Team blog: Merida Brass Monkeys Round 3

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Ben Thomas and Tim Dunford have had a storming start to the year, both taking a place on the podium at the third round of the Merida Brass Monkeys race last weekend. But it wasn’t all plain sailing along the way… 

Brass Monkeys 1
Off to a good start… But the race didn’t go entirely to plan.

Merida Brass Monkeys Round 3 Race Report

After months of preparation the Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team took to the start line for their first race on Sunday 13 January. Resplendent in their new Champion Systems kit the riders were keen to put on a good show and secure a solid result. Conditions were cold, especially in the wind which picked up mid race; ground conditions were largely dry allowing Ben and Tim to run dry weather Schwalbe tyres. A good turnout of riders, including the series leader, lined up at the start; with a good result Tim had the chance of winning the series, so securing this was the team’s aim for the day.

Off the start line Ben and Tim led the way up the climb out of the arena, around the start loop and into the first section of singletrack. By the end of the big descent on lap 1 Ben, Tim, and the series leader Al Fairbairn already had a small gap over the other 175 racers riding the 4 hour distance. The team were looking comfortable. However, as they entered the next singletrack section Tim clipped a tree stump sending him to the ground and badly winding him. Ben went back to check Tim was okay. After a few minutes Tim was back on his bike slowly turning the pedals; both riders had lost time and were back in around 20th place following the incident. It seemed as if Tim’s hopes of winning the series had ended and he sent Ben off to chase down the leaders.

Over the next lap and a half Ben had to overhaul a 3 minute deficit. However he never panicked and chipped away the minutes overtaking rider after rider. Once he’d reached the leader Ben composed himself taking on USN gels and energy drink readying himself for the second half of the 4 hour race. Tim had composed himself and was making his way back through the field, each lap taking a few more places. Tim reached 3rd place and it looked as if the chase was still on for 2nd place and the series title. Over the last couple of laps, however, Tim suffered from the early effort he’d had to make and the gap opened again to Al Fairbairn who finished 2nd, leaving Tim in 3rd as he crossed the finish line. Ben won with a comfortable lead taking the team’s first victory of 2013.

Ben Thomas is clearly on good form, having fought his way back to first from way back after attending to Tim following his crash.
Ben Thomas is clearly on good form, having fought his way back to first from way back after attending to Tim following his crash.

The result left Tim with second place overall in the series and he was left to contemplate what might have been, “Sometimes things just don’t work out. I’d just finished a big block of training and despite a few days off, I still felt pretty tired and the pace on the first lap felt pretty uncomfortable as my team mate Ben glided along effortlessly! After about 20 minutes I began to feel better but then I clipped a big fallen log on the inside of the corner, landing elegantly face first. Being the loyal teammate Ben stopped but I persuaded him to go on without me, with a dramatic “leave me!” The great course and beautiful winter sunshine helped motivate me to keep pushing and I’m pretty pleased to have got up to third by the end. Sadly, there was no catching Al for the series win. But third place on the day and second overall is not a bad start to the year so hopefully that’s the bad luck out of the way.”

Ben was happy with how his form is coming along, “It’s still very early in the season but I felt great out there, really enjoying riding the fun trails they have at this venue. The new Scott bike certainly helped propel me to the win – thanks to Mountain Trax for helping me build the bike this week. Tim’s crash on the first lap certainly made the race a lot harder for both of us. It’s really rewarding to take the win and 3rd place despite all the time we lost early on.”

The Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team’s next race is the Gorrick Spring Series opener which will be the riders’ final race preparation before heading to Spain for the 6 day event Andalucia Bike Race.

A huge thank you to John from Vermont Images for his help, keeping us well fed and watered as always and to everyone at Mountain Trax and Vauxhall plus all our other sponsors for their very generous support.

More from the team here.

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