Photos Joolze Dymond
Drumlanrig was the setting for the second round of the XC NPS series and provided the riders with not only a cracking 7.5km technical, rooty and singletrack infested course but also a bit of culture too (being the birthplace of the modern bicycle). Add to that a dash of scorching temperatures, some blazing hot racing and the place was well and truly set alight.
The juveniles set the scene with the very first race of the day. Coming down to a seat of the pants sprint, just a tyre knobble decided the winner, Orange Monkey’s young Alex Baker taking the win from a disappointed Ryan Fenwick in second and third placed rider Hugo Robinson fending off rivals with just one remaining pedal.
On to the main action, and with this round being a category 2 race meant there were some juicy UCI points up for grabs. Back in the thick of the action after a gruelling circuit of World Cup races was UK’s numero uno Oli Beckingsale. The race literally detonated from the gun as riders vied for position to try and get to the all important singletrack sections first. Paul Oldham took pole position up the first climb but was soon overhauled by power house Ian Wilkinson, with Gareth Montgomerie and Beckingsale close behind. As the race progressed Beckingsale smoothly controlled the race from the front, taking the win after six long laps.
Ian Field surprised everyone to come out of nowhere. Starting towards the back of the grid, the young rider (who’s been competing on the World Cup circuit) rode steadily through the race, picking off competitors every lap and started to close the gap on Beckingsale. He finished second just over 1 min 30 sec behind. Irish national champion Robin Seymour had an average race, but by calling on his extensive race experience he rode himself into the race after finding himself languishing back in 8th spot, finally finishing a strong 3rd.
Another class field lined up in the women’s elite field, including national Champion Jenny Copnall. Still missing was Amy Hunt who’s currently recovering from illness and Aussie rider Kate Potter, probably having a breather after she too has been competing on the World Cup merry go round. However Sue Clarke was in the line up looking fresh, along with Ruth Fraser Moodie and Irish rider and runner up at the last round, Mel Spath. As Copnall already knew her challenger could come from any of the girls present her task was to ride a smooth race and make no hasty decisions.
With this in mind Copnall took the race out of the arena and stayed in control for the entire duration, with the rest of the field competing for the remaining podium spots. Clarke had a much better ride here than she did at Thetford, looking comfortable in the technical sections and rode into a second place. Mel Spath, second at the last round, had a disastrous race, with a bad start putting her off the pace and the podium. It was Meggie Bichard who managed to hold off Nadine Spearing to take the final podium spot.
The next race in this series finds itself in uncharted territory, pitching up at Grizedale in the Lake District. With Barrie Clarke helping to put the finishing touches to the next course, we’re sure it’ll be another challenging and breathtaking circuit. Rumour has it that Nick Craig may even step out of his XC racing retirement briefly to give this one a crack.
Steve Heading – Whyte RacingWhyte Racing’s Steve Heading reports from the 100km enduro.
I started the long drive up to Drumlanrig on Saturday afternoon. I’d ridden there once before, during the TransScotland. My memories were of excellent rooty twisty singletrack – like all your favourite local ‘natural’ woody sections all condensed together.
On Sunday morning it didn’t take long for the sun to show its intention, it was going to be hot. I reckoned on well over six hours, so prepared another bladder with over a litre of drink to swap around the halfway mark – along with extra food in the feed zone.
I tried starting steady, but was still a little fast. By the third lap (of eight) the heat and course was beginning to take its toll. Half way and I was suffering. I swapped my drink but my stomach was becoming unsettled – cramp then really began to bite.
As I slowed a few riders passed. I knew I should be drinking and eating more but my stomach objected. Laps 6 and 7 were tough and I further slowed. It would have been easy to retire. I suspected a lot had – the course seemed very quiet. At last, the last lap began. I rode steady up the hills to minimize discomfort.
Fortunately there was no-one around to race. Towards the end a rider passed me, I didn’t bother staying with him as I thought he was in a different category. Unfortunately I was wrong – he went on to take third place in the vets, ahead of me by less than a minute. I’ll check more carefully next time!
I was right, it was a tough race. Fortunately I had the benefit of suspension on my E120, my body still felt like it had taken a beating, but my back had survived. Anyone who finished on a hard tail deserves a medal. Looking at the results only 18 riders out of the 48 starters completed the 100km. A tough race.
Mel Alexander – Element Racing
After a 7 hour journey we arrived at Drumlanrig Castle at 6 o’clock Friday evening. Parked the van, erected our new van awning and unloaded my carbon-stayed Element Nitron-Q hardtail for a practice lap. As we pedalled up to the course from the campsite we were struck by how beautiful our surroundings were, with rolling hills and colourful woodland.
The XC race in the beating sun. There was a good turn out again with a few of the regular riders missing but replaced by other Scottish faces, all-new to me. After my result at Thetford four weeks ago I was seeded on the front row, but unfortunately my legs just couldn’t keep up with the speed the other ladies took of up the hideous first climb, and I kept dropping back and back until I was virtually the last to enter the single track.
I managed to overtake four of the ladies on the first lap but from then on I was by myself. With no ladies in sight in front or behind I had to keep reminding myself to press on hard, riding Element Nitron-Q round that excellent single track was so much fun that it would have been easy to forget the race. I finished the race in 10th position, slightly down on my previous result. Surrounded by great views, a good buzz in the air, the sun and a great course I was looking forward to the next day’s race already.
Whilst Saturday was cross-country, Sunday was dedicated to the Enduro specialists. Ordinarily I would enter the 100km enduro, but feeling tired from racing the previous four weekends I opted for the 75k. Whilst I had chosen a shorter distance it was clear it was not going to be an easy race with two strong competitors; Maddie Horton and Ruth Mordant lined up beside me. With the previous day fresh in my mind I was really keen to float the Nitron Q around the awesome singletrack again.
The course had been made longer for the enduro with the laps extended to 12.5 km resulting in a 6 lap race. Starting with a 2k climb, Maddie, Ruth and I were separated upon reaching the top but still in sight of one another. The course then dropped into single track with one short fire road climb followed by a large section of twisty, rooty, rocky single track. Ruth soon caught me up with her flowing style round the tight corners and over root after root, another kilometre later and to all our surprises we were over taking the tail end of the 100k men and caught back up with Maddie again.
Once out of the single track there was another fire road gradual climb and yet again Maddie pulled away from us with her amazing climbing legs. She became a black and orange dot on the top of a hill which she remained for the majority of the race. This left me and Ruth in a direct battle, yet both with the desire to catch Maddie back up again. It was very enjoyable pushing each other hard, following Ruth through sections of single track just holding onto her wheel with her then jumping on my wheel for the subsequent sections.
I really loved the course, did not get bored once which is very rare when racing laps. The race took just under 5 hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. I finished second just over 3 minutes behind Maddie and 10 mins in front of Ruth. I hope that the future NPS XC and Whyte Enduro Series are just as enjoyable.