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Report: British XC Series Round 4
26th June 2011
Promoted by: Inevent
Race HQ: Margam Park, Wales
Words By Joolze Dymond
Video By Rob Barker
Margam is one of the most popular venues on the cross country calendar, offering challenging climbs coupled with technical descents, crammed into a bijou and compact 6km. With 430m of climbing per lap coupled with rising temperatures it was to be a day of survival for many.
The muddy conditions, however, suited elite woman rider Nikki Harris, her extensive couple of years in the worst that World Cup Cyclo-Cross action can throw at you certainly came into good stead, as she seemingly left the field standing. By lap one of the four lap race, Harris had opened up a commanding lead of over one minute, with Mel Spath on the hunt for a podium position. Close behind were Cait Elliott and Lee Cragie all locked in their own personal battles.
Harris continued on her way untroubled. Even a puncture did nothing to dent her ever increasing lead, coming home nearly four minutes in front of Mel Spath who held her own to take second a further three minutes ahead of third placed Cait Elliott. Mel Alexander and Jane Cumming filled the remaining podium positions in fourth and fifth respectively.
Youth rider Ian Paton scorched to a win, catching elite woman leader Nikki Harris early lap two, storming past on his three lap race to take victory from William Cheaney.
In the Junior Women's race both pre race favourites, Katy Winton and Beth Crumpton suffered punctures. Winton's was beyond repair so she was forced to retire, while Crumpton, desperately losing time and positions, battled to repair hers.
Meanwhile out in front and enjoying a rare day mountain bike racing was Amy Roberts, taking the opportunity to race Margam as she headed home after a day of crits in Lichfield. Happily she found herself in a comfortable lead and to the delight of her family took an easy win, with Hollie Bettles picking second. Crumpton rode a brilliant damage limitation race blasting her way from virtual last position to grab third.
For Sally Gabriel, Margam is a chance to race on home turf and today turned into a real day to remember as she took her first win in the expert category. Alice Barnes once again made short work of her Youth race, dominating her race, she came perilously close to overtaking the leading junior girl on her way to victory ahead of second placed Rebecca Hunt. In the Girls' Juvenile ranks Ffion James dominated from the start to take yet another win as did Calum Magowan in the Juvenile Boys' race, his two laps completed in less than 55 minutes taking the win with nearly a four minute cushion.
Helen Macgregor opened up the vet's women's race with a 34 second lead on the first lap. In hot pursuit were Nicky Hughes and Ruth Thompson. The fast open lap started to take its toll and Macgregor found herself overhauled by Thompson and Hughes, with Thompson going for gold leaving Hughes in second and Macgregor a consolidating third, while Master rider Emma Birtles controlled her race from the front taking the win with a three min gap from Caroline Goward.
Heading up the elite male field was Oli Beckingsale relishing the chance to grab his first win of the series. As the race spearheaded up the first of many climbs, Beckingsale paced himself perfectly, smoothly moving through the ranks until he hit the front. Pressing the turbo boost he quickly made a space between him and his rivals, spending the next four laps steadily increasing his lead.
The main battle was now in earnest for the remaining podium positions. Locked in mortal battle behind the increasingly distant Endura Racing rider were Ireland's Robin Seymour, a long time contender, with a massive 15 Irish National XC titles to his name, and youngsters Seb Batchelor and Gareth Montgomerie.
Seymour let the two younger riders take on the race watching their moves keeping himself in the right place for all attacks, his intelligent riding paid dividends as Montgomerie and Batchelor started to fall apart in the closing stages, leaving Seymour to steal a march and take second, with Batchelor battling hard to grab third from Montgomerie.
Hope riders Paul Oldham and Dave Collins, fresh from the team to top spot in the elite category at the 24 hour race Mountain Mayhem, soon hit a wall. For Collins, quite literally, with a crash and a puncture ending his race after one lap. Teammate Oldham went through the motions, but never showed his usual flair for the hills, settling eventually for sixth.
Lee Westwood took early control of the expert race leading from the front to take the win with a good 90 seconds advantage.
In the junior race the battle unfolded between Matt Sumpton, Alex Baker and Alex Peters, Sumpton eventually taking the win with a 44 second lead from Baker, while Peters lost over three minutes in the last two laps to take third.
The closest race of the day had to be the sports men's race with just 34 seconds separating the first three. Jason Boutell threw down the gauntlet, his opening gambit a mere eight second lead from Jack Rae, eking out a few more seconds over the three lap race finally taking the win from Jack Rae with just a 27 second cushion
Masters rider Geoff Beetham dashed eagerly into the climbs leaving the rest of the field straggling behind him. Luke Smith looking calm and composed mounted his attack on the lead with series leader Matt Dennis closing down the gap in third. Beetham held onto his lead to take the win, whilst Dennis worked hard to pass Smith to grab second and with it some valuable series points leaving Smith to take third.
For Paul Hopkins in the vet's race, it was a case of business as usual, as the Merida rider sharpening his skills ready for the upcoming Nationals. Hopkins rode strongly with only his third lap showing any chinks in his armour, whilst the riders behind ebbed and flowed as they fought for every inch of the track. After four long laps it was KCNC rider Lloyd Bettles who clawed his way to the front of the chasing group, narrowing the lead by winner Hopkins to just 37 seconds to take 2nd.
The Harris family completed the day with two top podium spots, with daughter Nikki winning the elite women's race and it was now time for dad Pete, who did the business in the Grand Vets race.
In the closing stages a surge of power from Harris saw him take the lead and romp home to victory leaving Davies 49 seconds behind in second.
Victor Barnett took an unusual defeat in the Super Grand Vets as the 72 year-old struggled with the punishing climbs in the extreme heat. Rival Colin Murley took no second asking passing Barnett on the second lap to eventually take the win by nearly five minutes.
The series now takes a summer break, before heading to the South West for the final series decider in Plymouth on the 26th September.
Go-Ride Racing at Margam
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.