The final round of the Midlands Specialized Super Series at Eastridge, Shropshire was a catalyst for some superlative performances from three of the TORQ-tuned.
Scott O’Neil: 1st Sport-class rider and series winner.
James Ducker: 2nd Sport-class rider and second in series.
Mark Allen: 3rd Expert-class rider and series winner.
James describes the course terrain with poetic magnificence:
‘The warm sun after the previous days rain ensured there was enough claggy mud for all competitors racing in the final round of the Specialized Super Series. The anticlimax of a delayed start was more than made up for by the fast pace set which left Scott in first place, myself lying in third, after the first sticky climb. Wheel spinning along a short track the course relentlessly ascended across a meadow and into the woods where line choice through the gloop became paramount. Glancing briefly over my shoulder, as I approached the top, a shadow of another rider forced an increase in pace into the first decent. The careless scattering of tennis ball sized chunks of rock along the single track’s length made for interesting riding, the technically advantaged showing big smiles across their faces. More descending followed which saw speeds in excess of 30mph along fast snaking forest track. The climb back over the hill, however, was one of much discussion in post race banter. The steep gradient combined with the revenge of the tennis ball rocks made for low gears and much cursing under breath. For the baggy short clad, full face helmet wearing amongst us the final decent saw the remnants of a downhill track complete with jumps and berms to bring us back to the finish line.’
Scott’s rendition of the events leading to his win is so damn exciting. I can’t wait for his autobiography:
‘The last round of the Midlands Regional races, I went in to it believing that due to two ‘average rides’ back at the start of the season the best overall result I could get was 2nd.
The course was Eastridge, which is a long steep (as it turned out soggy) climb, followed by rocky singletrack descents followed by a rocky climb and finally a steep twisted rutted downhill section onto the bottom half of the downhill course to the start/finish area.
However a last minute verification of the rules (on the start line) meant that if could I win, I would take the series (I love a challenge). So off we all went, by half way around the first lap I was in second, holding the wheel of a rather fast cross rider from ‘oop North’. But as the final downhill started I rounded a corner to find him standing at trackside. “It’s all yours mate me mech’s busted” was all I heard as I passed him. Coming through the start finish are for the end of the first lap it was clear that I had around a minutes lead on the second placed rider (my good friend Jim).
All I can remember thinking as I started the climb from the start area was “this is easy all I have to do is…” PTTTANG! My chain snaps… Fafaffafaffaf off bike, take off muddy gloves rummage around in jersey to find chainbreaker.loop chain back through stays-mech-mech pop rivet re-join chain. By now Jim passes me, closely followed by third and forth.
“Come on Scott, do your work” was Jim’s comment as he passed me rejoining the chain. By the time I remounted the fifth placed rider had just caught me, and I had probably lost 40 or so seconds to Jim at the base of the major climb (I don’t consider myself a climber so this was a lot of time). Following the fifth placed guy up the first section of the climb, I soon passed him, to see Jim at the edge of the clearing just going out of sight.
By the top of the climb I had reduced the gap to around 30 metres. A short descent and it had dropped to 20, onto the only flatish section of the course click click (big ring) power down, caught Jim at the base of the second climb. At this point it should be pointed out that Jim had a significant lead on the next guy down. I went up the block and left Jim on the climb, couple of bits of singletrack and I restored my lead to around 20 seconds. Third lap and I could feel the efforts starting to take it’s toll, too many National 3 lap flat courses. I had the better part of a lap and a half left. Had I gone too hard? No I crossed the line to take the win with around a minute lead and the series yah.
For those of you that know him, Mark Allen easily rode into third on the day and the series win in Expert. Five laps of that course in that condition, after being out at a wedding the day before.beer you know it makes sense?!? Somebody please give him a new fuel to race on cos he really wants one.’
Well, there we have it – straight from the horse’s mouths. I’m sure Mark has got something to say about the race, but I don’t think I gave him enough time to get a report off to me. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait until the next time he wins something – no pressure Mark…
Words by Matt Hart/James Ducker/Scott O’Neil
Picture below: Mark Allen (and he’s going sooooo fast!)