Last weekend saw the second in the Stilettos on Wheels series of women’s cross-country races come to Bright’s Stanmer Park. The sun shone and a great time was had by all, as Grace Henderson reports.
The sunshine dance certainly worked! The morning of the Stilettos On Wheels women-only mountain bike race in Brighton dawned gloriously on Saturday September 8. More than 70 women signed on for the event at Stanmer Park, Brighton, almost double the turn out of the first race in May, and the racing was fast and furious on the super dry, flowing trails.
The event boasted not one but two national champions. UK and European 12-hour champion Maddie Horton had been in the arena since Friday night leading groups of nervous but enthusiastic girls on course pre-rides. Finnish national cross-country champion Noora Kanerva flew in especially for the race, sporting her blue and white flag jersey with pride.
Noora lined up at the start alongside a mix of novice riders and experienced UK mountain bike racers; including Natasha Barry, winner of this year’s Brighton Big Dog; expert cross-country racer Laura Sampson, and Emma Cutler, who ranked second in this year’s UK and European 24-hour championships.
The British Cycling commissaire blew the whistle shortly after 11am and the race was on!
A steady stream of girls powered up the grassy slope out of the arena and into the woods, ready for the first climb. The climb was short and steep to get the riders up and into the singletrack as quickly as possible, the course was taped and pink dots and arrows led the way round for those unfamiliar with the 3.5mile trail.
This plan was not foolproof, however, as just before the log run section some mischievous (we’re being kind) walkers moved some tape and arrows to turn a left turn into a right turn….there was some confusion for a few minutes before the marshals arrived to set it right and all was well again. “Oh well, at least the bit we had to do twice was really nice singletrack,” one of the mis-routed riders was heard to say. Very sporting, we say.
The race course flowed round Stanmer’s excellent singletrack, over the log run and through the jungle. With the initial steep climb out of the way, most of the course was flat or downhill.
Two-hour and four-hour races were run consecutively, with solo and pairs categories.
Fiona Everingham had a clear lead in the most popular two-hour solo category, but the battle for second and third was closely fought, with just 40 seconds separating Natalie Russell and Delphine Penning at the finish.
In the two-hour pairs race a no-show on the day and a last-minute upgrade to the four-hour category by one of the pairs, left the top step of the podium wide open for Stella Buckingham and Jodie Braham, riding for the Rockinghorse Children’s Charity (Stilettos on Wheels official charity partner).
All too soon the chequered flag was being waved as the four-hour race came to its close at 3pm and the racing was all over. The four-hour race saw some of the fastest laps completed, with one of the four-hour pairs winners Natasha Barry and Liz Gilmour, riding for wxc World Racing/ridebike.co.uk, smashing out a 20.24 minute lap as part of their 10 lap victory, closely followed by Noora Kanerva’s 20.28 minute lap in the four-hour solo category.
Despite her superfast times, Noora could not make up time lost to a puncture on lap three and Laura Sampson, riding for Gipping Race Team, emerged the victor and took the Stilettos On Wheels title by more than four minutes.
Laura, who is coming back from a recent collarbone injury, is an elite mountain bike racer and currently ranked ninth in the UK.
Just a minute and a half behind Noora, Katherine Mason, riding for BEC, also completed 10 laps to take the third spot on the podium in the solo category.
Dirt Diva team riders Lisa Carrington and Sophie Anns completed 10 laps to come second in the four-hour pairs, with Sarah Rountree and Gina Sweeting, of Fruit Pastille Racing, coming in third with eight laps.
Each finisher received a bespoke sprocket medal, designed by Kate Bebbington of Dormouse Inc, a Surrey-based mountain biker and professional metal and leather-worker. On the podium, the top three in each category also received a hand-crafted leather medal and a big bag of goodies. Prizes included Exposure lights, beautiful Lezyne pumps and saddle bags, Schwalbe tyres, Ana Nichoola jerseys and gloves, Osprey hydration packs and t-shirts, Icebreaker merino base layers and socks, cool bike bits and bobs from Mt Zoom, Torq gels and bars, and, of course, the obligatory champagne on the podium for the winners!
Thanks to the many generous sponsors a host of spot prizes were also doled out during the prize-giving, with lucky rider Gayle Wells walking away with a Bamboo Bikes XC MTB frame, as well as the prize for rider wearing the most pink on the day! Cheery Eleanor Rutter also scooped a prize for being the most chilled out and smiliest rider on the course (she’s still smiling now).
In the main arena sponsors had stands showing off their latest products, including the launch of the Torq Raspberry & Apple bar (in Stilettos On Wheels pink and black of course!), and providing support and advice to riders and spectators alike. Schwalbe fixed the punctures, Brighton-based bike shop Freedom Bikes did the mechanics, and Sabreen Queshri-Hitchens from Active Physio Clinics provided physiotherapy support (in between riding her bike – Stilettos On Wheels was Sabreen’s first ever mountain bike race and she was particularly proud to have made it over two out of three logs in the log run!).
Rachel Hammond, MD of Bamboo Bikes, was at the event and smashed out a lap on her demo Bamboo Bike – complete with special pink tyres – before letting interested girls test ride the bike. Maddie Horton, who runs the Fully Sussed mountain biking academy when she’s not racing herself, also had a fleet of Specialized Fate 29er Carbon bikes for girls to trial.
Tasty food and drink was provided by Brighton companies Sue’s Burgers and Dinkyccino, while Stilettos On Wheels charity partner, Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, manned the very well stocked tea and cake stall and provided children’s face painting to raise more than £200 for equipment at Brighton’s Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.
After the race and prize-giving was all done and dusted, all everyone wanted to know was ‘will there be another race next year?’. And, of course, the answer is a resounding yes. See you next year!
Visit www.stilettosonwheels.com for up to date information on the Stilettos On Wheels series planned for 2013.
|Two hour solo|
|5||Elspeth De Montes|
|36||Bamboo Bikes Rider|
|Two hour pairs|
|Four hour solo|
|Four hour pairs|