Images by Tom Towers
Travelling to Wales for the English Champs is certainly a bit unexpected, but as far as transgressions go it’s a minor one, the small welsh town sitting just a few miles from the border. Having already hosted the National Champs in 2012, this time it was for a double points ‘regional’ champs event. Organised by Borderline Events, they know how to put on a good race here so let's see what happened!
Despite being a fairly basic track in outright technical challenge, Moelfre brings other difficulties to the table by being one of the fastest courses on the UK race scene. This has led to numerous air ambulances at virtually every race held there over the past few years as riders hit the deck hard and fast. Most walk away but a result of these is a reluctance to tape in the biggest features, even at the biggest races. Instead, wheels are kept on the ground more where they’re less likely to be grabbed by strong gusts of wind as you ride the ridge of the hill up top. The two doubles after the open top section led into a drifty off camber section before a fast right-left sent you into new turns in the gorse which rutted up nicely over the course of the weekend. Practice started off relatively dry with a mix of tyres on view but as soon as the rain started to come down hard after lunch there was no doubting that spikes were the way forward. They made the final 4x jumps a little more challenging to get right but for the time gains on the rest of the track they were well worth it!
Of course, where would we be without an air ambulance? This caused a few delays as not only was there a wait while the rider was sorted out, but then a further delay as the weather came in and temporarily grounded the helicopter. Even with that though practice was plentiful and relatively free running. Pretty damage free too thanks to the new trailers in place which hold bikes firm in racks rather than just stacking them as you would normally.
More notable over the weekend was the massive turnout of girls, which really was great to see. Over thirty girls is something of a record and goes down to the efforts of several people; firstly Mike for bringing Girlmtnbiker on board at the 2011 event alongside coaching from several notable World Cup regulars. This snowballed in 2012 after Rosie Smith had British Cycling email all the girls who had raced in the past year in an attempt to convince as many of them as possible to turn up to one event en masse rather than in dribs and drabs to separate events. And it worked, with a record turnout on the results sheet. On offer to the guys racing was coaching from the Chain Reaction Cycles team which proved popular with all spaces taken in a very short space of time.
Having scraped cars, vans and tents of a thick frost first thing on race morning it was time to prep bikes, get some quick practice runs in to get up to speed for racing.
By eleven the Juveniles were sat at the top of the hill awaiting their runs. As the track was drying this meant that the second runs counted for the podium, Kyle Havard taking third spot with a 2:49, James Purvis second with a 2:44 and Charlie Hatton the win with a 2:43. Moving into Youth saw Will Weston in third on a 2:37, Dan Farley in second on a 2:34 and Callum Havard sitting atop the podium on a 2:31 thanks to a blistering first run. Surprisingly, Junior times turned out to be slower than the fastest Youths, Bill Farrington in third managing a 2:42 just two hundredths back from Joe Mallinson in second. Billy Mathews took the win with a 2:37.
The senior podium was split by just 2.5s, Chris Field in third sharing 2:41 with Sam Boardman but missing out on second place by just five hundredths. All of which left Jonny Howe to take the win having broken the 2:40 barrier with a 2:38. In Masters Will Gough took third, Nathan Cavalier second and Craig Taylor the win. Their times were 2:48, 2:46 & 2:44 respectively. Ian Sanders took third in Veterans, Pete Little second and John Cobb the win.
Unlike many races there were more than enough girls to ensure full podiums in each category; split into under-18's, Senior and 30+. In the under 18's Lauren Beaty took third while local Charlotte Hughes in second place pushed winner Emma Whitaker hard all the way with just six tenths seperating their first runs, and even less the second. With a winter planned in New Zealand Traharn Chidley finished her final UK race of the year strongly in third, Jenna Woodruff just ahead in second. Having pushed hard alongside organiser Mike Marsden to get all the girls on board, Rosie Smith took the win and fastest girl on the day before being another to jump on a flight to the southern hemisphere for the winter. In the 30+ category Lucy Newman took third, Kath Pickard second and Hannah Maehn the win.
In Expert, Alex Moss was third on a 2:32, just half a second down on Jay Williamson in second while Guy Gibbs enjoyed a five second advantage to take top step on the podium. Despite relying on an improved second run in the post-rain conditions Dave Smith took third in Elites, just two tenths back from second placed Will Soffe. Harry Molloy took the win with a 2:27 just under two seconds up.
Moelfre never fails to bring about close racing and a good event, even when the weather turns against you, although when it does you don't want to be sat at the top of the hill waiting while there's a red flag on course! It was great to see the support of the Chain Reaction team, as well as all the girls who turned up and seemed to have a great time. Does this mean bigger turnouts at future races from the girls? Hopefully so, and if it does then the event will have more than done it's job.www.borderline-events.co.uk