Pic: Joolze Dymond
Winter showed it was on it’s way when nearly 450 competitors, plus masses of spectators braved the icy tendrils that was heralding the turn to coldness as the ventured over to Tunnel Hill to take part in the Gorrick Autumn Classic.
Whilst most XC racing has shut up shop and gone home the Gorrick continue to deliver events that hit just the right spot and these ever popular events just proved that point perfectly.
As the day progressed and no less than a staggering 22 categories were sent out to test their limits the sun gently warmed the 5 mile course spreading it’s golden rays making all those breathtaking autumn colours even more jewel like, that first frost shock long forgotten as riders ripped and rocked the trails.
You can rely on the Gorrick folk to provide you with section after section of good wholesome lung burning leg hurting fun, building courses that they love to build themselves and of course add their own personalities and humour to each notable piece it’s what helps set the events apart! P45 is one such section, provided an arm pumping, roller coast of a ride and for the builder memories of when he got his actual P45, I’m sure he has happy memories of that day every time he rides this short sharp section of singletrack fun.
Starting at 9.30 am the younger element of the day set the pace. It was good to see so many youngsters keen to come along and get stuck in, and enjoy the whole experience despite the bitter cold and early start! With a cracking 22 categories to get on course throughout the day the arena took on the guise almost of a conveyor belt of fresh riders, replacing the ones worn out but happy as they poured through the finish line eager to get their hands on a well earned bacon buttie and hot cuppa and chat to fellow riders comparing notes and experiences.
As each category got stuck in, it was soon clear that there were gonna be some awesome battles out there and in quite a few races the margin between winning and losing was as narrow as a cats whisker! In the Master Men’s Ollie Taylor got squeezed pretty tightly by Rob Purcell, but managed to take the win just 32 secs clear. In the super Masters race, the big boys were at play, with reigning National Masters National Champion Scott Forbes taking no prisoners as he belted his way through the trails and the back makers to score victory over regular rival Mark Hutt, 4 laps later.
Two of the most popular categories have to be the open and fun, where nearly 100 riders apiece came along to have a bash. Martin Turton, who earlier in the morning had ridden and won the youth race, enjoyed himself so much he later rode 2 lap fun race, as it said on the tin, for fun! While in the open race it was a close affair over 3 laps. With Lloyd Curling and Russell Jones seeming to have stolen a march on the rest of the field and took off together.
Curling had the slimmest of margins, which he took to the end claiming the win just 13 secs ahead of Jones. The Super Vets had a close run race too with Steve Jones and Rick Fetherston locking handlebars so to speak. Jones set the pace; with John Smith hot on his heels and Fetherston nearly 30 secs adrift. By lap 2 Jones still head the lead but Fetherston was closing in and then over the two closing laps Fetherston gradually pulled ahead to finally grab victory from the grasp of Jones by just 15secs.
In the various women’s races it was good to see a reasonable turn out. Anna Hibberd took control of the fun race taking the win with her 32 min lap. As in the men’s open race, there was a close battle in the women’s race with Cathy Thomas fending off Kathy Beresford to take the win. For some, and their day at the races, one race just wasn’t enough and in the closing stages, members of the Tunnel Hill Trolls, got stuck in again to complete a handicapped sprint lap. Jo Munden picked up that win to add to her earlier win in the master women’s race too. 3 secs in second was Andy Smallman, while Viv Hazelton picked up 3rd 25 secs later.
While the Tunnel Hill Trolls were having their fun, the even more serious business of racing was going on around them as the Expert riders battled long and hard over 4 punishing laps for the women and 5 for the men. Emma Smith took an easy win in her race as she builds up ready for her attack on the La Ruta in a few weeks time, while the men’s elite race was a real ding dong battle with Gary Record overcoming his own battle with asthma over the months, taking on Jon Pybus.
It was real seat of the pants action as each athlete pushed the other hard over the undulating terrain. Just a handful of seconds separated them each lap. On the final run up to the finish line Record very nearly didn’t make it as a slight misjudgement with feeding while out on the punishing course left him suffering. Pybus, continued to make advances but Record hung grimly onto to his lead crossing the line just 28 secs ahead to take a delighted win and promptly slumped to the floor eager to get some food inside to revive himself. One muffin and a few TORQ bars later and he was well on his way to recovery!
The next XC outing for the Gorrick crew will be on the 8th November where the Autumn Classic returns to it’s spiritual home – Crowthorne. Expect more of the same fun but with different twists and turns! Lots of fun singletrack around huge smile inducing trails loving crafted but riders who love to ride.
Also at Crowthorne look out also for the boys and girls of Berks On Bikes as they tackle their one lap sprint! Oh and don’t forget to keep your eyes out for the 20 Quid race. This is open to any rider who has a bike costing no more than £20 who wants to have a bit of winter fun as they and their machine shake through their paces trying not to lose too many components along the way! I guess the winner is the one that finishes the race with the most of their bike intact.
For more details and entries to the next Gorrick Autumn Classic, please visit – www.gorrick.com