Again, an action packed weekend of racing, but we’re going to tell you about it back to front!
Torq fuelled athletes were riding high, on a tidal wave of success, with large helpings of rain & mud at the recent Trek Marathon series held in Sherwood pines with cracking performances, yielding 3 podium spots.
With severe weather warnings being issued down south, Torq riders dared to believe that their little oasis in the woods would be spared the worst as they lined up to start the 100KM. Lining up with Torq energy & in some cases coaching surging through their veins, were enduro specialist Kate Potter, elite Kona rider Will Bjergfelt & Red Kite’s Euan Ross.
For the first 2 hours all was well as the riders threaded their way through the forest over a slightly extended version of the trail used the previous day for the XC races. But this stay of execution by the weather gods was washed away by midday as the rest of the competitors set forth on the start of the 25 and 50km events, in a deluge of rain. Up until this point the trails had been fast, flowing, fun and entertaining, but as the heavens unleashed their worst they quickly turned into a slimy, slippery experience that tested the best – tyre choice at the start of the event was an all important deciding factor as many were sporting semi slicks and found the going ‘interesting’.
The most demanding of the races was of course the 100km, with 8 laps stretching before the hardy ones that lined up to tackle the distance. At the front an elite group of riders quickly formed and they were soon eating up the laps in just over 30mins, as the rest of the field splintered up behind them. With most of the riders having raced the previous day, many found the going tough and soon the lead group found itself whittling down as the laps increased. By lap 4 Will Bjergfelt attacked, sensing that many around him were suffering, only Robin Seymour & team mate James Ouchterlony could go with the Kona rider. Soon the toll of the fast start claimed Ouchterlony and Bjergfelt as they slipped off the pace now being set by the determined Seymour. However, Bjergfelt dug deep and got back onto the tail of Seymour only to find the Irish man’s doors blown wide open. Bjergfelt took full advantage launching an attack on the last lap. He clearly sensed a win and went for it. His celebration started well before he hit the finish line, in fact his whoops of delight could be heard over half a mile away, as he roared to the finish. As he crossed the line tears made little rivulets through his mud-encrusted face. It was an emotional finish to a well deserved win, fueled extensively by Torq.
Will was ecstatic that his tactics paid off and made up for his disappointing ride the previous day telling us that:
“ That was a fantastic race, really makes up for yesterday where the race just went really badly for me. Today the first 4 laps were pretty fast almost XC pace, or not far off. I felt much better today, I was riding well within myself, I hung on and then I noticed that Michael Broderick was starting to suffer a bit and I went to the front and put the hammer down then there were just the 3 off us. Robin was with his teammate James and I though they were going to try and work me over: they’re both very good riders and on the 5th lap Robin attacked and James was in front of me and slowed down, so Robin got a good gap. I thought maybe with another 3 laps to do maybe he’d gone too soon, so I just kept my head and rode within myself, lo and behold on the 7th lap I pulled him back. He then gave me all the encouragement I needed by telling me he was absolutely buggered, so after that I was just counting down the km just thinking ‘get there, get there, get there. I’m absolutely over the moon with this & many thanks for Torq keeping me going.”
In the women’s 100km, the drama had started even before the race, as enduro star and the 100km favourite Kate Potter, shivered her way to the line. Having not felt good the day before, the XC race had taken a toll and she was digging deep to find the strength to ride the race, in the knowledge she had to finish if her ambition to win the overall series was to come to fruition. Up against the tough antipodean was another enduro specialist Elizabeth Scalia, along with Mel Alexander, Kate Betts and Maddie Horton. As the race unfolded Potter just put her head down and battled through, just focusing on the task ahead, her usual sparkle missing under the cold layer of mud. But battle through she did and despite the healthy competition she brought the race home claiming her second win of the series. She had to be helped off her bike at the finish and didn’t look in a good way – hopefully she’ll not be suffering too much after this ordeal. Meanwhile challengers were finding the going too much, Kate Betts bailed after 5 laps, Scalia, obviously suffering some mechanical bailed after 7.
Kate told us later that:
“I was in no state to race hard today. An hour before the start Matt and I discussed whether I should even race. I had been overdosing on L-glutamine, garlic and ribose in an attempt to start the race. But I was feeling rough. I really wanted to finish the 100km today, and was not concerned about trying to win. The first four laps went fairly smoothly and I rode steadily. Then the rain started and I couldn’t keep warm. Those last three laps were never ending and I was struggling to even hold my water bottle. Today was perfect training for the 24hr solo race I’m entering this year at Mountain Mayhem, as I truly suffered. It was great to win, but an even better feeling to have crossed the finish line. As far as I’m concerned all who stuck it out deserved to be on the podium today.”
Euan Adams had a much better ride in the enduro than he did in the XC race the day before, with no major incidents to talk of, apart from, rain, mud & the cold, other than that he was happy.
“I decided to race the 100km the next day to try and redeem myself, I started well and decided to just get into my own rhythm and ride my own race. By the end of the2nd lap I was having a few problems with my back so eased off the pace a bit, which seemed to help. Then the rain started, which I actually enjoyed as it, changed the course into something a bit more exciting. The last 2 laps where hell as I was getting cold and starting to suffer, and then I well and truly blew on my last lap and just tried to survive, I lost 2 places on the final lap eventually finishing 12th which I was really happy with.”
Meanwhile in the 50km Amanda D’Arcy continued her winning ways scooping her second win of the series, in the women’s vets section, making it 2 out of 2 in commanding fashion. Her decision to heed the weather advice and stick mudguards on her bike proved to be a wise and sensible decision:
“Despite the bright start the weather forecasters seemed pretty positive that the rains were coming so I took them at their word and added extra weight to the bike in the form of mudguards. They didn’t make me go faster but at least I didn’t look like I’d been down the pit on a 12 hour shift – unlike James who was unrecognizable by the end of his race. The mud and gritfest definitely made things interesting and I know I wasn’t alone in wondering just how much longer my brakes, chain, gears, knees etc would hold up, but I was lucky – no crashes and no serious mechanicals although for much of the last lap my bike did sound a bit like an old pram. Not being very good at fixing mechanical things I just got off and gave it a hard stare every now and then and that seemed to do the trick. It is now sitting in the garage waiting to be reincarnated for the next dose of English weather. Thanks to Ian and Martyn – great course, and to all the Torq folks, especially Murray and Lesley.”
Lesley Thurbon also did well to pick up 4th spot in the same race.
Amanda’s husband, James fared less well in the mud, having left his mudguards safely tucked away in the car, but still rode a difficult and deciding race to pick up 5th in the 100km vets, which would have placed him 13th overall in the elite race, no too shabby at all…
“Lining up for the 100km enduro, I realized that I’d forgotten to put my mudguards on. They were safely tucked up in side the car, all warm and dry. What a contrast from Thetford! I felt pretty slow right from the gun so I resigned myself to just making it to the finish and getting points for the vet’s championship. Had to remove my (prescription) sunglasses on the second lap, which made for a blurry experience all round. Apologies for ignoring people or riding into things, but I’m pretty short sighted without them. And so the next several laps passed, brake pads worn down to the metal and the bike sounding like a cement mixer. Thanks to Amanda, Joolze, Murray and Lesley for encouragement. Finished 5th in the end, which would have placed me 13th in the main event. Major bike rebuild needed now as Amanda and I got through 4 sets of Hope pads and a disk rotor, 2 chains, 2 BB bearings and god know what else. Looking forward to a dry sunny Margam Park!”
Team leader Matt Hart also donned his wellies and gave the 50km a shot finish in a not too shabby 12th.
The previous day, Torq riders, sporting the classy new Torq tattoo’s were lining up alongside some of the world’s as well as the UK’s best riders, in what was billed as one of the most exciting national series races we’ve had for a while. Classed as a UCI 1 race, the elite field was nearly as big as the prize purse on offer; this was going to be one tough race.
Ian Potter, husband of Torq fuelled cotic rider Kate Potter, was course designer and using his local knowledge and vast experience of riding and racing, crafted a highly technical course, that threaded it’s way through the landscape taking full advantage of the miles of natural singletrack that is on offer to present to the riders 11.1 km of fast flowing, twisty, rooty, singletrack with logs to jump and soul sapping sticky sections that you had to keep your wits about you whilst travelling at speed to avoid a tree/ body interface.
Alongside Torq fuelled riders, Richard Wood, Anthony Roland, Marcos Schier Ross Adams & Euan Adams, were Oli Beckingsale the UK’s current National XC champion, plus Burry Stander the current South African National Xc champ and American world cup rider Michael Broderick, this was going to be some race. As the whistle sounded the race was on and the pace went from 0 to 60 by time they hit the first corner. The freight train that was the Elite men’s race was now on course ploughing it’s way through fickle singletrack spreading the field out thinly behind.
One the first of 5 laps a super fast group of around 10 riders, snaked around the course, with riders bailing out and racing back onto the rear. At the front the attacks came thick and fast, as Stander, along with Beckingsale, Wilkinson, Ian Bibby each having a dig. Beckingsale on the last lap attacked repeatedly trying to shake off Wilkinson, with just half a lap to go, Beckingsale more or less threw in the towel, as he realized that on his current form on the road, Wilkinson would be unbeatable in a sprint, so it was Wilkinson who came home in a jubilant mood to take his first off-road win of the series with a disappointed Beckingsale trailing in just 3secs behind.
Hanging onto this freight train Richard Wood finished a creditable 18th spot, commenting that:
“It was a good race, around a great course but just not enough hills for me. Can’t wait for the next round where there will be hills a plenty. Thanks to Matt at Torq for some funky tattoos that I wore for the race (you can just make them out in the photos). I was happy with 18th place, which should leave me somewhere near the top Ten overall.”
Ross was the next Torq man in spotting 29th just ahead of Marcos in 32nd. Factory boy Ant picked up 39th. Euan had a disastrous race tell us later that:
“Well the XC got off to an ok start considering I was last on the grid, I moved up a few places thanks to narrowly missing a crash on the starting fire road. I road the first lap in small group of 4 riders and managed to jump away from them at the end of the lap and close the gap to another 2 riders ahead ahead me and was quickly followed by Marcos. Then it all went wrong at the beginning of the 3rd lap when one of the other riders took me out on a corner and as I went down I went to unclip and left cleat ripped off, so that was the end of my race which was quite annoying as I was feeling good.”
Kate Potter was flying the Torq flag in the women’s elite race, though she really wasn’t on her best form:
“I would like to say that I had an advantage being involved in designing the course for the second round of the British Mountain bike series at Sherwood Pines. However it was never going to be an easy race from the word go, especially as the elite women’s field contained a strong international field that included past Olympians, National champions and top 10-30 world class racers, including America’s Mary McConneloug. However I was really looking forward to the challenge and hoped if all went well a top ten placing would be possible. It turned out to be one of the hardest races for me for a long time, as I fell ill a couple of days before the race. On the start line I already felt like I had raced as my body was aching all over. For the first lap while I expected Mary McConneloug and Rosara Joseph to dominate the race, I found myself working with a group of five girls, that included British favourites Jenny Copnall and Amy Hunt, as well as New Zealand’s Jenn O’Connor and Slovakian Janka Stevkova. I managed a strong first lap, but then lost touch with the group as my body was in no mood to race hard today. The second part of the race I was racing alone, but I was battling my brain as I could feel myself trying to ease off the pace. Then I crashed and winded myself and lost all momentum. I knew there could be girls right on my tail, and when Paula Moseley passed me towards the end of the last lap I started to wonder if I would actually make it to the finish line. I don’t know where the extra drive came from but somehow I managed to overtake Moseley on the final kilometer to finish in 6th place. I was very happy with the result, thrilled to bits that I finished the race, but disappointed with myself that thoughts of quitting crossed my mind. However it has fired me up for the next event at Margam Park, where I hope to return to healthier form.”
She battled on to pick up 6th in the end, not bad considering she was working at about 60% of her usual rate. The win went to American Mary McConneloug, who really was in a class of her own.
After a fantastic result the previous week in the Gorrick 100, were he took a few high brow scalps, while taking the win, Simon Turner was feeling upbeat and optimistic about his race in the expert race, however, the effort from the previous week, seemed to catch up with him and he finished a disappointed 5th:
“I warmed up and felt ok but was worried that the bike felt ‘slow’ and draggy. Turns out my legs were still pretty empty from my great ride and victory at the Gorrick 100 last weekend. So I guess I should by happy with 5th, just really disappointing, as I feel really fit! My ave HR for the race was only 160 so 5th was good when I look at it like that.”
Despite a less than perfect weekend, weather wise, it didn’t put off the competitors, in fact just the opposite was the case with a record number of entrants keen to take on the best in the UK in their respective categories. Torq fueled riders are featuring highly in all the events and it’s only a matter of time when Torq dominates the competitor’s physcie, when they know only the best will do, if they want to achieve their best.