by Ben Haworth
January 23, 2009
Words ‘n’ pics by Joolze Dymond…
Well what a cracking if not muddy start to a fabulous new XC year; events up and down the country attracting hundreds of riders who turned out despite some pretty horrendous weather forecasts. However there seemed to be a distinct window of weather opportunity for some and everyone took no second asking and as a result trails were flooded with mountain bikers up and sunshine up and down the country.
In Scotland riders tackled the infamous ‘Puffer’, the almost legendary and hardest 24hr enduro in the UK (and possibly the world!). Whilst down in the South West over 300 riders took part in the second round of Soggy Bottom all keen to get their hands on a piece of the ‘moist’ inter border cake.
Meanwhile in a wood in Surrey, Yateley Heath Woods in fact, well over 600 riders, a great mix of; young, old, new & experienced took part in the first part of the Saddle Skedaddle Gorrick Spring Series, so many riders turned up in fact that the organisers ran out of entry forms, such was the interest in the event. Fear not, no one was turned away as the organisers ingeniously got round that little problem.
By 9.00 am the racing was underway and from then on it was almost a conveyor belt of competitors as wave after wave of trail hungry riders were launched out onto the muddy 5mile course. Yateley Heath boasts some of the fastest flowing trails with very little climbing; this should have been a gentlest introduction to some of the tougher courses to come. However, the great old British weather scuppered things a bit, with torrential rain the previous night turning some of the tricky section, into even trickier sections and as the first batch of riders made their way round it was soon clear that the ‘fast’ flowing trails had become a little sluggish, prompting the organisers to take the decision to cut a chunk of the worst affected bits out, leaving a fun filled moist 3.5 miles!
Over the day a huge 22 categories were fought over, with riders of all abilities having a go. There was even a great turn out of women, including the newly formed Dirt Diva’s keen to get out there and get muddy with the best.
A superb 81 riders lined up in the Vets race to prove that age is just a number and over 3 laps the race was decided from the front as Steve Jones relishing the local trails blasted from the gun and never looked back, leaving Mart Smith to pick up 2nd and Daran Blackwell came through to snatch 3rd, while Jackie Roberts scooped the women’s vet race.
109 riders decided it would be fun, and that’s exactly the class they opted for! Riding 2 laps for the men and 1 lap for the ladies. Tim Kemp was the man to beat, starting out pretty fast on his first lap, opening up a good gap, which was fortunate as he began to slow in his 2nd lap! However he’d done enough to take the win, with 4 riders close behind fighting it out for the remaining positions. Matt Wigley had the edge over Steven James who in turn narrowly edged out Phil Hill for 3rd. Alison Linnell led home the ladies to take a comfortably win in her 1 lap race.
In the longest race of the day; expert, it was elite rider Gareth Montgomerie who pulled out all the stops over the 5 lap race to take a convincing pre season win. Recording consistent sub 22min laps throughout Montgomerie quickly opened up his lead and kept the gas on until he crossed the line, despite a strong challenge from Scott Forbes who pushed Montgomerie all the way, finishing a tantalising 31 secs adrift to pick up 2nd, while his Pedal On team mate Chris Minter held off Simon Ernest to take 3rd.
One of the best rides of the day had to be by junior rider Steven James, who has only recently moved up from the Youth class. Not content with racing the day before the plucky youngster decided to have a crack at the Expert race, a mere 3 laps longer than he’s been used to. He turned out a fantastic ride, fighting for a top 5 finish all the way round picking up some notable older scalps along the way and despite fading off towards the end of the tough race he managed to pick up 5th which is a brilliant start to what hopefully will be a successful junior year for him!
Another rider who was delighted with his race had to be fun rider James Huggett, he may not have won his race, but his effort just to be out in the thick of the action was amply rewarded by the generous series sponsors Saddle Skedaddle, who picked James’s number as the winner of their Weekend Holiday giveaway! Now if there was ever an incentive to come along and have a go that has to be it!
Full results can be found at www.timelaps.co.uk
If you like getting muddy and you like a challenge plus you want to find out how fit you are in comparison to lots of like minded riders then why not come and give the second round of this exciting series a go. Round 2 on the 8th February moves to Tunnel Hill, a firm favourite with Gorrick regulars, mixing built and natural trails to provide masses of flowing swoopy fun. There’s a mix of heathland and woodland with exciting sections such as the ‘P45’, ‘Abbey View’ and the ‘Banana Split’ to name but a few!
If you enter online now, it’ll save you money and queuing time! What you waiting for, see you there!