Location: Dalby Forest Pickering, North Yorkshire
Event: 21-22 April 2012
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After the flat tree-lined singletrack and fire-roads of the opening round at Sherwood Forest, the British National Cross-country series heads north to the altogether hillier and rockier terrain of Dalby Forest.
Oli Beckingsale tackles the Worry Gill drop at the 2011 Dalby World Cup
There, riders will face an award-winning course which wowed the best in the world and proved very popular with spectators as well.
In the Elite Women’s race, Annie Last will be looking to continue her strong start to the season, which included a win at Sherwood, last weekend’s World Cup eliminator win and two top twenties in World Cup Cross-Country events.
Ranged up against her is a testing line-up of home and overseas talent, including Barbara Benko the 22 year old Hungarian who is ranked world number 26, Rie Katayama, the Japanese world number 42 and the up and coming American Erica Zaveta. Of the domestic riders, Lee Craigie looks to be the most likely challenger, but the almost five minutes she lost to Last at Sherwood is a clear indication of their relative abilities.
Maxine Filby wasn’t far behind Craigie at last weekend’s Belgian World Cup, so their battle could be a focus. It will also be interesting to see how Downhill legend Tracy Moseley gets on. She too wasn’t too far behind Craigie in Belgium and the technical nature of the Dalby course should suit her.
The Elite Men’s race will be intriguing on a number of levels. National Champion Liam Killeen won at Sherwood and has produced a couple of strong rides in the opening World Cup rounds. On paper he should have too much class for the rest of the domestic opposition, where interest will centre on the rest of the top Brits.
Oli Beckingsale’s recovery from his 2011 injury troubles seems to still be work in progress and David Fletcher caught him in the latter stages of the Houffalize race at the weekend. Lee Williams wasn’t too far behind either. Throw in the Under-23 riders Kenta Gallagher, who was second best home rider at Sherwood, and Grant Ferguson, who had a very good ride in the under-23 race at Houffalize and who will enjoy the climbing sections on the Dalby course, and you have a potent battle to decide just who is next in the pecking order after Killeen.
However, as with Sherwood, there’s a sizeable overseas contingent to consider, including Sweden’s Mathias Wengelin who pushed Killeen all the way at Sherwood, despite a relatively lowly world ranking of 327. If you use world ranking alone as a guide, the biggest threat to Killeen looks like being Poland’s world 46 Piotr Brzozka, who was just a couple of minutes down on the British rider at Houffalize.
Also likely to be in the leading group are the Norwegian Team Herbalife 24 Raumerrittet riders Ole Christian Fagerli (world 98) and Ola Kjøren (world 100) and Belgium’s Robby De Bock of the Waasland MTB Team (world 108).
It’s all set up to be a highly competitive and entertaining race. We will be reporting from the event, with images, results and series standings posted asap after the racing finishes.