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#TeamRutland | Lee Hopkinson - What to do over the winter months? Race!

   Words by Tom Worsfold

   on 19/12/2019 10:46:24


Words by #TeamRutland ambassador Lee Hopkinson.

Ever wondered what to do with yourself through the winter months? Lee has all the ideas when it comes to keeping your legs spinning this off-season! Read on below.

Come October cyclists have to make a decision as to what form their riding will take until around February/March the following year. For some it will be gradual hibernation until drier tracks/roads reappear and warmer weather returns, and for others it will mean simply cutting back on riding, maybe weekends only as the week nights are too dark. There is always the option of replacing the cold outdoors with a semi warm garage and using the turbo trainer, or choosing to go to the gym and work on your strength instead.

For me, it’s pretty much the same amount of riding time as I do throughout the rest of the year, just with more rides on the turbo-trainer and lots & lots of steady endurance (zone 2) rides. For those riders who race (any discipline, either road or off road) it’s also the time where you could just train and wait for the race season to start around March time (depending on the discipline).


Some choose to race Cyclo-Cross which is great for bike handling skills! But for me, I like to keep my hand in at MTB XC by riding the Thetford Winter series. This is a race series that is based around the Thetford Forest area that starts in November with one race per month through to February, which is great to keep up a race pace through the winter. The event has the following classes and is capped to a maximum 300 riders which is normally fully booked so no “on the day” entries allowed.

  • 1hr fun race Male & Female (19+)
  • 1.5 hr youth race Male & Female ( 14-15)(19+)
  • 1.5 hr senior race Male & Female (19-39) (19+)
  • 1.5 Vets race Male & Female (40+)
  • 3 hr senior race Male & Female (19-39)
  • 3 hr Vets race Male & Female (40+)

The 2019/2020 series started on the 3rd November at Brandon. I had entered the 1.5hr vet race, this is always a popular age group and was the biggest group with 99 riders. I arrived at the course for 8am which allowed for signing on and collecting my race number as, like with any other race series, you must display your number before entering the course. The course is open for practice from 8:30 but closes before the 3hr races start at 10.00.

During my practice lap I found the course to be very free flowing, not technical and despite all the rain we had had the course was very dry. The course, despite the lack of hills, was still very demanding as there was no respite therefore you are pedalling the whole lap! The first start was the 3hr races at 10.00, which gave me some rest time as my race started at 11:30. I left my warm up until 11.00, its always a trade off when to start/stop this, but I like to keep it close to the start time in order to retain heat (especially in the winter months), even if this means compromising on the starting position.


For the start of the 1.5 hr races around 170 riders lined up and I was in the middle (ish) of the starting grid and as you might imagine the first few corners are manic with that amount of riders all trying to get the perfect line. You can have 15 bikes all trying to get through a gap only meant for 5 - yes it can be complete carnage but fun at the same time. Unless you are fortunate to make the jump at the start, the first lap is very chaotic for the mid pack riders, with lots of hold ups going into the single track. From the start I was making fairly good headway and started working my way up through the field. Three quarters of the way round the first lap I found myself in a small group of around 5 riders and just before the end of the lap another rider and I manged to gap the other 3 on the small incline which was enough to lose them.

We then paced each other to catch up to some other pockets of riders who we also manged to overtake. Although the course is flat, there are still some inclines and I had noticed that the rider I was with struggled on these, so I decided to put in some bigger efforts there which meant I managed to leave him behind. This soon left me on my own & riding at comfortable pace. The 3rd lap was going well and I was still catching up with more riders, on course to get round before the 13:00 cut off, which would allow for an extra lap. Just before the last incline I got a twig caught up in the front wheel, nothing serious just needed removing (a matter of seconds), but this resulted in me getting to the finish line at 1hr 30 mins 1sec, which meant I missed the 4th lap by 1 second!

I finished 51st out of 99 in the Vets, not too bad but still room for improvement. I am aiming for a top 30 place at the next round!


Lee Hopkinson

Instagram: hopkinson_lee

I have been riding bikes since the mid-seventies. Starting out on a Raleigh Budgie with stabilisers, progressing through many bikes including a Raleigh Strika and BMX Raleigh Burner to my first mountain bike in 1988. I initially started out using the mountain bike as part of my training for Motocross which I had been racing since the age of 6. Due to family issues at the age of 20, I decided to stop racing Motocross so needed something to fill the void which it had left and XC mountain biking racing fitted the bill perfectly. So, after many, many bikes (just ask the wife!) and travelling across the UK for the last 26 years, I am still competing (well trying to) in the ultra-competitive class of the Vets - those who really should really know better, but hey it goes to show age is just a number!

Apart from the racing side, I just love to get and out ride, anything from commutes to work or midweek social rides. My goals for this year are to continue to race, this will be in the Southern series, Eastern series, selected Nationals and the local Friday Night Summer series, I also plan to do the following supportive rides, Summer Solstice 100 miles, Leatherheadz 3 Shires ride and the Numplumz marathon. Last year I managed to ride just under 5000 miles so need to beat that this year! I also look forward to finding new routes in the countryside we are blessed to have around Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, so will hopefully see some of you out and about!

See Lee's XC bike of choice here!

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