by Ben Haworth
April 23, 2009
Hope Race Series Round 1, Lee Quarry, nr. Bacup
Sunday 19th April 2009
Sunday dawned bright and early in the Pennines for the 100+ racers descending upon the exciting new venue of Lee Quarry nr. Bacup, Rossendale.
With 8km of purpose built, weatherproof trail winding around the massive disused quarry at their disposal, grassroots race organisers Brownbacks Racing have seized the opportunity to put together an XC series that’s up there with the best and the inaugural event was a treat for all involved.
Basking under cloudless skies, spectators and supporters were treated to some fast and technical racing and the refreshingly demanding course spared no blows. Opening with a long, tough, rubble-strewn climb that blew hearts and lungs straight into the red zone and tested finesse as much as power, racers threw themselves round tight, swooping berms, down rollercoaster singletrack and over doubles and tabletops on their way to the bottom of the hill – only to repeat the 4.5km course again, and again, til the longed-for bell lap let them know the end was in sight.
In a break from the traditional and increasingly confusing structure of race category classification, riders had a choice of entering Have-a-go Hero, Weekend Warrior, and Racer classes. Clear, straightforward and to the point – and universally appreciated by the entrants, as most found it far easier to classify themselves as one of the above rather than negotiate the labyrinth of ability and age classifications that exists at other events.
First off were the Racers, with plenty of British Cycling licence holders lining up for a shot at the £150 of vouchers first place prize donated by Leisure Lakes. A strong leading group was split by the end of the first lap, with Niall Frost (Team Milton Keynes) bagging both the £25 first lap prime and the prize pot after seven speedy laps.
Strong contenders for other podium places included ‘cross specialist Dave Haygarth (Wheelbase), who crashed out on lap two sustaining a broken collarbone and a handful of stitches for his troubles, and visiting endurance specialist Rob Dean (Morvelo), who fell victim to a snapped chain. David Powell (unattached) and Ben Trotter (Macclesfield Club) eventually rounded out the top three with seven laps apiece.
The women’s Racer category was reduced to one after Jenn Hopkins (Minx) sustained a broken wrist in practise and whilst struggling with the boredom of being in a race on her own, Julie Barrett (Ride On) put in a smooth and steady five laps to finish looking comfortable.
Unleashed from the start line after a reasonable length of time to allow the course to clear, the MaxGear/Ride On-sponsored Weekend Warriors were never likely to catch the Racers but category winner Craig Holden (unattached) made a good attempt at reeling them in, leading from the start and rattling off a succession of consistent fifteen minute laps to stay clear of Andy Westwell (Blazing Saddles) and Dermott McKee (unattached).
Molly Whittall (unattached) was the sole female entrant in this category too and whilst she and Barrett were placed in the same category for the prize giving due to the low number of female entries, hopefully future rounds will see increased numbers of women having a go at this friendly, relaxed race series where everyone is made to feel thoroughly welcome regardless of gender or experience.
Meanwhile, back at the startline, plenty of cheery banter was to be heard amongst the Have-a-go Heroes. Aboard the most diverse selection of bikes, they attacked the climb with just as much gusto as those who’d disappeared in a cloud of dust moments before and maintained their enthusiasm throughout the race, with several electing to walk the vile climb and resume pedalling at the top rather than quit before game’s end. Handy short cuts on course also allowed the less experienced riders in this category to avoid the most demanding sections – and play an amusing game of cat-and-mouse with the other classes, if they were quick enough through the turns. John Begley, Laimonas Stasiulis and Craig Scott netted top honours from the MaxGear/Ride On prize fund, with visiting Scot, Gillian Palmer (Sandy Wallace Cycles) and relentlessly cheerful Katherine Crompton both having thoroughly enjoyable rides to round out the third and final ladies class.
Judging by the hearty applause and healthy turn-out at the endearingly shambolic prize giving, where winners received unique handmade trophies donated by series sponsors Hope and spot prizes were handed out for dirtiest and ‘having it large’ riders, the overriding opinion was that Round 1 was a huge success. As with all new ventures, organisers Brownbacks readily admitted that they have a few problems to iron out but, despite this, their care and attention to the details that matter, combined with the amazing venue, made a great day out that most coudn’t wait to repeat at Round 2 (May 4th). Let’s just hope the tradtitional Bank Holiday weather doesn’t spoil things this time around…
Series website: http://www.brownbacksracing.co.uk
Report by Jenn Hopkins.