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#TeamRutland | Lee's southern MTB XC Race with a difference

   Words by Will Crump

   on 01/10/2020 15:48:00

Top-10-Cycling-Resolutions

MTB XC Racing is back - but with a difference!

Written by #TeamRutland Ambassador, Lee Hopkinson

Since lockdown we all know that sporting events were stopped, so my last bike race was back in March at the last round of the Thetford winter series. Since then, like the rest of the cycling world, I have just been training.

Over the last few months, with the easing of lockdown, race organisers have been working and planning on how they can reintroduce races safely.

The Southern XC series promoters have managed to hold 3 events, I could not do the first two rounds but was booked in for the last weekend’s rd3 at Checkendon in Oxfordshire, my first race in 6 months.

XC-MTB

Read all about Lee's Winter Racing for inspiration!

Under British cycling measures/guidance these XC races have a new look to them:

  • Spaces are limited/capped and no “on the day” entry
  • The event is run on a strict timing schedule, and from what I saw at the weekend this worked really well.
  • The races were not a mass start but instead a time trial format where riders are set of at 10 seconds intervals, which means you are basically racing the clock
  • The sessions are mixed age group sessions which are run through the day with each creating their own bubble and designed not to mix with the other session.

Sunday's Race -

MTB-Cross-Country-Race

There were 4 slots that could be entered, and these were mixed age/ability, which meant that anyone from 17yrs to Grand Vets, male & female would be racing together. Results would then be given for your overall slot, then by age group (Masters, Vets, Grand Vets etc), then once all the days racing had been run you were given an overall position for the day and also by age group.

I had entered the 9:30 race which meant that I had to be at the venue by 8:30 (their given time), in order to sign on and practice for 9:00. Arriving at the track there were two carparks laid out, these were to ensure that the following session did not mix with the previous session as they were leaving. The signing-on was arranged to ensure that social distancing was observed, once signed on and number collected you then had to wait until 9:00 to start the practice lap.

Normally with practice you are allowed to enter the course once open then mass and at any time during the practice period, this time it was slightly different - you had to queue up, single file and funnel into 3 starting pens, where you would be set off at 10 seconds intervals, obviously once on the track you were allowed to overtake but the track was designed wide enough to allow for this to be done safely.

XC-Bike

The track was 3 miles with only 35ft of climbing and had one long grassy section and two main wooded areas; the first wooded area was made up of off-cambers and roots and was a little bit loose, the second wooded area was fairly flat with a couple of jumps, nothing too technical. On my practice lap, entering the second wooded area I heard the fateful noise of air coming out of the rear tyre followed by being covered in sealant which wasn’t sealing my tyre, but after 6months away I wasn’t going to let this ruin my day!

Back at the car I pumped up the rear wheel hoping to seal the hole, this seemed to do the trick, so, keeping the rear tyre pressure slightly higher than I would normally have ridden, I went back to the start. The start of the race was the same format as practice, queuing up single file waiting to fill one of the 3 pens to be let off at 10 seconds intervals. We were told that our race would be 4 laps or 1hr depending on which came first.

Puncture

Although with the time trail format you are not really worried about the other riders only your own times, it’s still good to catch those riders who set off before you. On Lap 1 I caught and passed 6 riders and was the riding the course so much better than I had done 12 months ago; Lap 2 I was keeping the pretty much the same pace and caught and passed a further 3 riders and so far the rear tyre was holding up and Lap 3 I was by myself I could see some riders ahead but not gaining that much but still on same pace as the first 2 laps. Just I as left the wooded area to start the 4th Lap, the rear tyre started to lose pressure and I could feel it getting spongy and started to loose grip on the corners, so not wanting crash I backed off slightly which was annoying as I had reeled in another couple of riders. It was on that last lap that I was passed by the only rider to overtake me. Without pushing too much I finished the 4th lap, which was my slowest lap – 1 minute down on the others.

Overall I was 43rd /60 in the Vets and 80th/169 for the day, running around mid-pack, so not too bad. It was good to be back competing and, with the measures that were put in place, I felt comfortable and safe, so well done to the organisers. Now to get ready for 20th and my next race with the Mud, Sweat & Gears rd 1 at Bury St-Edmonds.

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Rutland Cycling is a credit broker and is Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 690345). Credit is provided by Hitachi Personal Finance, a trading style of Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under Financial Services Register no. 704348. Credit is subject to status and affordability. Term & Conditions apply. The register can be accessed through https://www.fca.org.uk