Report: Dare2B – XC National Championships

Aske, Richmond
Words & Pictures Joolze Dymond

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It truly was a championship weekend of epic proportions, with hundreds of riders converging on the Aske Estate in Yorkshire all with the same aim, to go home with a coveted National jersey. The weather was to play a major part, with the wind and the rain combining, changing the face of the course more than once during the day. A new course, carefully crafted by the hardworking Bikelicker Events crew lay in wait, taking in 6.5km of Yorkshire’s finest. From the start the riders were spat out through a gate to start a long, energy-sapping climb before heading off to the first of the many technical sections.

The omens weren’t good; on the Saturday the heavens truly opened, torrential rain greeting riders as they arrived from all corners of the UK.  For the plucky riders in the fun race it was a very wet experience while the Open race riders conditions improved as they slid, slipped and for some tumbled, as the rain eased and the blue skies outweighed the rain-laden clouds. With racing over for the day it was time for national contenders to hit the course for practise, learning lines and discovering a 101 ways to descend a steep slippery fern lined bank, one of the many delights that lay in wait around the testing course.

As race day dawn, the rain and wind were back with a vengeance ready to test the future of our sport, with the Youth & Juvenile riders first off at virtually the crack of dawn. Taking the weather into account the commissaries took the decision to shorten the course for the younger riders, taking out the first technical descent and following climb.  This meant for the winning youth riders a blast of just under 40 mins settled their race with Stuart Wilcox taking a comfortable win a good 26secs ahead of silver medallist Iain Paton. Scotland scored another gold in the juvenile race where Calum Magowan brought home the jersey ahead of Arthur Green.
Alice Barnes dominated her youth race. Within minutes of the race starting, she led from the front opening up a gap on the first climb. Two laps later and the National title was her’s, while Ffion James continued family winning ways by taking the juvenile title.

Alice Barnes – Youth Ladies National Champion
“I enjoyed that, I was a bit unsure how I would fare in the singletrack as I knew it would change from practise last night, but it seemed to have got better and there were more lines so I didn’t have too many incidents! I had one on my second lap on the corner going up the second climb, which was a bit embarrassing.

The race itself got a bit tricky on my first lap as I was catching the back markers of the youth & juveniles and they didn’t want to let me pass, so I had to needle my way through.
The muddy chute was interesting, in practise I’d spotted a new line, so I tried it and it was pretty fast, but by time the race had got underway lots of others had done it too so I just went straight down and hoped for the best and luckily it was fine!

I’d ridden the Nutcracker event here a couple of weeks ago to get a taste for the terrain and I thought then the course was not going to be great for a National, but the Nutcracker guys, went out and found a whole load of more singletrack and technical sections and the course I think now is pretty good for a National.

I’m pleased to have retained my jersey again but only have a few more races to wear it, the Euro Champs and the last BMBS of the season as next year I go up to juniors, I can’t wait!”

Next up were the women, with master, vet junior and grand vet titles to be decided. Keenest competition was expected from the juniors where Beth Crumpton, eager to get her hands on a National jersey and Katy Winton, defending champion have been locked in constant turmoil at every meeting. Add to the mix Hannah Ferguson, Hollie Bettles to name a few and you knew this was going to be a tough one to decide. Crumpton took the decision to ride her own race from the front, opening a gap between her and Winton and the rest on the opening climb, her only company briefly came in the form of vet rider Isla Rowntree, who caught the junior rider just before the end of the first lap. A bit more training a few more gears for Rowntree saw her better prepared than her previous year where she took her first vet title and it showed as she successfully defended her title by over 13 minutes.

Isla Rowntree – Vets Lady National Champion
“Gears and a proper bike this year helped! I have to admit I was a lot fitter coming into this than last year, I’ve been doing a bit more riding, I haven’t been racing but I’ve been riding more regularly and a bit harder so I was definitely up for it this year, whereas last year it was a bit of a surprise win! I was definitely the joker in the pack last year!

The race itself today, well I was quite surprised to find myself out in front with the juniors, then I just did my own thing and let it take care of itself. The course I think is quite an old fashioned traditional course, which really suits me, it’s tricky in the woods, there are some tricky descents, it’s muddy, its not hardcore surface it’s proper deep loamy mud and luckily I go well on that sort of thing! Once I was in the front, I guessed if I could do my thing in the woods and just hang on, on the climbs then I knew I had a good chance. I caught Beth Crumpton just on that long climb coming back to the arena and rode with her until the first descent where I seemed to roll away and got a gap. I’m riding a 29er and I really think those big wheels just roll that much faster and I think that was all it was that gave me the advantage. I’m so pleased I had the gears this year too, there’s no way I would have got round that on a singlespeed!!

So yeah a good day! It’s always great to win the jersey but to win the overall race as well, I wasn’t expecting that and that was a bonus!”

Meanwhile Crumpton riding smoothly to minimise any possible mechanicals held onto her lead crossing the line in tears delighted that at last everything had gone to plan and the Junior title was hers!

Bethany Crumpton (above) – Junior Lady National Champion
I’m over the moon, I finished the race in tears, tears of joy, it just means so much to me to finally get my hands on a National jersey. I’ve been trying since 2008 and now finally it’s my year! I’ve had a good year, mixed with a few mishaps along the way so it’s great to actually get a race where everything falls into place and I finish it with no incidents and in one piece. I got away on the first climb and got a gap and knew I could just capitalise on that and kept pushing on and riding away. Isla Rowntree caught me up coming to the end of the first lap and it was great to ride on her wheel trough the trees, but she is so technically amazing I just couldn’t keep up with her through the singletrack!

Now I’ve got this jersey, I want be stopping here, I’ll be aiming even higher now!

The race itself was so muddy and was getting really cloggy on the last lap, so you had to be really careful with gear changes, so I didn’t rip my rear mech off, I tried to ride smoothly as I’ve had so many mechanicals this year, I just wanted this one to be perfect and it was, on the day that really mattered it all went to plan. Perfect!

Caroline Goward – Another rider who had patiently plugged away for 8 long years finally realised her dream as she took the Masters title was Caroline Goward: “It’s taken me 8 years to finally get my hands on this jersey, I’m so delighted!! I knew it was going to be a tough day, the weather didn’t help but I also knew the climbs were going to be hard work, they are my weakest link really, but I knew I could gain time on the singletrack and it worked perfectly for me. I had a few comedy moments but I knew they were going to happen, that muddy descent through the ferns was tricky and I just entertained the crowds every time, they seemed to be delighted with my comedy dismounts!

I have to say despite the grim weather the course raced a lot better than it did in practise yesterday. The course was excellent, I loved it, it was my kind of course. The first half was very climby, that was 10 – 15 mins of the race but then you could just relax and enjoy the singletrack, which is what I love. That last climb back is a toughie, that headwind was unreal! Just leading the race makes you find that extra bit, though I had a gap I just couldn’t relax at any moment I’d have lost it on the last lap if I’d done that!

So yeah very pleased, especially as this is my first year with the Scott Contessa team!”

Her strong and determined ride showed she was a worthy winner, though special mention has to be made of Emma Birtles, who came running into view on her second lap carrying her bike. A crash early in the lap caused a puncture and caused Emma to lose her gas canister. With outside assistance not allowed, she had two choices. End her race or carry on for one more lap carrying her bike, a true competitor she carried on to be rewarded by a bronze medal. Grand Vet Fiona Paton taking the last title rounded off race two.

As the day unfolded the weather was blowing hot and cold, and despite the inclement conditions the enthusiasm and atmosphere of both spectators and competitors were not dampened.
As race 3 beckoned discussions were heated as to which way the masters race would fall. This was one of the most wide open of races with at least 6 competitors in the frame. But this is mountain biking and anything can and usually does happen!

Juniors were sent off first, followed by masters, vets; grand vets then finally super vets.

In the junior race Matt Sumpton took early control with archrivals Alex Baker and Ben Sumner in hot pursuit. Sumpton was on fire as he scorched around the muddy course. Baker and Sumner could only catch glimpses of him in the distance as he stretched his lead to finally take the win with a 4 minute cushion ahead of Baker. Meanwhile in the masters Ed Mosley had taken off like a scalded cat, opening up a commanding lead early on, leaving Matt Dennis, Luke Smith,  & Geoff Beetham in his wake.  Undeterred Dennis dug deeper and chipped away at the tiring Moseley, finally getting back to him on lap 3. Working together then held their lead then Dennis attacked on the last lap, going on to take the win, leaving Mosley to pick up well-earned silver.

Matt Dennis – Masters Men National Champion
“That was really really hard slog out there today, Ed Mosley went off like a rocket and I couldn’t keep up with him on the descents and the singletrack. But I think he tried himself out a bit being out on his own for those first few laps, it was so windy out there. I managed to get back to him on the 3rd lap and we worked together to stay ahead of the rest of the field. Then on the first climb of the last lap I put a dig in and managed to hold it for the rest of the lap, but yeah that was a really hard race, coupled with the worse start ever!

With Ed out in front I was just thinking to myself, ‘push harder!’ But to be honest if Ed had stayed away and won I would have been delighted for him, he’s a really nice guy and in fact I felt a bit guilty going past him, he put up a good fight.

The course was fun, it would have been so much different in the dry, but in the wet it was really, really techy in the singletrack stuff. The big climbs were hard and the descents were awesome!
Now I’m gonna wear the jersey for as long as I can, well, I might take it off when it starts smelling!!!!”

Paul Hopkins made short work of his vets race rounding off an impressive season successfully defending his title despite being hard pushed by Simon Willats and Lewis King. He’ll probably turn up at his impending wedding wearing said national jersey!

While in the Grand vets ‘cross rider Steve Davies relished the muddy conditions taking an early lead which he held to the end to take the title. Victor Barnett was back to his winning ways, to add yet another jersey to his burgeoning collection, in the super vets, finding the cool conditions much more suited to his liking than the heat and oppressive conditions of the last BMBS round in Margam.


Finally it was just the senior and under 23 titles left to decide.  Rumours that Annie Last would get a sound battle in the senior race from top World Marathon contender Sally Bigham came to nothing as Bigham DNS’d due to mechanical problems. This left Last with just Nikki Harris capable of upsetting the apple cart. Despite the muddy conditions suiting the ‘cross rider, Last had the edge in the technical sections and went on to successfully defend her senior title

“Annie Last – Senior Women’s National Champion
I had a really good race and was delighted to retain the jersey for another year. I was pleased to see Nikki (Harris) racing.
On the first climb, the field were lined out behind me and by the second descent I’d managed to shake most of the riders off my wheel and got a gap and I just kept pushing on. It was great having the uder23 guys set off before me as it gave me targets to chase down, otherwise it can get a bit lonely out there on your own. It’s quite hard to race when there aren’t that many people around you. Nikki had a good go, she’s doing great as she’s not really concentrating on mountain biking but it’s good she’s here and having a good race.

I didn’t know what to expect, I’ve not ridden here before, but when we got on the course yesterday in practise I really liked it and today it was a bit drier and raced really well. The sections in the wood were still slippery and you had to work through those carefully so you had no slip ups. I was hoping that although I was catching quite a few of the backmarkers they wouldn’t hold me up in the singletrack, but there were loads of passing places, which worked well, so overall I thought the course was interesting and hard and thoroughly enjoyable. I always enjoy technical courses and today was challenging and you had to watch your lines not to make silly mistakes.
Celebrations are probably on hold until I manage to catch up on my sleep, I’ve only just got back from America and am suffering a bit from jetlag, so early to bed to night for me!”

. In the under23 women’s race the stage was wide open, and stepping into the limelight to take centre stage were WXC World Racing riders Jessie Roberts and Carla Haines. Despite being teammates, there was just one jersey to win and Roberts threw down the gauntlet opening up a gap on the climbs. Haines kept cool, knowing she could claw back any gaps on the technical descents. Her calm tactical approach paid dividends as she took the race with Roberts picking up silver.

“Carla Haines – U23 Women’s National Champion
It was a toughie! I knew that Jessie (Roberts) would be strong on the climbs, but I’ve been working hard on my climbing, so I’m happy with how it went. Jessie actually managed to get a bit of a gap on the climbs on the first lap, but I got back to her on the descents, I could ride everything, while she got off and ran, that’s where I gained my advantage. On the second lap I thought I need to be first going into the singletrack, so made a dig and got the gap and led from there and kept on going.

I was pretty focused on getting the jersey. I’d ridden the course in practise yesterday but thought it would probably be wet, so first thing this morning I went out again to see how it rode in the rain, it had completely changed how it rode, so when my race came around and it rained I knew what to expect. Now I’m over the moon that it worked out and I got the win!!! At the start of my season, my form wasn’t great but I was still top 15, now with a season of racing and a few World Cups under my belt everything has fallen into place. Can’t wait to get back out to the World Cups now for more experience and the chance to wear the jersey!”

In the men’s under 23, Kenta Gallagher showed how much he has matured over the last season, taking a calm approach to his race, despite an early mechanical he rode using his head, thinking through his moves, until he eased himself into the lead, taking a well earned win from Billy Joe Whenman.

“Kenta Gallagher – U23 National Men’s Champion
Feels pretty good to get the win, you can’t complain when you win a stripy jumper, so yeah pretty pleased. I didn’t have the best of starts, going up the first climb I snapped the stop on my rear mech, so every time I tried to use an easy gear the chain kept jumping, I thought then it’s gonna be a long day out! So I let Billy (Whenman) lead the first lap out and watch what he was doing. I knew if I got into the singletrack first, I’d get too excited and probably blow out and fall off so I rode using my head.

On the second lap I just kinda dug in on a few climbs to see if Billy was still with me and then through the woods I got a gap, so I knew If I pressed on I could keep that. It’s a course that suits me; I like technical power courses so this was right up my street. People keep telling me it’s old school, but I’m too young to know what old school is, but if they tell me its old school, well hell yeah I like old school then!! It was hard, proper hard, nit super steep climbs like at World Cups and your not racing the same type of rider, but it was hard and that head wind, I nearly shot myself a few times riding that climb into that wicked headwind, but I just had to get it done, after all it’s my job isn’t?!

Yesterday in practise I enjoyed it, today I enjoyed it, I crossed the line first so of course I really enjoyed it!
To be honest I wish it had rained a bit harder in my race, I prefer it when it’s really slippery, but hey I still won! I still hasn’t really sunk in though, I’ll not really believe it until they give me that stripy jumper then I’ll start celebrating!”

Liam Killeen fresh from his disappointment from Windham WC knew he had a potentially hard race ahead in the senior race with Oli Beckingsale and Lee Williams keen to swipe the jersey from his grasp. Killeen and Beckingsale let Williams lead out the race for the first lap. By lap two and it was Killeen and Beckingsale, with Williams charging behind keen not to lose to much contact, whilst Paul Oldham had 3rd place in his sights and Dave Collins and evergreen Nick Craig spent the race fighting for 5th.

Lap 3 and Killeen had launched himself into the front opening up a gap and pushing constantly on the gas, battling both competitors as well as weather, he came home in torrential rain his title secured for one more year. Beckingsale rode a strong race but admitted to a gracious defeat as he took silver with Lee Williams picking up a well-deserved bronze.

“Liam Killeen – Senior Men’s National Champion
I was a little bit nervous coming into the race today as I’m a little bit tried from the travel back from the States. I had a good race over there at Windham, but a puncture mid race, so I lost a bit of time there, so was keen to put that form into action here. Racing is now moving more towards the shorter races, so if you have any mishaps, you can more or less rule yourself out. Losing time with a mechanical is pretty much nigh on impossible to get back into the race again you lose so much time.

I always feel a bit of pressure at the Nationals, especially as defending champion, I know a few of the guys are pretty motivated. But I had a smooth race. Oli (Beckingsale) had a good opening first lap and I was impressed with how Lee (Williams) rode today, he’s had some ups and downs this season, so good to see him on the podium again, so yeah I’m really pleased that I had a smooth, no mishap race. The course was good; we were lucky with the rain.

I rode it yesterday and it would have been a real slog if it had continued to rain. We did get a bit of rain towards the end, which made it greasy, and the wind was a big factor, it just made it harder, if you let of the gas you nearly came to a standstill! If you’d had a wheel to sit on it would have been a big help but I’d thought I needed to ride my own race, get out in front and suck the wind, knowing that the guy behind you is having to take the brunt of the wind as well. It was a good hard race. It did have the feel of an old school course, quite technical in places at race pace, a bit of a longer lap than usual but a truly challenging course, short hard climbs and a good day retaining the jersey. It’s always a bonus knowing you haven’t got to change your kit!!!”

Congratulations to everyone who competed and took on all that Yorkshire could throw at you and well done to everyone who went home newly crowned Champions. Many thanks to the hardworking Bikelicker crew who spent many long hours creating a venue truly suitable for a championship, it certainly paid off and produced a memorable event and a whole raft of worthy champions!

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