The Premier Series returns this Saturday for the start of the XC racing season proper, in the first of five fantastic weekends of mountain biking at the best venues that the UK has to offer. The National Points Series XC rolls into Sherwood Pines on 6 May, with a seven mile lap flat-out lap through tree lined singletrack, some new climbs and superfast fireroads. The course has been designed by current Youth NPS champ David Fletcher.
For many of the Commonwealth Games heroes this will be their first race on home soil since that majestic one-two. A tanned Oli Beckingsale will doubtless be heading up the Elite field, followed by Si Richardson, Steve Roach, Garath Montgomerie, Rab Wardell and James Ouchterlony, with Phil Dixon, Nick Craig and Phil Spencer returning from his World Cup adventure to race on his home circuit.
In the women’s Elite race there will be the long-overdue comeback of Sue Thomas. With injury problems behind her, Sue will be hoping to mix it up with Jenny Copnall and Jenn O’Connor in what promises to be a compelling battle for the podium places.
This year kids get to race for free, with under 12s getting to emulate the pros (with a little help from mum and dad) and a free Go-Ride coaching session for 10-14 year-olds to brush up on the skills that pay the bills.
Throughout the day A Quick Release bike holidays will be holding a tyre changing competition with the chance to win goody bags alongside the offer of free bike set up and mechanical support.
Between races there will be more than enough to keep helpers entertained, including a chance to sample the new 2006 bikes from series sponsor Trek, or get juiced up and ready to rip with Science in Sport and Torq energy products. Also on hand are Climb on Bikes, Extreme Endurance, Giant, Massi, Raleigh, Scott, XCracer.com and Voodoo.
Post race you can kick back and enjoy the UK premiere of award-winning film Off Road to Athens, a documentary about US riders on a quest for UCI points and a place at the 2004 Olympic XC.
Camping on site comes with the luxury of hot showers, toilets, water and refreshments, alongside a café, high ropes and adventure playground.
Back for a one-race-only special is the Trek 6-4-2 at Sherwood Pines on Sunday 7 May. Riders will get the chance to complete as many laps of a ten mile course as they can handle over six, four or two hours through the twists and turns of Sherwood Pines.
The race is a perfect way to cool down after the previous day of XC agony, and a great chance to rub shoulders with the pros, finding out how fast they really are – even on downhills. The two and four hour event is for soloists only, but six hour event can have teams of up to four riders – or solo if you are that way inclined! Racing is great value too, at only £20 including camping and showers on site.
While the Pines course is relatively flat, it is also relentless with any lapse of concentration in the high speed singletrack resulting in a probable body/tree interface!
However long you choose to ride for there are plenty of options, from endurance to high speed wheel to wheel racing, or just testing out that new bike you had your eyes on. The best riders will have a chance to win £3000-worth of kit from Trek – more than enough incentive to do just one more lap.