Merida Brass Monkeys: Hungry Hill final round report + photos

For riders who were starved of mountain bike race action during the Christmas festivities, Hungry Hill was the answer.This was the centre of attention for all things mountain biking for at least 4-hours over the weekend, with hundreds of riders eager to partake in the last instalment of the popular Merida Brass Monkeys.

Once more the crew behind this cracking event weren’t monkeying around when they promised a worthy end to this fabulous series, spending weeks tweaking the finer points of the last long lung buster. Ahead lay 1000ft of climbing spread over a nifty 8-mile circuit, a perfectly balanced combination of pain and pleasure as the climbs led into some wicked singletrack followed by some fast roller coaster descents.

This year we have been pleased with unseasonably warm (and dry) weather with none of the series living up to its ‘brass monkeys’ moniker, though the bitterly easterly wind blowing at the top of the course may have been just enough for most.

All to race for

Despite some stellar performances throughout the series there were still a few categories yet to be decided. In the 4-hour men’s race, with Tim Dunford the previous two rounds unanimous winner being absent for the third left the door wide open for a tussle between Iain Payne and Scott McCarran, while out in front riding in his new team colours and fighting his own personal battle was Ben Thomas.

Thomas took a commanding lead right from the off, leaving a trail of chasing riders in his wake. After 4hrs 15mins and 7 laps he came home triumphant, nearly 21 minutes ahead of nearest rival Michael Jackson, whose finish was timed to perfection as he crossed the finish line just in time for a spot prize from Nomad to be handed to him.

Despite a strong finish by McCarron, coming home in 3rd, Payne just did enough with his 9th spot to claim the series overall. Hot in the hunt for the ever escaping Thomas was vet endurance rider Ant White, who with his strong 7 laps would have finished 3rd in the chase, of the youngster, but this grand man of the sport was chasing another category as he romped to victory in his third consecutive win of the 4-hour vet race, making it a clean sweep of the series.

Endurance racing is never easy, even when you’re in tiptop health, but riding with broken ribs and wrist takes pure determination. So with a strong urge to sew up the series, a newly broken Jo Munden sporting a fetching pink cast lined up with the intention of just completing 1 lap, as she had enough in the bank to secure victory in the women’s 4-hour. However, the course was so much fun, the pain in her wrist and ribs not so bad, she just kept going to eventually rack up an incredible 6 laps to take the series with a clean sweep of wins. In the women’s 4hr vets Jane Cumming took control of the race taking the win with 6 laps one clear of runner up Viv Hazelton who was consoled with the overall series win.

What better way to celebrate your impending 30th birthday than a blast around a great course for 2 hours, grin plastered from ear to ear, tussling with competition for the win and that’s exactly what George Budd did.

With Dave Collins for company for 3 of the 4 laps the time sped past, then Budd went for broke on his last lap hoping for no repeat of the mechanicals that blighted his second round race, managing to put 88 seconds between him and Collins to get the win and take the series too boot.

Collins meanwhile had a fight on his hands with a fast finishing Chris Rathbone coming with in a gnat’s whisker of claiming second. Louise Robinson in the 2hr women’s race scored her second win of the series to take the series, while in the 2hr vets women’s race Anita Buxon took a comfortable win, while Louise Parker finished a consistent 2nd to underline her win of the overall series.

Special mention goes to 4th placed Claire Beaumont, who traded in her usual cyclo-cross wheels to take part in her first ever mountain bike race, all in preparation for an assault on the huge Absa Cape Epic stage race in March.

Dean Morgan’s clean sweep in his hunt for series victory in the vet men’s 2hr race was thwarted by John Veness who took the win with just over 9mins in hand, leaving Morgan to pick up second and with it claim the series win. Another rider thwarted of a clean sweep for the series win was youngster Martin Turton in the 2hr junior’s race.

Despite a close run battle between Turton and Stean, over the first 2 laps, Stean pushed on opening a gap, going on to record 4 laps to take the win, while Turton went on to wrap up the series in second.

A healthy showing of women in the fun race was more than encouraging, with some close racing and plenty of smiles abounding. Olga Tikhonova took the honours racking up a fun loving 2 laps, even the fun men had come out of the woodwork for the final round, with nearly 30 riders keen to get a taste of Gorrick style racing, this time it was Joe Broadhead who put in two strong laps to take the fun win!

Thanks to everyone who came, saw, raced and cheered, none of this could have been possible without the hard work of the excellent Gorrick crew in partnership with the ACU plus of course the fantastic support of the event sponsors Merida Bikes, SRAM, Kenda, For Goodness Shakes, Mule Bar, Four4th Lights, Nomad, 1st Gear Cycles.

More Gorrick racing on the way

Like the sound of what the Gorrick do? Want a piece of the action? Well all eyes now are focused on the impending Saddle Skedaddle Spring Series.  5 rounds of XC, leg blasting lung-burning fun around some of the best trails you could hope for. Check out the details as well as the full results from the Merida Brass Monkeys at:

www.gorrick.com

For loads more photos of the day visit www.joolzedymond.com

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