Hannah Collingridge and Joolze Dymond are this year’s commentators for the British Cycling National XC Series. They’re also bringing us a race report from each round, with a bit more colour than the official British Cycling version. Expect to hear about a little more than just who won a medal, and if you’re racing and they spot you, expect to get heckled.
Photography by Man Down Media
New season, new venue and what a way to start the new season. Parkwood at Tong is probably better known for off-road motorsports with regular enduro and trials riding but it has been used for mountain biking as well. There’s the Tongduro, they’ve had CX there and there was local XC racing back in the day when such things regularly existed. But this was the first time for a National level XC round.
It replaced the round at Sherwood Pines and frankly there couldn’t have been much more of a contrast in the venues. From the loamy flatlands to the mud and steep, short hills of industrial Yorkshire. Let’s stress at this point exactly how much effort from Ian Spencer and the Shibden crew went into pulling off this round at short notice, with a goodly dollop of help from Hope who are stalwart supporters of XC racing. You did a stunning job, people. Thank you.
With the land being privately owned there are far fewer restrictions on the course you can build – let the imagination go and then line it with tape. On several sections on the course the tape was left deliberately wide so instead of their being one obvious line riders had to think and plan, maybe have a second choice in mind in case. Then there were the A and B line choices. Long Tong Gully had a steep, sharp entry with awkward turn into the gully followed by a drop, leading over the fireroad into Dropper Cropper and a splash in the river if you got your speed wrong. The B line also went down a steep banking, through some mud but then thoughtfully took you through the river to wash it off. There was a gap jump included but the feature most talked about was the Shibden Slabs. This was a feature put in many years ago by Jeep for a 4×4 festival. That’s gone but the slabs remain, usually ridden upwards for those with an engine, but added as a techy down for the race. Speed and commitment were needed, no mincing here. For those who wanted technical features on an XC course, here they were.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny but the hail/sleet/rain combo came in the afternoon meaning anyone who had practised in the Saturday sessions couldn’t be sure what the course would be like on Sunday. The fun of racing.
U12s sessions also made a reappearance this year. Run by Crank It! the sessions focussed on skills with a series of obstacles and challenges to be practised and ridden. Then a razz round the short course to finish with. Judging from the grins, it all went down rather well.
Racing on the main track opened with a great battle in the Sport Male. Ethan Whiteside (Prologue) led the race convincingly from start to finish. In the early laps Marco Ruggeri (Rapha CC) and Michael Newton (Barnsley RC) traded places for 2nd and 3rd constantly. However, Tom Stephenson (Lakes RC) timed his race to perfection, outsprinting Marco for the line to take second. Michael, who had faded a little, hung on for 4th.
In the Open men Al Griffin also led from start to finish, and then rode an extra lap as well. Lee Eaton (Team JMC) took second with Duane Stander in 3rd. Duane had entered on the day and had a huge smile on his face every lap so clearly a good day out for him.
Open women saw Hannah Williams (Macclesfield Wheelers) take the win from Anna Hull (East Bradford CC). Anna’s husband, Stuart, and son, Milo, Hull had also raced (we think Milo lapped his parents). Such efforts are worthy of celebration so they were awarded a spot prize for family racing supplied by Vertebrate Publishing. Vertebrate are very kindly supplying the spot prizes for this year – no one knows what they’ll be awarded for until the day of racing, but it’s aiming to recognise that not all racing happens at the front, and really we should celebrate riding our bikes.
Short track has moved to Saturday evening for this year. This is the fun part of the racing. There is a shorter course which is used for 20 minutes of racing. What happens after that is anyone’s guess – there might be reverse gridding, for instance, or there might be people racing in their onesies. And quite what the prizes will be awarded for is quite often not decided until prizegiving. Due to the inclemency of the Yorkshire weather – it had gone cold and wet, the togs were moaning the light had gone in the way only photographers know how – there were only four riders left standing. Evie Strachan from the youth development team RR23 was given a 20 second or so head start – her job was to simply hold off the boys as long as she could. Then the lads were set off after her. At this point they discovered exactly how much of a rocket ship young Evie is. Twenty minutes of fun later Tom Couzens (Embark-Bikestrong) took the win in the men’s cat, Sam Howes (Sleaford Wheelers) came second, and a chilly Matt Cuthbertson (Pro Vision) in third. Evie Strachan (RR23) was, of course, first. That was day one.
Sunday is the day with most of the racing. It was chilly but sunny so in theory the mud would start to dry out. What most riders hadn’t counted on is that mud in this part of the world goes from thin and sloppy but rideable to sticky and slidy before it becomes anything near dry. They soon learned the truth.
First out were the Youth and Juvenile categories, male and female. This means there are four races within one. Add mud to the mix, both on number boards and on kit, and spotting who is who becomes challenging to say the least. Even the parents lose track of their children. And it is super competitive, not just at the pointy end of the race, but all through the field. Coming up to the line and spot a rider trying to overtake? Sprint – they might not be in your category but sprint anyway.
In Female Juveniles Zoe Roche (WXC Racing) won convincingly, leading from start to finish. Aelwen Davies (RR23) took second on a loaner bike. She’d been hit in practice the day before and her own frame had been cracked. Massive thanks to the Jungle boys for sorting out a loaner Santa Cruz – it took some time to get it back off her. Daisy Wilkinson (Edinburgh RC) took third in a competitive race.
Racing was also fast and furious in the Juvenile Males with Curtis Mckee (Scott Quanta) taking the win, Daniel Ward (Cero – Cycle Division RT) in second, and Jacob Steed (Sherwood Pines) just outsprinting Gus Lawson (Edinburgh RC) for third.
Youth Females was won convincingly by Daisy Taylor (Royal Albert CC) with Cat Ferguson (Hope) having a battle for second with Imogen Wolff (Shibden) and Bethany-Ann Jackson (WXC) still in the mix right til the end.
In Youth Males the race split into two groups at the front end. Nathaniel Henderson (Hetton Hawks Cycling Club) edged ahead to take the win with Ben Coppola (Four4th) just outsprinting Alfie Davies (The Bulls) to the line. But not far behind those three were a group of four working very hard for their points: Alfie Amey (DB Racing), Innes McDonald (Edinburgh RC), Ewan Dix and Max Standen (Southfork Racing.co.uk) was the order they finally crossed the line in after a race of swapping places.
Next up was the Male Vets categories: Vets are over 40, Grand Vets over 50, Super Vets over 60. Most of them should know better. It’s a massive class demonstrating further that people who ride bikes don’t grow up and still enjoy playing in the woods with their friends.
In what became nicknamed Youth Vets, i.e. the over 40s, Marc Chamberlain (Hunt Bike Wheels) led from start to finish. Chris Buchan (Pentland Racers) had a good race to take second ahead of Jonathan Pugh (The Bulls) who had started way back in the grid and steadily worked his way through the field for third. His fan club had predicted to the commentators this is what would happen and they were right. Marc Le Sueur deserves a special mention for the excellent way he kept his number board clean.
In the Grand Vets Nick Craig (Scott Racing) was nursing a sore hand from last week’s crash at Battle on the Beach. But since when has Nick every let anything like that get in his way. He rode so fast he not only won his category but was 7th in the field of vets which started a minute before him. Legend. Paul Hopkins took second from Ian Taylor (Shibden). Grant Johnson had a cracking race to win Super Vets, with Pete Harris (Pearce Cycles) in second and Roy Hunt (Team Bottecchia) in third.
Race five included all of the female categories. In the Female Elite, Elena McGorum (Peebles CC) and Anna Flynn (Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus) were out front for all of the race, occasionally swapping who was on the front. It was only in the last part of the final lap that Elena managed to get away for the win. Jo Thom (Torq) could neither catch the leaders nor be caught on her way to third. Jane Barr (Velocity 44 RT) was fourth with Xan Crees (Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus) making up the top five. A special shout out for Libby Harman (Saint Piran WRT) who punctured early on lap two and was walking back up the course thinking her day was over. A bit of gentle encouragement from the commentary team to those in the pits found her a spare tube and some help to get back out racing. So back out she went, her race effectively over but better than a DNF and another fantastic demonstration of the support you get from fellow cyclists. I don’t know who helped out but thank you.
In Juniors Emily Carrick-Anderson (T-Mo Racing) took a convincing win, leading from start to finish with Kacey Eyeington (Derwentside CC) and Christina McGorum (Peebles CC) battling for second and third. Phoebe Roche (WXC) was close behind in fourth and Beatrix Kiehlmann (Royal Albert CC) taking fifth.
In Female Experts Amy Henchoz (silent z) took the win, with Christina Wiejak (Saint Piran) (so sorry – the commentary team apologises for the several variations of your name we came up with) and Victoria Peel (Hope) in third. In the Vets Emily Smith and Alison Kinloch (Shibden) battled for the top places with Emily finally getting away for the win. Melanie Paddington (Newdales Cycles RT) took third. Super Vets were a little more spread out but Clare Hoskins (Cardiff JIF) won, with Jane Squires second and Lindsay Newman (Pedal Power Loughborough) third. Super Vets was won by the one and only super Carolyn Spiers (Kendal) well at home on the technical course.
The Men’s Elite was a really competitive race from start to finish with a group of four getting away early but slowly whittling down as the race progressed. Charlie Aldridge (Scott Racing) finally managed to get away on the last lap to take the win followed by Cameron Mason (TRINITY Road Racing) for second. Losing touch with the leaders slightly towards the end of the race but holding on for an impressive third was Corran Carrick-Anderson (T-Mo Racing) with Joseph Blackmore (Rotor Racing) hanging onto fourth and Rory McGuire (LeslieBikeShopBikersBoutique) in fifth. An exciting race to be sure and a good indicator for the season ahead.
In the Male Juniors the first three had been incredibly close all race but it was Ben Askey (FlandersColor Galloo) who won with Huw Buck-Jones (Backstedt Bike Performance) in second and Nathan Smith (Garden Shed UK-Ribble) in third. Close racing and a close finish for those three. Max Greensill (Hope) was fourth with local rider Bjoern Koerdt (Shibden) coming fifth.
In Male Expert it was another three-way battle for much of the race but Matt Lawton (Macclesfield Wheelers) took the win ahead of Sam Sayers and Flynn Gregory (Derby Mercury RC).
Due to the mud and close racing it was pretty difficult to tell who was who. Shouting, ‘Clean your number boards, boys’ worked well in the vets race, possibly because blokes of that age are used to subconsciously obeying commands from middle-aged women. Younger men? Not a chance. They would have had even more shout outs if they’d just done a bit of wiping. Just saying.
But what a cracking start to the season. Thanks to Ian Spencer and the Shibden crew for putting on the race with much help from Hope in the stunning ground of Parkwood.
- Thanks to all who volunteered and those who helped in any and all ways.
- Thanks to support from Schwalbe Tyres and www.adventurebooks.com for the series support.
- Full results on Smartiming www.smartiming.co.uk
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