The National XC Championships take place this weeken, July 16-17, with 17 titles up for grabs at the Aske Estate in North Yorkshire.
Who can win?
With Olympic year just round the corner, all the main contenders are upping their game and polishing off any rough edges in the campaign for selection. This means, for the senior men at least, the race will more than likely be a duel again between defending champion Liam Killeen and rival Oli Beckingsale who’ll be hoping to add another jersey to his already extensive collection.
The under-23 men’s race will also be a certain fight to the death with Dave Fletcher looking incredibly odds-on favourite to take the jersey. All that stands between him and another year in stripes will be the young pretenders to the crown; Kenta Gallagher and Steve James. Finding their feet at senior level for the first year, will the young blood be a match for the seasoned campaigner?
For the senior women, it looks as if the real battle will be for the runner-up spots as undoubtedly defending champion Annie Last, who is currently knocking on the top ten of the World Cup circuit, will be the dominant force to be reckoned with. Although she won’t be able to rest on her laurels, it is a more or less foregone conclusion she’ll take her second title, illness and mechanicals allowing of course.
“Starting in a grassy field, you may be lulled into a sense of false security before you dash across to the first feature, Wood Yard’, a punishing, short but sharp incline that delivers you to Jockey Cap, the highest point on the course, from where you’ll experience the first epic descent through Mike’s Wood, popping out at Tumbledown House.
Here you’ll find another short climb followed by another descent, before you start to climb again up the Grind. Another super-steep descent follows, taking you through Adey’s Plantation, where you’ll emerge onto Quad Field. A quick sprint across the bumpy field will take you to the first section of wooded singletrack, breaking out onto a short piece of fire road giving you a brief moment of respite before you head back into another fast flowing singletrack down to Log Pile.
Another section of fire road follows giving you another moment to grab a breather before you’ll find yourself back in the woods blasting through the Troll Trail. This section of singletrack meanders through the woods throwing up drop-offs and berms to keep you on your toes. Emerging at Lloyd Shorts you’re on the final section of fire road known as Head Wind – this could be your final chance to overtake, wind permitting, before running into Bluebell Woods for the last singletrack blast before exploding onto the home straight where in that last 100 meters titles could be won or lost in the sprint for the finish line.
You’ll be looking at approx 17-18 minutes per lap for the fast boys if it’s dry, if the weather gods throw a rain cloud or two into the mix add another 2 or 3 mins into that equation.
Video preview of the course
When is the racing?
Championship day is Sunday with a full schedule kicking off at 9.15am, with the juvenile titles first to be decided, ending with senior races at 2.30pm. Entries are now closed.