With two rounds already done and dusted for this year, a healthy and encouraging attendance were pretty eager to get round three of the Nutcracker XC race series under their belts.
A return to Camp Hill was on the cards, used extensively last year. This virtually flat and fast course is ideal for those keen to give the sport a go but also leaves no stone unturned for those more experienced. It may not have the rough and tumble of some of the more technical courses but what it lacked in climbs and rocks it soon made up for in bermtastic singletrack.
How the racing unfolded – race one
The first race got underway sharply at 10am with the Youth, Juvenile and Fun riders ready to do the business on the bone dry course. A slight incline at the start gave the riders a quick warm up as they started the procession into the surrounding natural terrain, with bystanders and livestock watching the action unfold.
In the Youth race Billy Harding was obviously hungry for the win, devouring the course with an unrelenting appetite leaving the rest of the field to pick up the crumbs, taking the win with a 4 minute gap over 2nd placed Ben Pygott. Despite losing her drink bottle early on the first lap Paige Coope kept pushing on to grab a convincing win in the Youth girls race with Libby Greatorex picking up 2nd and Jess O’Brien 3rd.
It was a much closer affair in the juvenile race, though Chris Barnes threw down the gauntlet early on leading from the start to take the win, despite the efforts of 2nd placed Thomas Mein, while Amira Mellor rode a strong race in the juvenile girls race to take a commanding win. In the fun race a tricky first lap for Alistair Black left the door wide open for army rider Shaun Dutton.
Despite a fast second lap, wiping 4 minutes off his start lap, Black didn’t quite have enough in the tank to get back to Dutton who emerged victorious, with Black and Roper in hot pursuit, just 40 seconds separating 1st from 3rd. Ruth Midgley ploughed a lonely furrow in the fun women’s event, hopefully round 4 and the thought of cake may encourage more women to come and have a go.
Race two gets underway with the experts
As race two got underway, the weather gods decided to throw a wild card into the mix. Dark rain leaden clouds started empting their contents, thick and fast over the circuit, transforming the once fast flowing singletrack into a fast flowing mud bath for the first couple of laps. As the rain began to ease the riding got harder as the slop turned to thick gear crunching grime that coated everything, rider and machine until one was virtually undistinguishable from the other! While the weather was having it’s fun, the riders battled on. Expert Neil Hayward made short work of his 6 laps taking the win after nearly 149 minutes of racing, while sole elite rider Danielle Rider made her way round the 5 laps in just over 21/2hrs. The sports men’s race was better subscribed, but Matt Brown left the competition standing as he carved his way through the thickening mire to take the win with a healthy 4 minute lead over 2nd placed Robert Upton, his haul of prizes supplemented with a probably much needed shower gel sample I just happened to have in my pocket!
Race three – time for the masters
By race three the weather gods obviously had gone for an afternoon snooze and the sun was soon out mopping up the dampness, leaving the trails a little tacky but not slippery, the going was now decidedly good to firm yet again.
Now it was time for the elder statesmen (and women) of the sport to show their hand. First off were the masters with Tony Fawcett leading the way, 2 minutes later in hot pursuit were the vets, with the grand and super vets bringing up the rear.
Fawcett had taken off like a scalded cat and by lap two the rider with him in his sights was vet Noel Clough. ‘Cross rider Clough, looking to take on the might of the XC vets at the upcoming Nationals was keen to catch the fast moving master. With a 2 minutes vantage Fawcett was looking elusive, but over the 4 laps Clough chipped away at his lead coming in less than a minute behind the winning master Fawcett, to take the vet win.
Meanwhile the race behind continued in earnest for the minor placing, and the masters Ben Hallworth and James Metcalfe duelled for the runners up spot with Hallworth just holding off Metcalfe for that honour. In the Vets Kenny Johnson was happy to hold his own, racking up a creditable 2nd just under 5minutes ahead of 3rd placed John Hick. Grand Vet Duncan Stuart held onto is fast start to take the win ahead of Ian Robson.
It was a pleasant sight to see a healthy turn out for women riders with Helen Macgregor taking the win in the women’s vet race and Karen Howard picking up first in the grand vets.
Regional XC races in good health
As the year unfolds with masses of regional XC races tucked into every corner of the UK, catering for all comers to the sport of cross country racing it’s excellent to see the Northern territory is in the safe hands of the enthusiastic Nutcracker crew.
If you fancy sampling some northern delights (and there is rumour there will be cake) come out and have a go at round four on the 20 August. Situated in the breathtaking venue of Fremigton, Swaledale and brought to you in conjunction with the Dales Bike Centre, the final round of this little cracker of a series is sure to end with a bang. Make sure you’re there.
Thanks to Joolze for the photos, you can see all her photos over here www.joolzedymond.com