In this month’s Skinny Dipping we start off in the UK before heading out to the racing and tech in sunny California.
It’s only April and we’re already two races down in the British XC Series.
Sherwood Pines hosted the opening event at the end of March with Annie Last and Cameron Orr taking the wins. Last had a reasonably comfortable time winning by two minutes. Orr, however, took it to the finish line wire with a sprint finish against Grant Ferguson.
Neither Orr or Last were racing in last week’s second round so whatever the result, there were to be changes in the early season standings.
In the end, Kerry MacPhee and Martin Fanger (elite), and Harriet Harnden and Charlie Aldridge (junior) took the honours at round two of the HSBC UK | National Cross-Country Series at the iconic Hadleigh Park, host venue of the 2012 Olympic mountain bike race. On a course that incorporated around 90 per cent of the 2012 version and many of its key features, the racing demanded a high level of both physical and technical ability.
Kerry MacPhee led a fast-starting bunch off the line, carrying French challenger Marie Dufosse away from the elite field for a small lead by the end of lap one. MacPhee extended her lead in the elite race to 47 seconds by mid-race and held on for a comfortable win, her first in a national series event, by more than double that duration at the line. Dufosse consolidated a safe and solid second place ahead of Amy-Jo Hansford (Torq Performance), rounding off the podium and moving into the overall series lead.
McPhee said: “It’s my first national series win after being the bridesmaid a gazillion times, so I’m chuffed to bits. I wanted a good race here as I had to pull out of the last round through illness.”
The men’s elite race featured no less than 16 international riders on the start line, and the group of five riders opening a first lap lead featured three of them: Kevin Panhuyzen, Josh Dubau and Fanger. They were joined by British national champion Grant Ferguson (Hope Factory Racing) and Frazer Clacherty (Team Inspired), with the group quickly opening up a 20-second lead at the front of the race. The five leaders worked well together initially, extending the lead to over 40 seconds after two laps, ahead of a fractured chasing pack led by Chris Rothwell (BW Cycles).
A series of aggressive laps saw first Clacherty then Dubau distanced by mid race, before Ferguson attacked on the back of the course and pulled the Swiss Fanger away with him, helped by a broken chain mechanical for the Belgian Panhuyzen which forced a gap which also put Dubau and Clacherty back into podium contention. On the final lap, Fanger appeared solo on the Rock Garden, descending with a gap of around 20 seconds which he held to the line for an impressive win. Ferguson and Dubau completed the podium.
Fanger said: “I felt quite good in the front group of riders and I knew my endurance was good so I stayed cool. I didn’t really attack, I just pushed harder and tried to test him (Ferguson) a little bit. He knows this track really well and I was making a lot of mistakes.”
Next up in the series is Cannock Chase on 11/12 May, entry is open on the BC website.
(Round two race report and photos courtesy of 5331 Media).
California here we come
On the international front there’s been a whole lot of forming and storming for teams and racers ahead of the start of the UCI World Cup season. Many have been racing out at Sea Otter whilst their teams have been busy showing off the spangley new kit next door.
This year’s Sea Otter XC race attracted a much smaller crowd than usual as it took place early in the morning of first day of the festival as the expo was busy setting itself up. Less of an event and less fun maybe, but with loads of UCI points available from the category three race loads of the top riders were there to try and bag points for Olympic qualification.
In the end Annika Langvad took the win after an early mechanical for Kate Courtney. Simon Andreassen made it a double win for both Specialized and Denmark taking first in the men’s race.
1st. Annika Langvad 1:36:00.6
2nd. Kate Courtney 1:36:54.0
3rd. Catharine Pendrel 1:37:16.1
4th. Sofia Gomez Villafane 1:37:32.3
5th. Lea Davison 1:37:33.7
1st. Simon Andreassen 1:23:29.2
2nd. Christopher Blevins 1:23:33.4
3rd. Andrew L’Esperance 1:23:33.9
4th. Keegan Swensn 1:23:34.5
5th. Peter Disera 1:23:41.4
Drop it like it’s hot
Early season training camps and races have started to give us a feel of what bikes and components riders will be
We’re used to seeing some of the latest technology on the top XC racers’ bikes, Nino Schurter was running a prototype SRAM wireless for most of last season. What’s more obvious now is the trickledown effect of modern geometry from the enduro and trail bikes into XC bikes. Several teams like Merida and Scott SRAM were running modified XC bikes at Cape Epic incorporating more travel, dropper posts and slacker angles on a course that isn’t even that technical.
It’ll be interesting to see how much of this we’ll start to see on the ever-more technical World Cup circuit this year. Despite the advances in lightweight frames and components many XC riders still favour a lighter hardtail than the comfort and traction and manoeuvrability of a full-suss. As courses continue to become more technical is the balance finally shifting to the full-suss?
And if this is anything to go by, a full-suss Specialized Epic looks to be Annika Langvad’s bike of choice for the season ahead.
As well as rear wheel bounce you’ll have noticed a dropper on Annika’s Epic. Up to the end of last year we hardly saw a dropper post used in anger on the World Cup scene as the additional weight and the time to activate a dropper in an XC race seemed to outweigh its benefit. Is that all about to change? Here’s Emily Batty’s take on it.
Two can play that game
We’re still a month away from the start of the UCI World Cup season so there’s still plenty of time for testing, kit reveals, fitness and form to change. Once underway the season has a double-tap rhythm to it with two races a week apart in May before the same in July, August and, with the World Champs the 31 Aug / 1 Sept, again in September.
UCI World Cup XC 2019
- May 18-19, Albstadt, Germany
- May 25-26, Nove Mesto, Czech Republic
- July 6-7, Vallnord, Andorra
- July 13-14, Les Gets, France
- August 3-4, Val di Sole, Italy
- August 10-11, Lenzerheide, Switzerland
- September 7-8, Snowshoe, USA
UCI MTB World Championships – August 31-September 1, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada
Aside from the first two dates all the races are double-headers alongside the DH series adding to the atmosphere and excitement of the racing. We can’t wait!
And that’s it for this month’s Skinny Dipping. Next time we meet I expect we’ll be talking about round three of the British XC series, the start of the World Cup and a whole lot of dusty Lycra and electronic shifting. Until then, it’s hup, hup, hup! and a cow bell jingle from us.