MTB Round Up

We haven’t updated you since our team photo shoot or the second round of the Midlands XC series and with so much happening since then, here’s a round up of what the team’s been up to over the past few weeks.

Round 1, British XC Series, Sherwood Pines.

This is one of the UK biggest XC races and officially gets the XC season underway. This year was no different with the race selling out weeks in advance. As a Category 1, UCI event, there were qualification points for the Olympic Games up for grabs, so a number of European riders made the trip across the pond to come and battle with the UK’s best. The standard of competitors was high to say the least!

The sunny weather on the day helped keep the forest very dry and almost dusty in places! As usual with Sherwood, the course offered very fast and tight singletrack with very little gradient, giving few spots to rest and ensuring the riders were racing flat out the whole way round. This type of course typically favours a style similar to that of road racing where large groups of riders form to gain the aerodynamic advantage of sitting in each other’s slip streams. 

Race one got underway with first year Elite rider and new face to the team, Ruby Miller. Ruby has spent the last two season racing on the road and shows a lot of potential having ridden on the British Cycling Development Team and represented GB as a Junior at the European XC Champs. Up against a stacked field of more experienced riders Ruby finished a credible 21st place after suffering a couple of mechanical issues.

Next up were the Elite men with the TORQ flag being flown by first year Elite riders Neil Hayward, Lee Westwood and Ben Price along with seasoned Elite’s Chris Andrews and brothers, Sion and Anthony O’Boyle. With such a big field, the start was chaos as riders sprinted for the first section of single-track. For anyone outside of the top 20, there was a big jam as the course narrowed forcing riders off their bikes to push as they squeezed through the narrow trail! With 5 laps of the course needing to be clocked, things soon spread out with riders battling for positions.

After just over 1:40 hours of racing, Lee Westwood was our first rider home after a storming ride, having started 52nd on the grid, Lee worked his way through 22 of some of the best riders in the country to finish 29th shortly behind many full time professional european riders! Lee was shortly followed by Chris Andrews in 36th who had made up a credible 15 places on his start number and Ben Price in 39th making up 18 positions. Hill climbing specialist Sion O’Boyle finished in 52nd (not his kind of course), with Neil Hayward holding his start position in 56th and Anthony O’Boyle in 61st. All promising results for the beginning of the season, which I am sure we will see plenty of improvement as the season progresses.

Next up was TORQ Director Matt Hart, with Matt turning 40 this year he had aimed in his words ‘to return like a phoenix from the flames from my Pro-Elite days and stamp my mark on the VETS category’.  After a poor gridding and a good start Matt managed to work his way up to 22nd place out of nearly 100 riders, not bad for his first focused XC race in a number of years.  James Gleave our Masters rider was someone we saw at the pointy end of the Masters field at the end of last year and he completed the first 2 laps in this familiar territory, however after a few mechanical issues and still adjusting to his new bike, he lost large chunks of time, still achieving a credible 29th, but not where he expected to be. A great day of racing was had by all – pleased to get the first national under their belts.

Builth Wells, Exposure Big Night Out and Chain Reaction Cycle Marathon.

A big weekend of proper inspirational mountain biking around the hills of Builth Wells, with TORQ now sponsoring the event, the team were out in force. The “Exposure Big Night Out” kicked the weekend off to a great start with 200 riders completing a tough 44km route on the excellent trail network in pitch darkness, lit up with Exposure Lights.  Even the weather held up and despite the rain in the few days running up to the event, the course was relatively dry. The event got underway shortly after the sun disappeared and the riders followed the lead van until the road section abruptly ended and the first massive off-road climb kicked in! Check out the cool video below from the event.

YouTube video

After just over 2 hours, TORQ Fuelled Nick Craig (Team Scott) was the first rider home, shortly followed by Sion O’Boyle and Ben Price in 3rd and 4th, with Anthony O’Boyle, Neil Hayward and Lydia Gould finishing shortly afterward all smiling from ear to ear!

The following day of course was the Chain Reaction Cycles Marathon, with Ben, Neil, Sion and Lydia taking part, despite all still carrying fatigue from the previous night’s enduro. It was going to be a tough day! Lee Westwood joined us on the start line with some fresh legs too, so TORQ were out in force. These events offer a great chance to get out and ride some great trails, with like-minded people as well as being great training for riders that essentially focus on XC racing. As it happened at Builth Wells threw up some good weather too. Lee Westwood was the first TORQ rider home, finishing a few minutes down on the leaders in 4th, with the rest of the team following shortly after with very tired legs!

The next round in Selkirk in Scotland will see the team racing for a result in the National Marathon Champs in what is set to be a pretty awesome one lap course. See here for more details


YouTube video

Midlands XC, Round 3, Birchill.

This round headed to Birchill in the Peak District and is one of the only opportunities riders get in the UK race scene to race on a golf course! Conditions on the day were incredibly wet and muddy which turned some of the long uphill sections into real slogs, but this was made up for by some of the epic descents with plenty of technical challenges on offer. Cycling across a golf course and making it all muddy – great!

After his win in the second round, all eyes were on TORQ’s Lee Westwood to see if he could pull it out the bag again. After a head-to-head battle with Giles Drake and a slow motion sprint finish (Thanks to the mud!), Lee took an excellent second place, inches away from a win! Neil Hayward also put in an excellent performance to finish in 8th, a big improvement on his previous two rounds. James Gleave was next up in the Masters and finished a credible 13th place after suffering in the conditions.

Big thanks to Darren Ciolli-Leach for the images from Sherwood Pines, Jon Brooke for the images from the CRC Marathon and for the videos.

Next up is Round two of the British XC Series at Dalby Forest for another UCI Category 1 XC event where the team will be out in force…

Once again a huge thank you to all of our sponsors this year: – Frames – Drivetrain & Brakes – Helmets – Handlebars, Stems, Saddles, Seatposts & Grips – Team PR – Tyres – Pumps, Tools and Bottle Cages – Performance Cycle Clothing – SR Suntour Suspension Forks – Advanced Lighting – Lubrication – Shoes – Cables & Housing – Pedals – KCNC Skewers & Bottom Brackets – Spokes – Wheel Builder – Photography – Power Measurement and Turbo Training – Tyre Sealant, Rims & Hubs – Casual Clothing
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