The middle of June saw a significant milestone for the team, as the riders headed to round 4 of the National XC Series on the 2014 Commonwealth Games course at Cathkin Brae in Glasgow.
In the Men’s Elite race, Alex Welburn took the Team’s first ever Elite Men’s Podium, in the team’s entire 10 year history! Shortly followed by team mate Lee Gratton, who came in 17th. Lee had only recently returned to racing after separating his shoulder in round 2 of the Series and had to sit Round 3 out to recuperate.
In the Women’s Elite race, Jules Toone put in a storming performance, to take 8th place, with Jo Clay shortly behind in 11th – despite losing places after a puncture on her last lap. In the Women’s Expert race, Sarah Murray (who had recently returned to racing after a significant gap due to injury), took a respectable 3rd place – despite a mid race puncture. Here’s the race from the riders’ own perspectives.
Jo Clay – After a 6 hour journey up to Cathkin Brae, I was excited to get on the bike and race. I remembered the course from a couple of years ago and loved it. Once again the Elite field saw a strong line up and the course was very fast and technical. There were lots of obstacles to get stuck into. I got a cracking start and was 6th on the first lap. I felt comfortable and rode well. Annie Simpson (Hope Factory Racing), managed to make up a bit of time and got onto my wheel on the 2nd lap. We raced round for almost 3 laps, until she seemed to find a bit more strength and got a small gap on me. I was still in 7th place, until the very last lap, when I punctured.
I raced to the pits, where I used a Lezyne CO2 canister to try and get the tyre inflated again. However, 200 yards up the course it had deflated again! I ran the rest of the last lap and managed to finish in 11th place. I was absolutely gutted I lost the 7th place, but it’s made me more hungry for the National Champs in a few weeks time.
Jules Toones – 8th Elite Female – I found it pretty exciting to have the opportunity to race on the Commonwealth Games course. I’d never ridden there before and found it surprisingly smooth and fast, with the gravel surface being really loose.
On race day, I had my worst start and missed my pedal about five times, which left me dead last out of the arena! I managed to make my way up through the field and worked hard to overtake on the climbs and finally reached Nicky Healy. I managed to get ahead for the first half of that lap and it was pretty cool racing the dual track with Nicky until we reached “The Bank.” I slipped and couldn’t get up it and she managed to get a gap and get away. This bank was pretty steep, soft and loose with a nice tree root across it to help push you off! I tried every line to get up the bank – from right, left, middle and zigzag, but annoyingly I just couldn’t do it. In the end I ran over the top of it each time. I finished 8th, a result I was happy with, but felt like there was a little more there to give, which on this occasion, I sadly couldn’t quite reach.
Alex Welburn – 4th Elite Male – Having raced Catkin Brae before (with a good result), I was feeling pretty positive about this event. On race day, I was gridded on the second row. I knew being on the second row would really make a big difference to getting a position on the first lap.
I had a good start and got within the top 10. A few of the top guys punctured very early on, so I moved through a few riders and got to top 5. By the end of the first lap, I was in a group of riders from 3rd-5th, but at the end of the second lap, my chain jumped off and I lost a around 10 places while I put it back on. Over the next two laps, I chased hard and got back to 5th.
I caught up with Giles Drake and we were 4th and 5th, we rode together very well, until the last lap, where I just kept the pressure on, but Giles stuck on my wheel and would not let a gap form. In the last 1km, I managed to get a few seconds on some of the little rocky technical climbs and I went for the long sprint and crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of Giles. I came in in 4th place – my best placing to date. Even better, this put me on the podium and added to my UCI points as well – which will help with the gridding in my future races.
Lee Gratton – 17th Elite Male – It had been a while since I’d last ventured up the M6 to race, but the tracks North of the border are always worth the trip. I was really looking forward to racing this round of the National Series, as it was on the track used for the Commonwealth Games.
This was also my first race back after injuring my shoulder at the second round of this National Points Series and so I was up for it! Practice on Saturday was good and the track ran fast and loose! The signs were good! Race day came and after a good night’s sleep and my warm up ride to the track, I was excited to be back racing again. It was a little moist for my warm up, but it was going to take more than that to dampen my spirits.
I was gridded 32nd (after missing the last round), so knew it was important to get amongst it early on. I got away pretty well and made decent progress through the early laps. Staying smooth to keep the speed was key and my plan seemed to do the trick. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much of a result, but as the 7 laps ticked by, I seemed to race myself back into it. I came home in 17th! I was really pleased with the result and over the moon to be back racing and in the mix again. Injuries suck and being patient with injuries is never easy (especially for me). thankfully positive results like this weekend give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside and make the weeks of sitting on the turbo worth it.
Sarah Murray – 3rd Expert Woman – So what a race. I absolutely loved the course at Cathkin Brae, what a rush it was to race there hurtling through all the features. I was over the moon to finish on the podium, despite the mechanical issues which dropped me from 1st to 3rd place. It was so promising that I had the form to ride away from the field. I am really looking forward to the final round in Cannock. I can only feel positive!
Thank you to Andy Whitehouse for the images in this report. Next up for the team is Round 3 of the Scott Marathon Series at TORQ’s local venue Marshbrook on the Shropshire Hills.
As always, a big thank you to all the team sponsors. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do: