Easter Bunny Hops!

And so it began. The 2007 British Mountain Bike & Trek Marathon series kicked off in fine form on Easter weekend, with Torq being represented by many tuned & fuelled riders, each keen to put months of hard training into practise. Competition was fierce in all categories; the racing was close and competitive with more than one race ending in an exciting sprint, with Torq riders being in the thick of the action.

The most talked about race had to be the elite, both men’s and women. It’s been a while that we’ve seen such depth and breadth of talent in a women’s elite race in the UK and Torq were represented by Cotic rider Kate Potter, fresh from a season down under, where she scored some impressive results in the Australian National Series as well as grabbing a medal in the Aussie National Champs too. Alongside the cheery Aussie were current National Champ Jenny Copnall, Jenn O’Connor; New Zealand Marathon Champ plus, into this international mix, current New Zealand Nat XC Champ and silver medallist at the commonwealth games, Rosara Joseph and youngster, GB rider Amy Hunt. With this amount of talent you just knew the racing was going to be anything but domestic.

The course provided some of the sweetest singletrack interspersed by some fast rolling fire roads, plus despite it’s reputation for being flat, at least one killer drag. A group of 5 soon formed at the head of the field containing all the main contenders, Joseph, Copnall, O’Connor, Potter & Hunt, all pushing the pace. By lap 3 of the 5 lap race Joseph made her move and attacked with only Hunt able to go with her. As the 2 riders disappeared into the final section of singletrack, the crowd went quiet, then burst into a huge cheer as Hunt was the first to appear, Rosara just seconds behind. The likable youngster from Bolton took the win underlining her winning ambitions, with Rosara picking up 2nd just 6 secs behind. Meanwhile the race for 3rd was on. Potter, O’Connor and Copnall all vying for position. As they reached the final corner into the finish straight it was Potter who had the edge, but with O’Connor on her wheel a fierce sprint decided the outcome. Potter got it over O’Connor, with Copnall, just being edged into 5th.

We later caught up with Kate and she gave us her take on the amazing race:

“I was a barrel of nerves on Saturday morning before my first race. I could feel my legs buzzing and was eager to start, but was unsure whether I was completely over the jet lag as we had only returned from Oz a week before. The first lap I spent too long at the front of the group and knew I was doing a lot of the work. However I felt safe at the front, as I’m not used to road racing and being so close to other wheels. As we passed the feeding zone for the first time I could hear Matt telling me to save myself and so I eased off as Jenn O’Connor moved forward. I was lucky not to have come off though as Amy Hunt almost took me out in the process. I dropped back and almost lost touch with the front group who consisted of Amy Hunt, Rosara Joseph, Jenn O’Connor, Jenny Copnall and Paula Mosley. Jenny Copnall encouraged me to catch up to the leaders. I dug deep and managed to keep in touch with the group. As I started to relax I found myself really enjoying the fast pace and my legs were buzzing with energy (TORQ energy!) Half way through the fourth lap Rosara made a break away and Amy managed to keep in touch with her. The two Jenny’s and I worked together and we could always just see the two girls in the distance. Unfortunately with a few kilometers to go we were forced to slow down and let a couple of elite men go by as we were holding them up on the single track. Although our last lap was quicker than the two girls in front it was obvious by the last kilometer that the three of us would be racing for positions 3rd to 5th. Without thinking about it I quickly slipped in front of Jenn on the last long section of single track. When we dropped on to the fire road I gave it everything, as I knew I had to be in front of the girls going into the last piece of single track if I was going to be able to compete for third. I was able to maintain my position out front and then gave it everything to cross the finish line in third place. I was over the moon, as I discovered new found racing aggression which has been lacking in my racing lately and something Matt has been working on with me.”

The elite men’s also had an international flavour with South African National XC Champ Burry Stander, lining up with defending series winner and current GB national Champ Oil Beckingsale, plus Irish champion Robin Seymour all adding to the mix. Torq riders Richard Wood, Ross Adams, Euan Adams & Anth Rowland were also in the mix, but far from the front in the start grid. Their races would be harder than the front-runners as they battled for position.

As the gun went the 7 lap race was on and soon reached speeds akin to road racing as the field disintegrated along the singletrack. By lap 3 a deciding group had formed with Stander, Beckingsale, Bibby, Montgomerie & Field, making the moves. Beckingsale attacked on the strength sapping drag on lap 5 and only Stander could match him and together they forged ahead of the chasing trio. With the motivation to win on a flat course burning deep, plus not wanting to concede the opening win to a foreign rider, Beckingsale dug deep and came into the last corner, first. The crowd went wild as a jubilant Beckingsale took the win just seconds ahead of Stander. Over a minute later espoir rider Ian Bibby came in to take 3rd. Torq riders Ross and Richard rode well to finish 12th & 15th. Euan’s race came to an end in lap 3 while Anth went on to pick up 32nd aided and abetted by his new spangly shoes, which obviously dazzled the competition into submission. Ross’s race was pretty nerve racking but he finished with his best result in a BMBS race to date:

“I was nervous at the start, as I was starting from the 4th or 5th row, and knew the race was going to go for the gun, so I would have to give it everything and keep the elbows out front the start if I was ever going to see the front. As the gun went I sprinted up the right and took the inside line on the first corner, avoided the crash and a bit of elbow to elbow action as we entered the first singletrack, and within half a lap was tagged onto the back of the lead group. Then, on long section of singletrack, the rider in front let a gap go, and when we finally got to a place where I could overtake, the leaders were 10secs away, which at that speed was too much for me to close. Towards the end of the first lap I was caught by Nick Craig and Will Bjergfelt (????). I rode with them until a crash on the 2nd lap, but I bounced up quickly, put my head down and got back up to them. That effort took a lot out of me, and it was all I could do was to sit on their wheels. By lap 4 I was able to do some work at the front. Will lead the last lap, as Nick and I sat on him, but leaving the last bit of singletrack, my legs had lost their kick, and Will and Nick got a small gap, which they held to the finish. Still, I finished 12th, my best ever BMBS. Lets see what happens at Sherwood!”

Whilst Richard was delighted to finish in such a strong position, giving him valuable points to move him up the gridding after a years XC lay off:

“Having not raced last season on the dirt, I was on the back row of the grid, so I knew I was going to have to pull out all the stops to move myself through the field to finish in the top 20. I got a good start, following Ross up the inside of the first corner, and set to work making my way past a barrage of wheels and elbows. The first few laps were spent working to catch one small group of riders after another, accompanied by Chris Minter who had also found himself with a ‘back of the pack’ start position. We worked hard together and by the last lap were chasing down 13th place, but with the finish fast approaching we knew it was going to be a fight between us for 14th & 15th position. I tried to sit back and save something for the last dig, but Chris kept the pace high and I was unable to ride around him. I was happy with a strong ride to finish in 15th place. Glad to get the first round out of the way and looking forward to Sherwood Pines where I’ll have that all important top 20 grid position.”

Meanwhile in the Expert race; Nick Jones, Andrew Cockburn, Duane Stander & Torq fuelled riders Simon Turner & Martyn Brookes, soon split from the field and were racing for position over 5 fast laps. Despite a tumble in the race resulting in a somersault over the bars it was Jones who after chasing hard, managed to attack and go clear to take the win, with over a minutes cushion. Behind him the fight was on for the runner up spots and the crowd was once more treated to an explosive sprint as Turner, Cockburn & Stander blasted up the gravel to the finish line. Cockburn by a hundredth of a second just piped Stander with Turner another second behind, whilst Brookes took 5th.

Simon told us later:

“It was a great weekend and I really enjoyed the racing, though it was slightly marred by a host of mechanicals! This race was early in the year, I felt ok and well rested but had no idea if I would be fast or not. I was gridded which helped the start and I settled into the lead group taking turns at the front. My riding in the singletrack was awful on the first two laps – hardtails, they hurt! The eventual winner crashed on the third lap and I got on the gas and gapped the group. He caught me and then dropped me later though. I felt all lonely at the end of the 4th lap so let the others catch me (mistake!). I rested and got ready for the sprint. Martyn tried to gap us but worked too hard – we dropped him (sorry Martyn!). Then disaster, I was set ready for the last 1km when entering the second to last singletrack the top of my saddle fell off! I had to stand up and stomp all the way home, consequently my legs were beasted for the sprint finish and I was 1 sec behind 2nd and 3rd taking 4th place. Pretty gutted really as I seemed to have been quite fast and should have had 2nd sorted earlier in the race..”

Torq team member Lydia Gould had taken the decision this year to opt out of the vet’s class where she dominated her field in 2006, to ride in the expert category for some keener competition. And competition she got with Marcie Reinhart battling hard with the seasoned campaigner Lydia. In the end the race was decided by 21secs with Lydia conceding the win to youngster Reinhart. Lydia now feels she may have to take up road racing:

“After a very fast start I got onto the back of lead group of 6. Hoped it would slow up, but it didn’t. I really wished there had been some hills. I struggled round to stay with Marcie and 2 juniors but Marcie got away on last drag through the woods. I finally finished 2nd, reasonably happy with that (sort of). Maybe I need to do some road races like Marcie? Looking forward to Sherwood Pines, should be another good race.”

Trek Marathon Series – R1 Thetford

Sunday dawned, with a bright sun shining down on another day with plenty of hot racing action in the offing. This time the races were split into 3 distances 25/50 or 100km, around a slightly extended version of the course used the previous day’s XC races, including more spectacular and unrelenting singletrack that Thetford has become infamous for.

Torq riders Marcos Schier, Ian Barrington, James D’Arcy, Simon Turner & Matt Hart all lined up with about 100 others some who obviously couldn’t get enough of the trails, having raced the day before, set off at 10am to start the first of 8 laps of the 7.8 mile track. In amongst the front runners were defending series winner Robin Seymour, current National Marathon champ Nick Craig along with enduro specialist & Torq fuelled Kate Potter.

The format has slightly changed this year, with the 100kers going off first, followed by the 50 & 25kers 2 hours later with the aim of all the events finishing roughly at the same time. By lap 7 Seymour and Craig were out on their own until caught by the fast moving 50k riders. Craig got caught in a crash involving one of the 50k riders, which gave Seymour the chance to jump and get a gap. Despite a hard chase Craig could not get back on terms with the Irishman and disappointedly had to resign himself to 2nd spot. Robin told us later that:

“I’m surprised I got the win, I thought Nick was stronger, and I thought here we go again. It was sort of neutralised when the 50kms caught us, and we rode with them for a while. Nick wasn’t in the position at that time to keep attacking me as we were going flat out anyway. I think it sort of affected his game plan. When it came to the last climb it just became an all out sprint and then another sprint on the fire road. Will spent a lot of time on the front he’s a good big guy to sit behind. I knew the 50ks were catching us on the 7th lap, so I put the hammer down and only Nick could come with me. Up till that point I felt terrible, but I ate and drank enough I kid of came round. Better result today. I can’t do any better than winning can I”

Marcos came home just minutes down in 8th, not far behind was Simon:

“Sunday in the 100km was fun but more mechanicals! I had a great first lap riding behind Craigy the my seat post slipped down. For the whole race I spent 30secs every other lap putting it up again. I also had the 50km guys go off right in front off me. So I lost every little group I was working with, including Ryan Henry then Nick Jones then Marcos, who I’m sure I could have stayed with. I twisted my chain on the last lap so limped in praying it wouldn’t break! Finished 12th which given the prob wasn’t too bad.”

Ian came in 35th whilst team boss Matt did 4laps keen to get out and stretch his legs and James got a creditable 4th spot in the Vet Men’s category:

“Gossiping at the Torq stand with 20 minutes to go to the start of the 100km’s only too look up and notice about 50 riders already lined up! Oops, there goes my good grid position. Fortunately I was lined up behind a nuclear powered Marcos Schier, in whose wake I managed to follow for about 10 seconds before he blasted off towards the front. I hooked up into a good group of about 6 riders, including Matt for the first 4 laps, riding at a steady pace. It blew to pieces at the end of lap 4 as we’d just missed the start of the 25/50k race and we had to expend a lot of energy passing other riders. I rode a lot of the race with Tim Moorhouse from FreerideSpain and Gavin Rumbles from Trek. Gavin gapped me on the 7th lap and got a well deserved 3rd place. I was 4th, and pleased that had ridden a good race, start aside. No mechanicals or crashes on my part and the new Hei Hei was great. Thanks to Amanda and Beth for passing up bottles and encouragement from everyone in a Torq shirt. Also thanks to Anth & Matt for all the shiny new race kit & bike parts!”

In the women’s 100km race it was seasoned enduro rider Kate Potter that was looking on paper as strong favorite. Though after such a hard race the day before she was unsure of how today’s racing would go:

“I was overdosing on TORQ Ribose this morning as I didn’t sleep well last night from all the excitement of the race yesterday. I really didn’t know what to expect today and was hoping all the miles Matt has given me over the last few months would be my saving grace. I had a great start and managed to keep up with a few guys at the front. I decided just to ease into it as I hadn’t warmed up very well, when the man himself, Mr. Matt Hart came storming past and instructed me to stick to his back wheel. I didn’t want Matt to think I was a wimp so dug deep as we powered along the single track. Eventually I was forced to ease off and found myself riding behind another TORQ rider who was setting a good, but far more manageable pace for 100km. I started to feel really slow on the third lap and thought perhaps I had gone too hard at the start, but I actually felt alright. Then as I posed for Joolze on the single track I realized my back tire was soft. I stopped and checked it over. It wasn’t going down quickly so continued on. I stopped again and was going to change it, when I realized I had ripped my tyre. I had about 2-3 km to go so continued on. Ian quickly changed wheels while I took the short break to quickly drink a lot of TORQ drink as I was forgetting to drink and knew I would suffer later on if I didn’t start drinking properly. I felt myself get stronger and my laps times sped up towards the end. I really enjoyed myself on the single track and would you believe managed to keep the bike in the big ring for the entire 100km. I managed a win, which was a bonus, but was chuffed to bits that I felt stronger than I expected to after yesterdays race.”

She had some good competition with seasoned enduro riders Elizabeth Scalia, Jenn Hopkins (now back on her trusty singlespeed) & Ruth McGavigan all giving chase. Potter fresh from her tour down under was on blistering form, revelling in the copious amount of singletrack and thoroughly enjoyed herself in the process. She did have one scary moment when a ripped tyre nearly put paid to her winning ride; she managed to get back She won with a comfortable margin of over 7mins. McGavigan held off Scalia in an inspired ride to take 2nd with Scalia settling for 3rd.

At midday a couple of hundred more riders took to the trails competing in the slightly shorter distances of 25 and 50 km. Gareth Montgomerie, keen after his fantastic 4th spot in the elite race the previous day, took up the mantle and led the 50km race from the front, with Dan Booth, Billy Joe Whenman and 25km rider Michael Butler all vying for position behind the strong Scot. Gareth explained to me that:
“I lead a lot of the way well in a group of 4 of us, 1 was just riding the 25km so it was down to 3 of us, then we caught up with Robin and Nick in the 100km. They pulled away and Dan attacked up the drag that killed me yesterday, but I got back on but he got me on the sprint.”

A delighted Booth took the win and told me after:

“That was an excellent result, my first mountain bike win in a long time. I just went fast at the end so he (Montgomerie) couldn’t get round me, I don’t think I can call it a sprint, but happy to get the win.”

Torq scored a second podium spot of the day; when in the women’s vets’ 50km race an extremely pleased Amanda D’Arcy recently recovered from knee surgery took her first win:

“A really good race for me, and the lack of hills suited my recently mended knee just fine. The singletrack at Thetford almost seems like too much fun to be a race, and by the fourth lap I was really railing around those berms. As for tactics – enjoy it and just keep going to the end – works for me. Thanks to Viv and the two Beths for all for help and encouragement and to the Thetford folk, Martyn Salt and all the sponsors for the excellent weekend. Excellent result I’ve never won before, I’ve been second loads of times so it’s brilliant to finally take home a win. I’m pretty chuffed.”

All in all it was an outstanding start to both the XC & enduro series. Record entries, fields brimming with enthusiastic and talented riders, showing the crowds some exciting racing, with plenty of Torq tuned &fuelled riders in the thick of the action. With the next round of the XC classified as a UCI 1 event the racing is expected to be even more spectacular as more international riders are expected to join the mix. Whilst plenty more riders are expecting to travel to have a go at the enduro the following day. Torq will be on site with our Team wagon, happy to chat about our riders and our products. Feel free top come along for a ride, a chat and a cuppa!