Pic: Dave Richardson
The NPS 4X series got underway at the weekend, with a dry and sunny UK Bike Park in Dorset (a swap from the traditional season opener at Chicksands) hosting 115 racers. There were plenty of new riders taking part this year, with nearly all the entries in the Series categories, making it looking like a good turn out for the rest of the season. Last year’s series winners got their new Number 1 plates so everyone can spot the guys and girls they need to beat.
The UK Bike Park course is built on hard, stony ground. A long first straight ends with a tricky quad section before entering the first tight berm. Then off into a double and then the choice of going round the long right hand berm or the tight inside line which leaves you with less speed to enter the mogul section with three different lines. The best option was hit the middle mogul and land just to the left of the next one to give a clean run through. Easy when you’re leading but a whole different ball game when you’re racing elbow to elbow. Then onto the left hand hip down into the final berm and the short sprint to the finish. The Second corner would prove to the real decider in most of the racing with most of the overtaking going off in the mogul sections.
Racing started in lovely sunshine and a chance to see who had been doing their winter training. Juvenile was all new riders – Dominic Barden was winning all his motos and took the win in the final with little Joe Buck in second.
Alex Metcalfe won the Juvenile series last year and continued in the same form to take the win in his first Youth race. Adam Thomas rode well to take second and will be hot on the heels of Alex at the next round. Isaac Mundy will be another rider to look out for this year – he was really going quick but got T-boned off the track in his Semi Final.
Juniors was stacked with 20 riders. With quarter-finals as well it made for an action-packed day for these guys. Mike Yard was going well last year and has been training all winter, out on his bike five days a week. This really showed – he won all his qualifying motos, but fell foul of line cross at the start and got disqualified from his semi-final. Another one to watch out for in ’09.
Tom Knight, last year Youth Series winner, took the top Junior honours on the day. He’ll be off to race a couple of World Cups this year along with third place Scott Roberts. Gregory Holloway looked to have been winter training too and took second place.
30 riders signed up for the Seniors and they were blown apart by Kieron McAvoy, riding his first 4X race. This guy looked like he never stopped pedalling anywhere on the course even in the air. Dirt Bike Supply rider Chris Cumming had a great result on his new Flow frame and took a convincing second place.
Spank were on hand to give out prizes to the top three three in seniors who picked some nice green rims and handlebar and stem combos. Spank will be at every round to hand over more goodies to a different category each time.
Masters saw the return of Dominic Bent and Marc McHale and it looked liked these guys had been training hard over the winter too. Dominic was flying down the track and took the win on the day from Marc, with series regular Paddy Baker in third wearing the tightest jeans ever seen on a man his size. Dom also picked up the Halo wheelset, one of which will be given to a different class at every round of the series this year.
Veterans is a great class of older guys but they still want to win a much as anyone. David Herman was ripping it up on his little singlespeed in his first 4X race – it was only the speed of Jason Carpenter (of Dragon Downhill fame) that keep Dave off the top spot.
The Ladies class is starting to grow, with new riders and Kim Bent returning after a couple of years absence to try to regain her National Series title, currenty held by Charlie Phillips (4Mountain). Manon Carpenter is the 16-year-old daughter of Jason Carpenter and her dad’s skills have certainly rubbed off on the young Manon to take second place in her first 4X race!
In the Ladies final it could have been all different if Suzanne Lacey hadn’t come off over the logs at the start. She took a hard fall and needed the paramedic skills of Extreme Medics to check her over before being allowed to ride down and finish the final to loud applause of the spectators.
The Elite class was expecting to see the new 4Mountain rider Liam Phillips take up the challenge of racing 4X but after snapping his chain for the fourth time he decided to watch from the side of the track. 16 riders lined up for the start, and with new riders moving up into Elite everyone is out to beat current Series Champion Scott Beaumont (Rocky Mountain).
Lewis Lacey, now signed up with the Chain Reaction Cycles race team and riding his new prototype Intense hardtail, made a clean sweep of the four motos. Will Evans was another rider all signed with a new deal, this time from Morewood Bikes, who was flying down the track.
The final race of the day had Beaumont, Lacey, Evans and Martin Ogden all lined up on the gate. It was going to be a drag race out of the gate, a quick hop of the four logs just after the start and then power down over the small table. With a small left hand kink in the track, riders get bunched up before leading into the quad and the first berm. Beaumont had got the snap and was first into the corner – he now had the choice of taking the tricky inside or going round the long berm. Lacey in second went for the long outside berm giving him good speed into the moguls, Evans took the inside line and Oggy was chasing them all down in fourth place. Beaumont made a quick sprint out the corner to hold off Lacey. Evans was trying everything to find a way past Lacey in the moguls but it was another Beaumont win followed by Lacey, Evans and Oggy.
The top three of Beaumont, Lacey and Evans hot footed it away from the podium with their prize money and custom made Hope trophies to catch a plane to South Africa for the first 4X World Cup of the year.
The next round of the NPS4X series is a double header at Bridgnorth on 23/24 May – full details at www.nps4x.com.