Round 2 of the Midlands XC Series was simultaneously this year’s Regional Championships Race, which gave the riders the chance to be crowned with the title of The Midlands Regional Champion. With team riders Alex Welburn and Jo Clay (the current title holders) and the rest of the team hot on their heels there was a lot on the line.
Unfortunately for Jo and Alex, this round also saw some additional stiff World class competition from the Full-time professional riders David Fletcher and Nikki Harris. Therefore both our previous Regional Champion title holders came away with very respectable 2nd places, with Chris Andrews hot on Alex’s heels in 3rd and Lee Westwood in 5th in the Men’s race and Jules Toone shortly behind Jo in 4th in the Women’s Elite race. Here’s how the riders got on from their own perspectives.
Jo Clay – 2nd Elite Female – After two weeks of no racing, I was really looking forward to getting stuck in at the Midlands round 2, at Harlow woods (near Nottingham). A brand new venue for the Series is always very exciting. The weather forecast was looking good, but after the week of rain, I knew it wasn’t going to be completely dry.
A quick practice lap on the morning of the race and we were ready for the off. Again the Women’s Elite field was really strong, with Nikki Harris coming over to go for the Regional title. Jules Toone got a mega start and flew off up the hill towards the single track. As we entered the woods, it got quite narrow and slippery and I was sitting comfortably in about 3rd place. As we wound around the trees and through the woods, Jules made a small mistake, which took her off track and I managed to get past her. With Nicky Healy behind, I pushed on to try and get a gap, as I knew how strong she is.
The traffic from the Vets and Grand Vets proved time consuming and Nikki Harris started to get some time on me, but I pressed on to maintain my position. By the third lap, I had managed to get a couple of minutes gap on the rest of the field, with Nikki Harris just up ahead. It was a tough course with little rest and a lot of time Spent out of the saddle pushing hard in the single track – with a really tricky muddy section at the back end of the course (which required a lot of concentration and balance). As we approached the final lap, I was starting to tire and hoped I could bring home a second place. It was a long lap, but thankfully I managed to hold onto second place which I was very happy about with Nicky taking third and team mate Jules fourth.
Jules Toone – 4th Elite Female – The course at Harlow Wood was good fun, really fast and flat with a chaotic mud section! I couldn’t have given more on the day and was happy to finish in 4th. The trail was nice and swoopy, with soft rolling sections through the trees and a couple of good corners to catch you out on if you forgot where they were. It also had some good fire road pulls – All round, a good day out!
Alex welburn – 2nd Elite Male – I was there to do my best, to defend my Regional title (which I took last year at Eastridge). As always there was a strong line-up of riders including fellow team mates Chris and Lee. At the start, I managed to get my foot straight in and had a fantastic start leading it out (with David Fletcher just coming by me into the first piece of singletrack). Over the next lap, we had a small gap over the rest of the field, after the end of the first lap there was a short but steep hill which after the first lap’s efforts, I had to back off slightly and Fletcher started to establish a gap over me (which was very much a typical elastic band style gap). Sadly, after the second lap, the elasticity of the gap began to weaken and David’s lead started to grow out – by this point, my fellow team mate Chris was almost upon my wheel.
By now, I had been very much in the red from the previous laps; me and Chris rode wheel to wheel over the remaining three laps and by the last lap, he was really putting the hurt down, each small hill was a big dig, Chris was riding very strong and I was hoping he was suffering as much as me. On one of the remaining sections (which was a very long 1km muddy section), I managed to take a different line and established a minute gap over Chris. By this point, I just gave it everything until the finish; which I crossed the line in second with Chris just a few seconds behind, we took 2nd and 3rd respectively. For anyone interested, click here for my Training Peak’s data from the race.
Chris Andrews – 3rd Elite – A big goal for 2015 was the Midlands XC Championships. As the whistle blew, we were sprinting for position, my nerves were replaced by a thumping heart beat, but importantly I was feeling strong and fast. Local man David Fletcher and my team mate Alex Welburn were out in front and I was desperate to catch up with them. Around lap three I reeled Alex in on one of the relentless ‘draggy’ climbs. We worked together hoping to catch David, who by this point was out in front by a minute or two.
Fast forward to the final lap, Alex and myself were tearing strips from each other! It was great fun, but Alex once again had the edge on the final stretch of single trail and got a gap of 20 seconds or so. I was happy to take third place given the quality of the guys in front. I thoroughly enjoyed this event and I seem to be making small improvements at every race I compete in – which is really encouraging.
Congratulations to David Fletcher and Alex Welburn! Now it’s back to the National series in Wales this weekend.
Well done to all the team on their results. Thank you to Stuart MacKellar www.stewartmackellar.co.uk for the excellent images in this report.