK converged to score those all important points in the penultimate round of the series. Once again the race was electric with little to call between many of the categories, some going to the wire, delivering some fantastic action for the ever-eager spectators lining the course.
The 7km course took in all the favourites, Worry Gill, Medusa's Drop and the Dual Descender to name but a few! A few subtle changes were added to make the course smoother, which came as a surprise to more than one rider in practise! In fact Junior Steve James took a nasty tumble on a section he thought he knew from his excellent race back at the World Cup in April. Fortunately his accident didn't involve any broken bones but ruled him out of competing in the race the next day, leaving rivals Kenta Gallagher and Grant Ferguson to duke it out between themselves in the junior race.
Thanks to the warm balmy days we've been experiencing these past few weeks the course was running fast with loose, dusty trails proving a complete contrast to the third round just four weeks prior, much to everyones relief!
Due to international duties, Annie Last and Lily Matthews were a notable absence at the start of the Elite women's race. Rosara Joseph made short work of the five laps going about her day in the office with little trouble extending her lead lap by lap taking the win a good six minutes clear of Mel Spath. Cait Elliott continued her recent run of good form to snatch the remaining podium position for WXC Racing.
Joolze Dymond's Photostream
Adela Carter went similarly untroubled in the Expert race as she led from the front taking the win from Jules Toone with an eight minute lead. Despite a faster second lap, Juvenile rider Ffion James could not undo the damage done in lap one by Lucy Grant and had to settle for second spot. William Cheaney had an easier ride in the Juvenile boy's race taking an early lead, which he extended in his final lap taking the win from Thomas Van Holten.
In the Youth women's race Bethany Crumpton looked to have the win in the bag with a commanding lead going into lap two, however Alice Barnes had other ideas and dug deep to finally catch Crumpton on the line snatching the win with just a bikes length difference.
A similar race was being played out in the boys Youth category, with the winner looking to be coming from either Alex Baker or Louis Bendixen, who matched each other for pedal stroke after pedal stroke for the first two laps, whilst Stuart Wilcox, Ben Miller and Ed McParland battled behind to get on terms with the two leaders. Coming into the closing stages, Bendixen slipped away from Baker, whilst a rapid Wilcox sped past Baker too in hot pursuit of the finish line, taking Bendixen to the wire in a thrilling sprint finish, which Wilcox won by a whisker.
New girl on the block Cheri Mills put the cat amongst the pigeons in the Master women's race taking a comfortable win from Jo Munden, whilst vet Nicky Hughes looking smooth and controlled eased herself into a comfortable winning position in the women's Veterans race.
As a category 1 UCI event it was hoped that a few more international riders would make the journey to a course that so far has gone down well with competitors. However with the Euro champs just around the corner, the regular UK elite field was swelled by just a few Norwegian riders.
Meanwhile it was shaping up to be yet another battle between Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale. A shaky start left Beckingsale on the back foot. As he gradually worked his way back to the front of the group it was clear that Killeen wasn't hanging a round for anyone, especially not Beckingsale!
Undeterred Oli got on with the job in hand, narrowing the gap on the climb and bringing the flighty Killeen to within ten seconds. As Killeen crested the climb a quick glance back gave him all the information he needed and made a massive kick leaving Beckingsale now in constant chase mode as Killeen scampered.
Jacob James' Photostream
Six laps later and Beckingsale could make no inroads leaving Killeen to take the win, 68 seconds ahead of his Giant rival. As the race unfolded up ahead the supporting act was a much tighter affair with a knot of closely matched riders all hoping to snatch the all-important third spot. Dave Fletcher recently recovering from a virus was looking fitter and stronger and had the experienced Nick Craig for company.
It was looking like a replay from Margam, but Fletcher dug deep and opened up a margin that held Craig at bay. Only Norwegian Ola Kjoren looked close to breaching that gap coming within five seconds of snatching third place from Fletcher's grasp.
Obviously still inspired by comments in race previews Giles Drake proved once again the man to beat in the Expert category. After a disastrous race in Margam where a snapped seat post put paid to his intentions of a clean sweep, Drake was fired up once more. It wasn't an easy race, with enduro specialist Matt Page getting a real taste for XC racing, snapping at Drakes heels over the five lap race. Drake however did the business underlining his virtual dominance in the Expert race, with a 34 second gap to runner up Page. Another enduro specialist turning his hand to XC racing was James Lister who's slowly getting the hang of this fast paced racing, racking up an impressive win in the Sport race just to prove he's a fast learner!
In the Junior race Grant Ferguson had the spectre of Dalby hanging heavy over his head. Each race here for this youngster has been a disaster so hopefully today would break the curse of Dalby. With both Steve James and Luke Gray out of the equation this just left Kenta Gallagher and lady luck for Ferguson to deal with.
Both juniors opened up the race in scorching fashion with sub-19 minute first laps. The pace became too much for Gallagher, leaving Ferguson to run with the race just hoping luck was on his side for once and after four laps his prayers were answered with an emphatic win leaving Gallagher to pick up second 80 seconds later.
In the super competitive Masters race, current British champion Scott Forbes was doing his usual trick of fast and furious racing leaving the rest of the field to pick up the pieces. However an unfortunate encounter with a back marker left Forbes practising somersaults, whilst his rivals slipped past. Phil Morris took no second asking to move his game to pole position, whilst Forbes battled gallantly on behind. Morris secured the win from Scottish rider Paul Newnham, while Forbes had to console himself with a meagre fourth.
In a massive Veterans field, it was Paul Hopkins who ruled supreme with his scorched earth campaign leaving the field behind whilst he romped to victory, Ian Wright did a similar ride in the Grand Veterans, underlining his dominance of that event with another commanding win.
It was an awesome day with some awesome racing, which didn't stop when the dust had settled!
Next up for the ever-eager riders was a fun filled evening as nearly 40 riders pitted themselves together in the Team Relay Challenge. A fast and furious giant game of tag, where the winner takes it all! After eight epic laps, which saw the lead constantly change, it was the winning team of tomorrows stars and an old hand: Kenta Gallagher, Katy Winton, Grant Ferguson and Nick Craig who scooped the first prize! A perfect end to a perfect day!
To find out what Team Relay racing is all about check out the video from round three at Margam: