Words & pics Joolze Dymond.
“Well dear I thought for this Valentines Day we could pop over to the woods for a few hours and get a bit dirty…”
After the dissapointment of rescheduling Round 1 due to the snow, the Gorrick Spring Series finally got underway at last and now with Tunnel Hill temporarily renamed The Tunnel of Love, riders were again in for a singletrack love fest as a perfectly crafted 5 mile circuit complete with a romantic interlude, plus plenty of the famous ‘Gorrick’ swoops and descents, balanced with a couple of killer stings in the tail lay in wait. Another perfect day out for well over 550 riders was in store that not even a quick smattering of snow could deter.
On the dot of 9am it was soon time to get the XC racing under way and pride of place to cutting up the trails went to the Youth riders followed by the juveniles, while the uber keen under 12’s & under 10’s waited patiently to get stuck into a shortened version of the big course. Matthew Lewis made short work of his two laps in the snow taking the first win of the day in the Youth class, whilst Gretel Warner romped away with the win in the Juvenile girls race.
Then it was a steady conveyor belt of perfectly timed races, as one category after another were unleashed. As one batch finished another was already underway painting the trails with brightly coloured garb that fleetingly looked as if spring had arrived early and certainly cheered up the drab winter colours. Just in case proceedings weren’t colourful enough and the sprinkling of unforecast snow not delivering the right amount of romance, the thoughtful Gorrick crew had kindly set out a plethora of red balloons and heart festooned ribbons and a canoe… All as a homage to Valentines Day, and so ‘Canoe – daling Corner’ was born.
As each race unfolded it was soon clear that along with plenty of old faces there was a considerable showing of new faces along with a new tempo. After a winter of enduro races these riders were keen to quicken the pace and shorten the distance ready for the new season of XC racing. Many of the categories were taken to the line with everything to play for as competitors dug deep looking for their racing legs that for some had been well buried over the winter.
In the Master women’s race Jo Munden had a tough race with Fay Cripps. Over two laps the two women were perfectly matched, neither giving an inch and with the finish line in sight they both went for broke, trying to dodging the enormous puddles that edged the racing line, unfortunately as the adrenalin surged a clash of handlebars saw Cripps take an early bath leaving the way open for Munden to take the win. Rob Purcell finally managed to shake loose his companions in the Master’s race after three hard laps of racing to take the win opening up a 54 sec lead over Oliver Taylor.
Meanwhile the steam train that contained the Super Masters surged through for 4 laps of closely matched racing, with Luke Smith, Steve Webb and Steve James all vying for that top position. In the closing stages it was Smith who managed to ease away getting the win with a small margin of 10 secs over single speeding Steve Webb, with Steve James bringing up the rear 30 secs later for 3rd.
With the XC season edging ever closer the Super Veterans were also keen to show off their winter miles and the racing was another close fought affair with just a hare’s breath separating the top three over the 4 lap outing. Paul ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins surged for the line denying Mark Hutt the win by just 3 secs with Mark Chadbourne another 10 sces adrift in 3rd. As is fitting I suppose for Valentines day the front of the Veterans race was awash with bursts of red as Jef Sharp danced a merry dance ahead of the Pedal On boys Nigel Grantham and Steve Farmer to take the win with a 47 sec buffer. While in the Veterans women’s race Sarah Whelan took the honours in yet another closely fought race.
It was definitely a day that favoured the men in red, as Chris Minter riding for Pedal On stormed to the front of the Expert race, with only team mate Steve James and Orange Monkey Chris Andrews keeping him company for the initial stages of the race. Minter just kept the gas down full throttle the entire race surging ahead leaving his rivals behind in his wake. After 5 laps and nearly 105 minutes of racing Minter crossed the line victorious. Andrews followed next with a 2 minute deficit while Torq rider Tim Dunford brought home 3rd a further 2 mins adrift. In the women’s Expert race Maxine Filby, still keen to see warmer days, took early control of the race taking a comfortable win from WXC rider Malin Tindberg.
In a massive Fun race Mike Chaplin proved the man to beat tackling his two laps in under 50 mins to take the win ahead of David Mascall, meanwhile Juliet Rodgers had fun in her race, a lone female enjoying the race, whilst the aptly named Julian Valentine was pipped to the post in the beginners race by Paul Collins.
It wasn’t just the winners of each category that went home delighted with a days work, plenty of riders were buzzing with enthusiasm over the fantastically fun course as they laid siege to the catering van drinking them out of hot beverages and eating them out of bacon butties. A few other riders had more reasons than most to be happy with their day in the woods, especially Sport rider Adam Westhead who took home the Saddle Skedaddle Holiday break and Howard Dale in the Fun race who won a 1:1 Skills session courtesy of Gorrick, Purple Bike Shed and InsideOut Fitness.
Round three will be with us in just a few weeks, the 7th March to be precise at Crowthorne. With Mothers Day just round the corner will we find homage to daffodils and bunnies? I know for certain we’ll find some amazing trails and a whole lot of XC fun!
For more details of the Saddle Skedaddle Spring Series please visit: www.gorrick.com. Full results can be found at: www.timelaps.co.uk while you can relive the whole race through pictures at www.joolzedymond.com