The National XC Points series got under way on the weekend, with an impressive turn out of keen riders eager to put months of hard winter training to good use. Thetford was the venue of choice for the first round, a deceptive course; what Thetford lacks in killer climbs it more than made up for with fast, flowing singletrack weaving furiously around the forest, at a relentless pace. This was to be no race for the faint hearted!
Racing started in earnest at the stroke of 10, with the juveniles first to settle old scores and start new battles. From then on it was a never-ending cycle (excuse the pun) of races starting as one finished, until finally the last man crossed the line somewhere around 5pm. During this time there was plenty of seat of the pants action as more than one podium spot in loads of races was decided by some last minute sprints for the line.
The fastest and smoothest action of the day came from the Elite race, where the SIS/Trek boys Ian Wilkinson and Ian Bibby dominated. An early break by Wilkinson left the group of top riders in chase mode with no-one really wanting to take control. Bibby took advantage and attacked, crossing the bridge to Wilkinson and leaving team-mate Dave Collins to police the group behind. Bibby and Wilkinson went on the rampage, making short work of the six 10km laps. Just over two hours of racing later and Bibby and Wilkinson crossed the line side by side arms hands joined. Bibby was later awarded the win.
Wilkes commented later, “I gave the win to Bibby – although we’re pretty equal, someone has to win and someone has to lose, but he’s going to be contesting the whole series so I thought it be handy to give him a good start.”
Meanwhile in the women’s Elite race, reigning National Champ Jenny Copnall was leading out an exceptional showing of riders, the biggest we’ve seen for years. Not one to be complacent about her position as numero uno for many years, Copnall still proved to be the strongest rider of the day, taking the win with ease. Irish rider Mel Spath and Paula Moseley took the remaining podium positions.
Copnall knows it won’t always be that easy: “I must admit I came into this race with pretty low confidence, I decided the only thing I could do was just rely on my bike handling skills. Even after 15 years of being at the top, you still come into each season the same as any other. These days I have less confidence coming into races as I respect the other girls I race against. I didn’t win any NPS races last year, just the main one, we have so many good riders now swelling the Elite ranks, it’s brilliant.”
The next round is at Drumlanrig, Scotland, on 10/11 May. Expect some stunning scenery to compete with some intense racing at all levels. We’ll expect a showing from our top Juniors, plus current National Champ Oli Beckingsale too. And just to shake up the women’s field Amy Hunt and Kate Potter might be in town, that’ll upset the proceedings… Or will it?All pics: Joolze Dymond