A perfect sprint day kicked of another perfect Gorrick Spring Series with hundreds of people flocking to the buff dry trails of Swinley Forest to get their first XC blast of the year.
With title sponsor Saddle Skedaddle offering a free holiday to a randomly picked rider, plus trophies up for grabs for the top 10% in each event there was plenty to ride for. After round one was a non-starter due to snow, round two certainly opened the series with a spring in its step offering the competitors a real corker of a course to find their cross country legs.
A 4.5 mile circuit that managed to pack everything you could possible want for an early season funfest. Fast singletrack balanced by some evil little kickers that challenged the best, perfectly coupled with some grin inducing descents, complete with berms, jumps and loose gravel strewn climbs that offered something for everyone, beginners through to experts, everyone was a winner.
Once again it was the youngsters that got proceedings underway sprinting fast to the first corner, ready for the first climb. What looked like an almost leisurely start for Will Taylor belied his actually intentions, as he battled for victory in the youth race, taking the win in the 2 lap race just 28secs ahead of Liam Earl, with Abigail Van Twisk taking the win in the women’s youth race with a strong lead. Matthew Fratesi had an interesting tussle with Sam Shepherd in the 2 lap juvenile race, until he managed to loosen the Primera riders grip, going on to take the win with a comfortable 82 sec lead. Lonesome juvenile female entrant Emily Wadsworth, just got stuck into the boys race, her opening lap enough to place her third overall.
Next up were the even younger youngsters, masses of 8-12 year olds eager to tackle a shortened version of the circuit, before handing over to dad or mum to watch them have their bit of fun in the early spring sun.
First of the ‘elder’ statesmen of our sport to get underway, were the super quick Super masters & vets, closely followed by the equally as quick but seemingly not quite so ‘super’ masters.
The aptly named ‘ Ride on Air’ rider Jason Painton ‘floated ‘ to victory in the master’s race despite all the hard work by Ollie Taylor to take the win for himself. The close fought race ended with just 22secs separating the two in a strong field. A small train of super masters steadily spread the field apart, with Marc Chamberlain, Graham Warby & Robert Purcell leading the way, by lap 3 Chamberlain had unbuckled the carriages and was going for a solo victory coming home 1 clear 1minute ahead of Warby after the 4th and final lap.
The closest battle of the day had to be between ‘arch’ rivals Lewis King and Paul Hopkins in the super vets. These boys certainly don’t slow down as they get older, with King blasting out a sub 23 min opening lap, leaving Hopkins on the back foot, 40 secs adrift on lap one. However as he laps progressed Hopkins chipped away at the lead to come with a gnats whisker of King, who narrowly held off Hopkins to take the win by a mere five seconds.
The action didn’t ease as the day continued, the vets race saw the top 5 finishers have just a handful of seconds separating them out, with Jon Pierce having the most in hand to take the win ahead of Dave Wadsworth. A healthy turnout in most of women’s categories was encouraging to see. The women battled hard for their positions, with Sarah Whelan taking the victory in the vets, Kim Harvey holding off Jo Scott to take open, Emily Iredale took the masters and the ever green grand vets was taken by Lydia Gould while Kim Riegel obviously enjoying herself held off 5 other ladies to take the win in her fun race.
In the expert women’s race Rachel Fenton put a long hard winter of intense training to good use, taking a commanding lead in her race to take her first win of the season, while Jo Munden, no longer sporting a fetching pink cast on her arm took a comfortable win in the sports race.
The opens men’s race saw the biggest field of the day with 120 riders lining up to tackle 3 laps of the excellent Swinley course. James Braid opened up the race with a storming sub 25 min first lap, throwing down the gauntlet, which try, as they might could not be challenged, leaving Braid to take the victory ahead of Ash James and Craig O’Neill. While in the equally as competitive sports race it was Al Fairbairn who proved the man to beat leaving the rest of the field to pick up the crumbs.
Finally it was time for the expert men to show off the effects of their winter training. Adrian Lansley quickly showed the strong showing of experts a clean set of heels as he swiftly covered the fast flowing course looking smooth and controlled. His opening lap carved out an clear 34 sec lead over team mate Chris Minter, and over the remaining 4 laps he continued to build his lead up to a winning 1 min 47 secs, with Minter making it a Pedalon, 1, 2 as he swept into second ahead of John Veness.
As the sun set on this first Spring Series of 2012 nothing could remove the glow from the 600 + riders that came, rode and thoroughly enjoyed, especially a delighted Aaron Wills who became the proud winner of a fantastic Saddle Skedaddle holiday, just for coming along and riding some excellent trails.
If you’d like to come and experience a fun filled XC racing experience thanks to the fab Gorrick crew and maybe take home a cracking Saddle Skedaddle holiday then come and join us on the 11th March at Crowthorne woods