Porridgepot Hill was the venue of choice for this latest round of the Gorrick Saddle Skedaddle Spring Series, and offered riders a fast blast around tight twisting singletrack, interspersed by leg burning, lung busting climbs.
One in particular, the aptly named Hecklers' Hill, proved a favourite with spectators as they cheered on the competitors as the groaned and grunted their way to the top.
With the National XC series just around the corner, the ranks of riders were swelled with competitors keen to check their progress against their peers. Series sponsors Saddle Skedaddle upped the ante by offering two free holidays to be given away in their random prize draw.
The men’s sport race saw the major contenders throughout the season in the thick of the action and recording an opening lap of under 15 minutes. Four laps later and after a few reshuffles in the order of riders, it was Martin Delves who proved the one with the stamina to outwit the others.
Junior Orange Monkey Nat Jarvis rode a blinding race to cruise into second spot just 35 seconds adrift, leaving Duane Stander to pick up third a further 24 seconds down, while previous round winner Max Sykes took fourth. The next best prize after the win was the free holiday, and that honour went to 10th placed Craig Dolwin.
Jarvis said: "That has to be one of the hardest and best races I’ve ever ridden. It was really tough on the first lap as I had a bad start. I thought I was mid-pack and then I saw Max (Sykes) and realised I was actually up in the top four.
"Midway through the third lap the pace started picking up but by then I’d got into my grove and then it got all technical and I kinda just went with the faster bloke ahead of me! It paid off and at the end of the day I came out the other end nearly on top. Hopefully I can repeat this ride at Sherwood Pines next week. This is a new Nat; this is the Nat who wants to win and be at the top!"
Nat Jarvis rode a blinding race to cruise into second spot just 35 seconds adrift
Maxine Filby took on women's masters' racer Caroline Goward and with a fast first lap took the lead, which she seemed to be paying for as the three-lap race progressed. She narrowly held on to take the win by just 17 seconds from a consistent Goward, while Briony Croft, fresh from her downhill and cross-country successes at the recent BUCS [student] Championships came in third.
The open men’s race had a massive field of riders and the competition was fierce. BUCS sport race winner Matt Treviss had his work cut out for him as Max Filleul took off like a scalded cat and opened up a 30 second lead on lap one, which he steadily increased throughout the three-lap race to finally take the win in just over 48 minutes. Treviss had to be content with second, with Robert McCarthy picking up third.
Max Filleul opened up a 30 second lead on lap one, and hung on to take the win
Luckiest lady of the day had to be Natasha Litherland, who not only secured third spot in the open race but also went home with a free holiday. Natalia Wase took the win, ahead of Hannah Reynolds.
The men’s masters race has to rank as one of the hardest fought over the whole series, with a number of riders vying for that top spot. R4 was no exception with just 10 seconds separating the top three riders.
Lee Gallop took his second win of the series, narrowly beating Ollie Taylor into second, after a hard fought race which saw Gallop charge from behind in the closing stages while singlespeeding Steve Webb cranked in for third just nine seconds adrift.
Gallop said: "That makes two seconds and two firsts now in the series. The idea was to come today and try to consolidate my lead in the championship. Just like the last race, I got a bad start. I got caught up on the first corner and on the first climb as well and found myself in a small group in chase mode. I sat with them for a while and my team mates were telling me the gap was coming down so I pushed to the head of the group and tried to bridge across to the leaders. I caught them on the last lap, as they were tiring. I made my move on the last hill and consolidated that until the finish. Me and Ollie Taylor actually crossed the line together, it was that close. Now it looks like I’ve tied up the series, which is what I set out to do!"
Lee Gallop took his second win of the series, narrowly beating Ollie Taylor into second
Kim Hurst continued her clean sweep of the series, scorching round the two-lap race in under 38 minutes to take her fourth win, while Jo Munden took second ahead of Fran Mundy.
Travelling up from the wilds of
Horton said: "I didn’t expect to win this race by such a big margin, considering who else was in it, but I loved the course and flew round it. It was so swoopy out there and the full-suss just hugged every bend and flowed so well, I overcooked it a bit on a few corners and overshot occasionally! It was fun. When it feels right, it's excellent, and today it just felt right. Let's hope I haven’t shot the bolt for next weekend!"
Maddie Horton took a convincing win from Gemma Collins in the expert women's race
Another nailbiting race quickly unfolded in the expert men’s race, with an opening lap of less than 14 minutes. Straight from the start it was easy to see this would be a gladiatorial battle between Gareth Montgomerie and Adrian Lansley, with only junior Steven James able to stick to their wheels on the opening gambit
By lap two the ding-dong battle was well underway, with Montgomerie taking the lead. By lap three this had been reversed with Lansley once more in the driving seat. Meanwhile youngster James started to find the pace a little high and started to fade, leaving Stuart Bowers to take up the slack and slip into third.
Lansley continued heading the expert train right to the line, with Montgomerie taking second with just a slipped second between them. Bowers took third while James held on to take a well-earned fourth.
Adrian Lansley and Gareth Montgomerie had a gladiatorial battle in the expert men’s race
Super masters men
Sam Gardner, national masters champion, was lined up for what turned out to be a tense battle in the super masters and again saw the top competitors separated by mere seconds. Mark Hutt led the foray into the singletrack closely followed by Gardner, Stephen James and Nick Onslow.
Nothing but a cat's whisker separated these four riders throughout the four-lap race, but in the end it was Hutt who took the gold, seconds ahead of
The final round moves from the advertised Ash Common and now returns to the popular Tunnel Hill on 19 April.
Results and series details can be found at www.gorrick.com.
Hecklers' Hill was a favourite spot with spectators as racers grunted their way to the top