Race Report by Scott Wilkinson from Mud Sweat n Gears
Today saw the start to the Southern XC MTB series at Winchester. Last year’s race at this venue was a ‘Marmite’ event, with opinion solidly divided between ‘loved it’ or ‘hated it’. This year’s event due to the inclement overnight weather in my humble opinion may have been down rated to ‘Bovril’. And just like Bovril conditions were thick and sticky.
In complete contrast to last year’s event where racers had been spoiled with balmy summer temperatures and dusty trails, this year event had been ravaged by the last of the Winter’s storms and a 26min team practise lap collected more mud than a collective 2.5hr Thursday night social club ride. Conversation was had that once it has been ridden by a few races and the temperature rose it might dry out nicely, only problem was we were the first race out!
Undeterred by the strong winds, cold temperatures and overnight monsoon rains, a strong turnout in the Sports Category was had and this was confidently matched by a strong turnout by MSnG. 7 Racers took to the start line. Birthday Boy Simon Chainey (gridded from his impressive 8th Overall series standing from last year) took to the front row. Due to poor personnel admin skills I missed gridding and sat at the back of the pack, with Andy Leach, Rob Midmore, Marcus Leyland, Dan Bates, and Andy Hawkins peppered through the main pack, intrepidly awaiting for the starting whistle.
All to suddenly things were off; riders sprinting without wanted care for their fellow man; bikes crossing bikes; each trying to hold the fastest and clearest line for the first bottleneck and clean lines through the twisting; root strewn; suet pudding esque; muddy singletrack that formed the first ½ lap starter loop. Mr Chainey, kept to racing form and promptly crashed, not so much to hurt himself but enough to allow a good bunch of the field to get passed him, including myself and Rob Midmore. Marcus was close on our tails, as a quick look over my shoulder showed him to only be one zigzag turn behind. The racing was on!
For the first lap and a half Rob and I stayed together, but then Rob showed his strength and clawed his way away from myself and out of sight. Only to be seen briefly again when he dropped his chain and was held up in some tight switching singletrack. But like a rose tinted sasquatch , he quickly disappeared into the tree line again and was gone. Just like the legend he is.
Somewhere around this time Andy Hawkins’ tyre decided to pick a fight with a piece of flint, unfortunately the flint won and Andy’s race was over in a foundation spray of sealant.
The race continued and except for the occasional sighting of Mr Chainey behind me, to keep me motivated, we all raced in isolation. This is where the mind wonders and as you get more tired all you can do is focus on staying upright. What I should have been doing was counting the number of laps I had done. A quick consultation with the rider behind me determined we were on the last lap and feeling fatigued I decided to ensure I held position. Crossing the line, myself and the rider behind shook hands and had a little chat about how the race had gone, we then started to make our way under the tape and back to the car, just as Simon Chainey came passed and I realised we had 1 more lap to go! PANIC!!!! Quickly chasing down Simon C’s wheel, I promptly told him what a numpty I had been and tried to get my race head back on. We rode the final lap together and if I’m honest Simon could have left me at any time, but being the gentleman racer he is he chose not to and let me cross the line before him. (Muchos gracious amigo! The corner crash from last year is now fully forgiven).
Rob Midmore had a storming time out front and came in an impressive 11th! Next in was myself and Simon Chainey in 21st and 22nd respectively. Marcus Leyland brought it home in 27th with Andy Leach right behind in their first Sports Category race after moving up from Open, and Dan Bates in 40th, all out of a large field of 52.
Congratulations to all racers, today was tough but the first of the season always is. It was great to such a good turn out from MSnG and I look forward to riding with you all at the next Southern XC instalment at Checkendon, Reading on the 21st April.
Round 2 at the Reading MTB Race Info
All photo credits to Sheena Booker Photos