TransWales 2011: Day two ramps up the action

The second day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport served up some sumptuous singletrack and a full on, flat out special stage that threw a cat amongst the competitive pigeons

Linking stage Two (including Special Stage Two)

Knighton to Clun: Total distance: 76km – Climbing: 2300m

Day two of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport got underway under sunny skies as the riders saddled up for the second longest day of the event. It may have been long, but it was also high quality: with varied riding, stunning vistas, and high octane racing on the second special stage, the second day of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport had it all. Oh, and some sunshine, too. Lots of it.

Heading from Knighton, the trail climbed almost immediately through woodland before winching up Stow Hill at 424m, and into after almost 20km Bucknell Wood; here the riders hit the second special stage of the Gore Bike Wear TransWales, powered by Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport.

Initially billed as a 5km trail loop, the special stage length was put on a Slim-Fast diet and reduced to 2km over safety concerns on the bottom section of the full descent where several huge kickers could spit the unwary into the stratosphere. Instead, the special stage loosed the riders directly into some beautifully rooty and pumpy singletrack, before a berm spat them into a sequence of rollable double jumps prior to a big drop in.

After the warp speed accrued off the drop railed you round a big berm, a sequence of table tops segued into some tight switchbacks that delivered the riders back into the trees for the final section of the descent. This included a left hand bend which dropped through a tangle of roots that only the fastest and most alert riders cleaned without dabbing or wiping out. A couple of rutted corners then dropped the riders onto the beginning of the fire road climb at speed.

A big ring effort saw the riders tackle the worst of the hill mid-way, before the gradient eased a little for a sprint to the finish line. All in all, it was a varied and rewarding special stage that fully tested bike handling skills and fitness; to win here, riders had to be strong in both.

In the end, the racing was close and well-fought, with many categories seeing fresh faces climb onto the podium. Chief of which was Nepal’s Ajay Chhatri (Torq) in the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category. The two-time Yak Attack winner stormed the special stage in 4mins 58secs to be in a class all of his own as the only rider to go sub-five minutes. Close on his heels just 6secs adrift was Matt Williams (Unattached) in second, with Matt Page (Wiggle) just pushed back into third by the matter of mere hundreths. Page admitted presciently before the results were announced that “the special stage was alright: I wasn’t quickest but I think it was close.” In hindsight, he could’ve written the script.

In the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category there was a total overhaul of the top three, as Cyclist No. 1’s Fiona Spotswood put daylight between her and her chief rivals. She took the special stage by the scruff of its neck to complete it in 6mins dead; last year’s overall second place finisher, Hannah Thorne (Unattached), proved that she is hungry to improve on 2010’s performance by beating yesterday’s stage winner, Natasha Barry (BikeLux/Progression) into third place by 9secs. Sixteen seconds is all that separates first from third.

Elsewhere, the Saris Racks Veteran Solo Male category saw a great result for five times TransWales rider, Gary Cousins (phasenineclothing.co.uk) as he claimed his first solo podium with a strong second place finish in a time of 5mins 27secs, pushing yesterday’s stage winner Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion CC) into third six seconds down. The top spot was taken emphatically by Andy Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC) in 5mins 10secs – a time good enough to have placed him sixth in the open male solo category.

“I loved it,” said Cousins afterwards, “I thought the special stage was absolutely brilliant: it was like the Climachx [descent] – it was just hard enough to be a little bit scary. That makes you think enough and also feel like you’ve been pushed out of your comfort zone – which is what it’s supposed to be like.”

The profile for the first half of today’s linking stage looked more like the ECG of someone being electrocuted: it convulsed upwards sharply into jagged peaks before hurtling horrendously down once more. The good news for the riders was that the profile looked worse than it was to ride, but the plain fact was clear: the bulk of the day’s 2300m of climbing was dispensed with in the first two thirds of the ride. So, it was no surprise that after catching their breath, the riders trundled downwards from the special stage before the trail pointed ominously up once again along the wooded trails on Bucknell Hill. Then down. Then up again into Hopton Titterhill and down the marked downhill track with its multiple lines and rooty singletrack. Then up. Then down. Then repeat to fade. And once again for good measure.

The reward for the riders was stunning scenery that was the perfect opiate to their toils: wooded hillsides gave way to river valleys, which in turn passed the baton onto open hills. All in all, today’s stage had a great blend of scenery, cracking riding, and good weather all day that, bar a minor sprinkling of the wet stuff, showcased this area of Wales and England (much of today’s riding and Clun itself lies in Shropshire) in a great light.

The results of the day’s special stage has altered the overall standings in more than one category. In the Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category, Matt Page (Wiggle) has relinquished his leader’s jersey to Ajay Chhatri (Torq), who now leads Page by 17secs, with Jonathan Harris (Unattached) just a few hundredths of a second behind Page. With so many strong racers so close, Wednesday’s downhill special stage on the Climachx trail near Macynlleth could well see fireworks as they all try to force an advantage.

Gary Cousin’s (phasenineclothing.co.uk) impressive performance was good enough for him to move into second in the overall for the Saris Racks Veteran Solo Male category. Andy Jones’ emphatic ride sees him take the overall lead by 20secs, with the former category leader, Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion CC) just 2secs behind Cousin.

In the Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category, the special stage standings is repeated for the overall, with Fiona Spotswood putting clear daylight between her and yesterday’s stage winner, Natasha Barry (BikeLux/Progression) by 15secs, with Hannah Thorne maintaining contact with Spotswood in second, just 11secs behind.

Tomorrow sees the TransWales carnival experience that true ‘out there’ feeling across plenty of open moorland along the way to Llandiloes, some 70km and 2050m of climbing away. It also follows a fair bit of history as the stage crosses Offa’s Dyke and follows Glyndwr’s Way for a spell. If the weather plays ball it will be a stunning day’s riding across the backbone of mid-Wales, before the riders screech down the final descent to the day’s end. There will be no special stage tomorrow, so the overall standings will remain the same barring any time penalties.

SPECIAL STAGE TWO RESULTS

Buff Headwear Female Pairs category

1 – Elizabeth Adams & Rosemary Byde (Team Number 28): 0:07:01

2 – Steph Fountain & Lisa Bolton (Saddle Skedaddle): 0:07:14

3 – Kelly Clark & Cath Hempsall (Unattached): 0:08:38

Merida Bikes Male Pairs category

1 – Simon Harrison & Robin Calverley (RAF CC): 0:05:43

2 – Mark Wright & Enda Reynolds (Team Trailbadger): 05:48

3 – David Askin & David O’Brien (Rally da Digger): 0:06:09

Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category

1 – Ajay Chhatri (Torq): 0:04:58

2 – Matt Williams (Unattached): 0:05:04

3 – Matt Page (Wiggle): 0:05:04

Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category

1 – Fiona Spotswood (Cyclist No. 1): 0:06:00

2 – Hannah Thorne (Unattached): 0:06:07

3 – Natasha Barry (BikeLux/Progression): 0:06:16

Alpina Helmets Veteran Pairs Male category

1 – Dave Sheppard & Trevor Marshall (MAMIL): 0:07:07

2 – Ben Barden & Chris Putnam (White Spirit): 0:09:28

Birzman Tools Mixed Pairs category

1 – Katie Vaughan & Andrew Heywood (Motor Neurone Disease Association): 0:06:42

2 – John Drummon & Catherine Drummond (Align Pilates): 0:07:28

3 – Guy Shingler & Sophie Shingler (Team Chutney): 0:07:45

Saris Racks Veteran Solo Male category

1 – Andy Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC): 0:05:10

2 – Gary Cousins (phasenineclothing.co.uk): 0:05:27

3 – Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion CC): 0:05:33

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER SPECIAL STAGE TWO

Buff Headwear Female Pairs category

1 – Elizabeth Adams & Rosemary Byde (Team Number 28): 13:12:07

2 – Steph Fountain & Lisa Bolton (Saddle Skedaddle): 13:12:54

3 – Kelly Clark & Cath Hempsall (Unattached): 13:15:11

Merida Bikes Male Pairs category

1 – Simon Harrison & Robin Calverley (RAF CC): 13:10:07

2 – Mark Wright & Enda Reynolds (Team Trailbadger): 13:10:26

3 – David Askin & David O’Brien (Rally da Digger): 13:10:59

Schwalbe Tyres Male Solo category

1 – Ajay Chhatri (Torq): 13:08:34

2 – Matt Page (Wiggle): 13:08:51

3 – Jonathan Harris (Unattached): 13:08:51

Schwalbe Tyres Female Solo category

1 –Fiona Spotswood (Cyclist No. 1): 13:10:47

2 – Hannah Thorne (Unattached): 13:10:58

3 – Natasha Barry (BikeLux/Progression): 13:11:02

Alpina Helmets Veteran Pairs Male category

1 – Dave Sheppard & Trevor Marshall (MAMIL): 13:11:53

2 – Ben Barden & Chris Putnam (White Spirit): 13:14:19

Birzman Tools Mixed Pairs category

1 – Katie Vaughan & Andrew Heywood (Motor Neurone Disease Association): 13:11:51

2 – John Drummon & Catherine Drummond (Align Pilates): 13:12:50

3 – Guy Shingler & Sophie Shingler (Team Chutney): 13:14:49

Saris Racks Veteran Solo Male category

1 – Andy Jones (Clee Cycles KCNC): 13:09:20

2 – Gary Cousins (phasenineclothing.co.uk): 3:09:40

3 – Paul Whittaker (Stockport Clarion CC): 13:09:42

www.mtbtransuk.co.uk

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