The National XC Championships will take place on July 16-17, with 17 titles up for grabs at the Aske Estate.
Aske, a firm favourite on the cross-country circuit in years gone by and now back on the map thanks to the Nutcracker Series, is a 6.5km circuit, making full use of the Vale of York’s terrain.
“Starting in a grassy field, you may be lulled into a sense of false security before you dash across to the first feature, Wood Yard’, a punishing, short but sharp incline that delivers you to Jockey Cap, the highest point on the course, from where you’ll experience the first epic descent through Mike’s Wood, popping out at Tumbledown House.
Here you’ll find another short climb followed by another descent, before you start to climb again up the Grind. Another super-steep descent follows, taking you through Adey’s Plantation, where you’ll emerge onto Quad Field. A quick sprint across the bumpy field will take you to the first section of wooded singletrack, breaking out onto a short piece of fire road giving you a brief moment of respite before you head back into another fast flowing singletrack down to Log Pile.
Another section of fire road follows giving you another moment to grab a breather before you’ll find yourself back in the woods blasting through the Troll Trail. This section of singletrack meanders through the woods throwing up drop-offs and berms to keep you on your toes. Emerging at Lloyd Shorts you’re on the final section of fire road known as Head Wind – this could be your final chance to overtake, wind permitting, before running into Bluebell Woods for the last singletrack blast before exploding onto the home straight where in that last 100 meters titles could be won or lost in the sprint for the finish line.
You’ll be looking at approx 17-18 minutes per lap for the fast boys if it’s dry, if the weather gods throw a rain cloud or two into the mix add another 2 or 3 mins into that equation.
Expect at least 122m of climbing per lap, over a mixture of grassland and fire road, mixed in with loamy, rooty, rocky, singletrack, mainly through wooded sections. If you’re wondering what tyres to take, forget your heavy-duty mud ones, as the course is pretty mud free. However, be warned, forget your skinny tyres and opt for some mid-range 1.9’s at least, otherwise you’ll find yourself slip, sliding all over the place. If it’s wet, it’s the grassland that could prove lethal – it’ll be slippery.”
With Olympic year just round the corner, all the main contenders are upping their game and polishing off any rough edges in the campaign for selection. This means, for the senior men at least, the race will more than likely be a duel again between defending champion Liam Killeen and rival Oli Beckingsale who’ll be hoping to add another jersey to his already extensive collection.
On paper the course seems to be more suited to Killeen, with no major climbs for Beckingsale to play his ace card, but we shall just have to wait and see, as it’ll be no cut and dry race by any means.
The under-23 men’s race will also be a certain fight to the death with Dave Fletcher looking incredibly odds-on favourite to take the jersey. All that stands between him and another year in stripes will be the young pretenders to the crown; Kenta Gallagher and Steve James. Finding their feet at senior level for the first year, will the young blood be a match for the seasoned campaigner?
With Gallagher and James stepping up to senior ranks, this leaves second year junior Grant Fergusson primed to take that title. With a consistent and strong season at both national and international level boosting the young Scot’s confidence, he certainly will be the man to beat for the junior title, though I’m sure Matt Sumpton, Ben Sumner and quite a few more juniors will be eager to prove us wrong.
Matt Dennis will be trying to make it a season to remember for all the right reasons as he takes on the masters. Will dark horse Carl Sturgeon appear on the day to defend his title? Will retro bike lover Geoff Beetham dust down his knobblies and try and thwart Dennis adding the national title to his recently acquired Midlands Masters crown or can Phil Morris finally grab that elusive masters gold? Or, indeed, will Ed Moseley throw the spanner in the works?
For the senior women, it looks as if the real battle will be for the runner-up spots as undoubtedly defending champion Annie Last, who is currently knocking on the top ten of the World Cup circuit, will be the dominant force to be reckoned with. Although she won’t be able to rest on her laurels, it is a more or less foregone conclusion she’ll take her second title, illness and mechanicals allowing of course.
GB team mate Lily Matthews will be off fighting her own battle defending her under 23’s title, where we might see a bit more of a scrap as Jessie Roberts tries to trade her silver for gold, while there is a welcome return to the dirt for Horizon rider Ruby Miller as she throws her hand into the rink.
Timetable and entries
Racing kicks off on the Saturday for all those who fancy a go but don’t want to race the nationals. The Sweatmonsters Academy starts the proceedings for all riders under 16, with free entry for under-12s. Then it’s on to the fun, open and sport races. Entries are available on the day for these events but you can save yourself a few quid and get your entries in now on www.xcnc.nutcrackermtb.co.uk.
Championship day is Sunday with a full schedule kicking off at 9.15am, with the juvenile titles first to be decided, ending with senior races at 2.30pm. Entries are closed.
There is camping available from Friday through to Sunday at a cost of £10 per pitch/camper/caravan. Pre-booking is required and all entrants will be sent a booking form. Toilets, showers and water points will all be available, along with a bike washing facility.
Please note as Aske Estate is private land, access to the site will not be available before 4pm on the Friday. Course practice kicks off Saturday morning.
MTB regulars, Quaver Catering, will be on hand providing an excellent assortment of hot and cold food and beverages all weekend.
For those you want to pre-celebrate there will be a full evening of entertainment on the Saturday night with local brewery Black Sheep providing a licensed bar. You may be invited to take part in anything ranging from a slow bike race through to a full on Krypton Factor style assault course!
For more information, head to www.xcnc.nutcrackermtb.co.uk