Report: Midlands XC Series Round 3
Posted August 11 2010 | Photography By Rob Scothern
With the Peak District so blessed with fantastic trails but currently lacking in race venues, over 200 riders headed to Birchall, nr Unstone last Sunday to see what the Midlands XC team and supporting club oneFgear had created for round 3 of the 2010 series. The start/finish arena may have been placed in an idyllic setting, but one look at the topography of the area or luckily overhearing some of the Vet Men reminiscing about racing Motocross there in the 70's would have given riders a good indication that it may be the Midlands, but once again there were some fantastic climbs and descents waiting in store!
The morning race saw a selection of recently crowned National Champions proudly wearing their new blue and red banded jerseys, with Victor Barnett (Welland Valley CC) and Will Cheaney (Lloyds Cycles Swadlincote) carrying on their top form to take the wins in the Super Vet and closely fought Juvenille Men categories respectively, while in the Vets, Grand Vet National Champion Ian Wright (Raleigh Racing/USE/Mertrux) had to settle for second place behind Dan Cook (Peak RC) who used his 29er to good effect over the myriad rocks and roots.
New Zealander Adrienne Hooper made the most of all the female categories starting together and seized the chance to test herself against some of the female UK racers, even going out for an extra lap after winning her sport race. It was Bethany Crumpton (Halesowen A&CC) however who set the fastest female lap time of the day on her way to winning the Youth women's race.
With the previous days gentleman's singlespeed race organised by oneFgear seeing riders clock up leisurely 25 minute lap times, all eyes were on the under 18 men to see how fast the hilly course could really be. On cue, Youth rider Alex Welburn (Maxgear RT) and Junior rider Matt Sumpton (Mini Adventure/Orbea) were off the brakes and in the big ring as they scorched round to record sub 19 minute laps on the way to their respective wins and cementing their place at the top of the series standings. Aron Marshall (Sherwood Pines Cycles - The Cooperative Motor Group) looked destined to win the Junior men's race, posting the fastest laps of the morning, until an unfortunate problem on lap 2 saw him chasing hard to make up lost time.
Before the afternoon race could get underway it was time for the most hotly anticipated races of the day - the under 10's and 12's! Despite the start of the summer holidays there was a healthy turnout of riders and support crew with the youngsters taking part over the mini XC course on everything from tiny 16" wheeled starter bikes to pimped out Scott Spark's. Simon Price, Ffyona Booker and Harry Lewis were all first across the line in their categories, with more thrills, spills and sprint finishes than the adult races. With the increase in popularity and in response to popular demand, all 4 categories have now been included in the series standings and prizes will be awarded to the top 3 overall at the series finale.
With the technical sections on the course giving the downhillers a chance to put time into those with the highest V02 max, all eyes were on the senior male categories to see if there would be any upsets to the form book. The Sport race delivered, with a new winner in Harry Penn (Mammouth Lifestyle Race Team) taking the top step, but in the Masters race, nobody was able to match Matt Dennis (Swinnerton Cycles) as he made it 3 wins from 3. Elite rider Jonathan Pugh (Clee Cycles KCNC) and Expert rider Giles Drake (MSC Bikes) established a gap over their rivals on the first lap, then worked together to record their second wins of the series.
Elite men's winner Jonathan Pugh: "Turned up did a practive lap had a look at the steep climbs to which gear was best. Only 4 elites so it was good setting off with the experts. I got in the lead on the first climb with the top expert Giles Drake on my wheel just kept pushing on for the first lap not sure who was behind but as we started lap 2 had a look and could see that me and Giles were pulling away. He was riding well, I was winning he was was winning so it made sense to ride together he had a few digs and so did I but we were pretty well matched. He stopped on lap 5 and i just comfortably went round the last lap with a healthy lead. Great golf, errr XC course!
Expert men's winner Giles Drake: "It's been almost a month since the last time I raced so I wasn't sure how good my legs would be today. My initial thoughts on the course was it was fantastic but with the climbs being so steep it was going to be a brutal five laps! It was good for me to be set off at the same time as the Elites as it was great opportunity to get a taster for next year. While it was a strong Expert field, I wanted to try to hang in with the lead Elites and test myself at their pace. At the end of the first lap I was happy to be sitting on Jonathan Pugh's wheel as he was leading the Elite and my main rival in the Expert, Tom Bell had drifted off the back by a few seconds. From this point on John and I traded turns at the front, trying to keep the pace as high as possible. I got distanced a couple of times due to a few silly technical mistakes but I was able to make it back to John's wheel every time. Very happy to be riding strong and to win and I almost felt guilty leaving John to go out for his 6th lap on his own!"
Open men's winner Simon Choppin: "The Midlands series are always well run and Sunday's race at Birch Hall was no exception. I'd never ridden the course before but was pleased to find it was both physically and technically challenging. Plenty of narrow singletrack to race through but with enough challenging inclines to pass (or be passed) on and mix up the field. Splitting the categories up into the morning and afternoon session means that both sessions are well paced and allows everyone to find someone to lock horns with and battle their way through the event. I fully intend to attend the next event at Sherwood Pines and continue attending in the future. Well done to everyone involved in the organising! I really enjoy the Midland's series for the great mix of courses and the fact that they're not afraid to throw the riders down something tricky!"
Fun Women's Winner Ali Coldwell: Great friendly atmosphere but the course was chuffing intense! Loved the fun singletrack, but there were 4 or 5 STEEP and LONG hills (after evil sharp right turns, so no time to get in gear) and what goes up must come down - therefore several DH sections too - not ideal for first time MTB racing at all. Had to keep getting off! But loved it, was such a challenge and in a great location!
The series finale heads to Sherwood Pines on Sunday 5th September. Best 3 results from 4 count towards series standings and promoting club Fatboy Racing CC promise that some double and triple arrows will be required on the course, so it promises to be an exciting end to the series!