Location: Hopton Woods, Shropshire
Event: 27 May 2012
Report and Photography: Andrew Whitehouse
An emotional Oli Beckingsale took a fine win at Hopton Woods in round three of the British cross country series, with Gabriella Day taking the elite women's competition.
Beckingsale controlled the five laps of the demanding six kilometre circuit to roll across the line after almost 1 hour 40 minutes of racing punching the air after completing a long personal journey back from injury.
A victory Beckingsale described as "very special" came ten months after a crash in world cup competition, which resulted in a broken pelvis and experts saying he would not race at the top level again.
“I'm chuffed to bits, it’s my first win back but this was more than a win. It has been a really tough winter for me. This will rate as a very special win for me today.
“At the start of 2012 I still had dreams about going to the Olympics but I was struggling at the world cups. then I went to the first round of the British series at Sherwood and crashed there and had a really bad shoulder injury which put me out for a month. I thought when you have a big injury you become immune to them for a while so after spending months last year in physio I was back in physio again.
“That did take a lot to overcome, but my confidence is coming back, I rode a world cup last week and felt good but I ripped my rear mech off after a lap so I had a point to prove today. It was really bad luck for Dave Fletcher today, we were riding well together but he flatted on the last lap. We were using different tyres today but sometimes you make your own luck.”
HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED
The first lap was hit at a blistering pace with Beckingsale and David Fletcher (Orange Monkey/Cannondale) heading the bunch upwards on the lung busting climb onto the single track and into the sun.
The two worked well together and going into the second lap had started to pull a useful gap of around 30 seconds on a select group of four riders; Lee Williams (Team Wiggle), Dan Fleeman (Cycle Shack/Forme) and the Batchelors Sebastian and Hamish (Fluid Fin).
The head of the race stayed pretty much as was until the next lap when Beckingsale put the effort in and gained a ten second advantage on Fletcher leaving the Orange monkey rider to do the work to get back on.
The chasing four had slipped back to fifty seconds in arrears of the strong looking Beckingsale but were still working well together. Hargroves' Jody Crawforth was riding his own race and had the four in his sights as two minutes separated the first ten riders.
By the penultimate lap Fletcher had clawed his way back to the leader and the two were wheel to wheel on the climb out of the start area, while Williams had made his jump from the chase group and was working hard to try and catch the lead two. The remaining three in the Fleeman group were now chasing and had got the gap back to 25 seconds but with only one lap remaining it would be a big ask to catch the two leaders.
With everyone expecting a sprint finish between the two main protagonists it would be Fletcher who appeared first back into the main arena, with a flat tyre and a retirement.
Beckingsale rode his own race to complete the final lap and take his first win since a career defining accident the previous year and much to the delight of the crowd. Williams crossed the line in second place 1 minute 40 seconds behind and Fleeman put the effort in the secure third.
After the race Dan Fleeman said: “I retired from racing last year then in February I decide to have a go at mountain bike racing because a lot of guys in the shop were doing it.
“I decided to race in the masters which was ok because I was overweight and had lost a lot of fitness but I got second in my first race so I thought 'I could do this.'
“Sherwood Pines was my turning point, I got my arse kicked big time in the masters so I thought maybe I should be a bit more serious, cut the cakes out and started to train a bit. I took my elite license out a couple of weeks ago to try and get some points but I had to start at the back of the grid.
“Today was my first British series race as an elite, I knew I had to get through the bunch so I had to give it everything and got towards the front of the race, I rode most of the first lap on my own but settled in with a group. I saw Dave (Fletcher) walking on the last lap so I knew I could get a podium if I worked hard, so I'm pretty happy with the result and next time I'll be on the front of the grid.”
A domineering ride by Team Scott Contessa's Gabby Day took the honours from Louise Robinson (Isla Bikes) and Jessie Roberts (RW Brakes) in the elite women’s race.
The opening lap saw a group of three go away; Day along with Roberts and Zephanie Blasi (WXC World racing) soon pulled a gap on the first climb through the forest with Mel Alexander (Cardiff JIF), Maxine Filby (Velocite UK), Joanne Clay (WXC) and Erica Zavetta (Moda-Bikemagic) trying to chase back on the lung-busting trail.
With Blasi dropping back it would be Day and Roberts who got away on lap two and there was nothing in it across the switchbacks on the top of the hill. Louise Robinson had worked her way through the field going pretty much unnoticed and was sitting a minute behind the two leaders.
A course suited to Day saw the cyclo-cross specialist stamping her authority on the race and midway through the third lap she had pulled a healthy 30 seconds on Roberts a lead she would increase for the remaining lap and a half and going into the final lap the gap was well over a minute between the two.
With a win in her sights Day rode a steady final lap to take the win but it would be Robinson who took the race by surprise passing Roberts on the final decent to take a well deserved second spot, a mere 15 seconds ahead of Roberts.
However, after the race Day revealed leading from the front was not the easiest strategy.
“When you're out in front it’s always a bit worrying because you never really know what the gaps are so you just have to keep riding hard and don't let up.
“There’s a lot of long climbs on this course which really suits my riding. I got away from Jessie at the top of the climb on the second lap and just did my own thing on the descent, it’s a good course for me because it isn't too technical and it’s got a lot of climbing.
“I've been training hard so It's good to get something from all the hard work. It was hot today on the climbs but you do cool down a lot on the descents, you think you've got to the top then it goes up again.
“I've been in America recently both to put a lot of long rides in and a bit of a holiday and now I've started my speed work. This is all good training for me ready for the cross season. I love riding off road so today was fun, no pressure but it will be full on for the cross season.”
And Louise Robinson added: “I was surprised with second today. I rode my own race, with the climb being so long and not really putting any training in I knew I had to pace myself.
“My feeders couldn't find the feed zone on the first lap so I didn't have a drink on the first lap and a half which was a bit drastic in this heat. I couldn't see the point in carrying a bottle up the hill because I thought I'd get one at the top but there was no one there, so that was a bit of a panic.
“The heat wasn't that bad, it was hot on the top but through the trees was ok. I didn't know who was in front of me, I figured I was in third because I heard it coming through the finish, I caught her (Jessie) on the last technical part and I buried myself and it paid off because Ii managed to get a gap.”
Jessie Roberts said: “She got me just on the last bit of the downhill. I knew the race would be won or lost on that climb, it was a long climb and you couldn't really get past on the descent.
“When Gabby got away there was a youth rider who took me off my line a bit and she got away on the twisty section and I just couldn't get back to her. I'm pleased with third, it’s my first podium in a nationals.
“I know there are a few big names missing but it doesn't matter, I'm here. The course was really good fun, the single track is really flowing, there’s nothing seriously hard but the descent is fast so you could crash or go off line there.”
Result - full result on Timelaps
1 Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB) 1:39:25
2 Lee Williams (Team Wiggle) @ 1:40
3 Dan Fleeman (Cycleshack) @ 2:25
4 Seb Bachelor (Fluid Fin RT) @ 3:29
5 Jody Crawforth (Hargroves-Specialized) @ 3:30
1 Gabby Day (Team Scott Contessa) 1:39:44
2 Louise Robinson (Isla Bikes) @ 2:44
3 Jessie Roberts (RW Brakes Factory Racing Team) @ 2:58
4 Mel Alexander (Cardiff JIF) @ 3:57
5 Zephanie Blasi (WXC World Racing) @ 4:53
In the masters race it would be Geoff Beetham (Retrobike.co.uk) who took the victory wave ahead of Luke Smith(Whyte Racing) and Tony Fawcett (Blackhawk Bikes). As expected it was the Smith who sat on the front of the opening lap setting a fierce pace on the dusty climb out of the arena and after lap one he was out on his own, chased by Fawcett and Beetham with Simon Ernest (AW Cycles) keeping the three in sight but unable to bridge the gap. Smith was getting stronger as the race progressed and by lap thee had got just over a minute on a chasing Beetham and who in turn was just keeping a short distance ahead of Fawcett but all three were looking comfortable on the climb and the result looked as though it would come from anyone of the three. Smith had the final lap misfortune and broke his chain allowing Beetham to pass the stricken rider on the side of the track and ride into the finishing arena to take a well deserved victory. Smith managed to fix the problem and recovered to finish second.
In the junior women’s category it was British Champion Beth Crumpton (Scott Contessa) who took the honors from second place Alice Barnes (Twenty3c) in 1.19.28. The Halesowen based youngster rode the thee laps strongly from the gun and secured victory by three minutes. Rebecca Preece (Red Rose Olympic) took third spot.
Julie Toone secured victory in the expert women’s race completing three laps in 1.22.12, over five minutes to the good of second placed Hollie Bettles. Anna Cipullo (Ultimate Fitness) and Nadia Wouters (Sherwood Pines Cycles) were third and fourth respectively.
In the Sport women’s category Leona Kadir (La Fuga-Sigma) took the win in 1.23.44 over two minutes ahead of Fern Henry. Fay Cunningham (RAF CC) secured third spot. Liz Gilmour (Ridebike.co.uk) took the plaudits in the Master female race with a winning time of 1.24.17. Jo Munden (Pedal Heaven) took second and Caroline Goward (Team Scott Contessa) was third. Malvern Cycle Sport's Belinda Tarling rode a dominant race to secure victory in the veteran female category completing three laps in 1.22.13, Anne Murray (Moray Firth) rolled in to take second place and Nicky Hughes (Team Scott Contessa) took third. Kim Long completed two laps in 1.07.49 to ensure the win in the Grand Veteran race with Alison Linnell and Carol Tilley second and third respectively.
It was the unstoppable Daniel Tullet who took victory in the juvenile men’s race; the Hargroves Cycles youngster took control of proceedings early on and rode away to take a much deserved win completing two laps of the 6km course in a little over 45 minutes. William Gascoyne (Matlock CC) took second in 48.05 and Ewan Grivell-Mellor placed third a further three minutes behind.
Beeline cycle's Emily Wadsworth took the win in the juvenile women’s race completing her lap in 27.39 just 20 seconds ahead of second place Jessica Roberts (Towy riders) and Emma Borthwick (Edinburgh RC) who finished third in 30.14. In the youth men’s race it was the big names who fought out the top placings, Billy Harding(Paul Milnes) took a fine win from Solihull's Jack Ravenscroft completing two laps in 42.48, Calum Maqowan (Peebles CC) was third and Rhos on Sea's Dylan Kerfoot-Robson was fourth. Lucy Grant (Peebles CC) took the victory in the women’s youth race putting just over one minute on second placed Isla Short (Innerleithen MTB). Martha Gill (Bolton Hot Wheels) was third.
In the second round of racing it was Jason Bouttell who secured victory in the expert men’s category completing four laps in 1.27.59, Dieter Droger (Dirtwheels Cycles) took the second step of the podium beating Philip Morris into third place from a sprint finish. Alex Baker put Orange Monkey/Cannondale on the podium taking victory in the junior men’s race completing three laps in 1.03.53, Iain Paton took second coming across the line ten seconds adrift, the first of two podiums for Cycle Shack/Forme came from Alex Welburn who worked hard to take a well earned third place. Another close run race was in the sport men’s category, Jack Rae (University of Bristol) crossed the line in 1.07.51, four seconds ahead of Lee Gratton (Run & Ride) and Chris Howell (Vivelo-Bikes/Inverse) was third.
Paul Hopkins took a fine win in the veteran men’s race, the Merida Factory rider completed four laps in 1.28.45, Lewis King (Beeline Bicycles) took second a little over two minutes down while Southdown Bikes’ Steve Callard took third a further minute back. Gregor Grant (Moray Firth) secured the grand veteran win with a time of 1.09.23 and a little over three minutes on Pearce Cycles' Peter Harris. Bruce Rollinson (Team JD Cycles) completed the podium with a time of 1.14.52 and finally it was Vic Barnett (Wellend Valley) who took victory in the super veteran race completing three laps in 1.25.40, Colin Murley (Derwentside CC) was second finishing in 1.28.33 and Denis Smith rolled in to take third place.
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.