Ian Wilkinson overhauled a class field with some tactical racing at round two of the Freerange Optics British Mountain Bike Series on Saturday, beating National Champion Oli Beckingsale in a sprint finish through Sherwood Forest
Despite being a force in early season national road races this was Wilkinson’s first true test on the rough stuff since September 2006. He was however, far from an unknown quantity having contended for the win on several occasions last year and known for his strength which would be an advantage on the flat course.
Two hours later it was an assured Wilko that crossed the line – the man with the treetrunk legs overhauling the man with the stick legs, happy that his tactics paid off.
From the gun
Perfect racing conditions welcomed the 80 strong field of elite riders, amongst the favourites were Oli Beckingsale, Ian Wilkinson and Ian Bibby, with Mike Broderick taking in a UK race on the Euro tour.
On lap one a lead group of had already emerged with all the big names and South African champs Burry Stander in the mix continuing his strong performance this year.
Despite a few short power climbs there was nowhere to get away unless someone was feeling superhuman and at the start of lap four Ian Bibby was the sacrificial lamb for Ian Wilkinson, launching an attack that would split the race. Beckingsale and Stander gave chase with Wilkinson in tow and eventually all four were back together.
Four became three when Stander crashed passing some backmarkers and soon it was clear that Bibby was paying for his earlier attack.
Through the final turns Beckingsale and Wilkinson were wheel to wheel, but it was Wilko who had the strength to break free into the area ad capture the win ahead of the national champion, with Bibby rolling in third.
After the race Wilkinson recognised the teamwork that helped him onto the top step: “Bibs and I were riding really well. The last 3k was the really hard bit and I made a couple of efforts there, but it was Bibs who really ripped it apart. Burry Stander gave a chase and I was just happy to sit on- I’m hardly going to help chase down my teammate! Once it was just us three it was always going to be down to Oli to beat me as he’s national champ. It wasn’t like I did no work, but he did the main of the work and in the end that showed.
Unfamiliar faces dominated the women’s podium as riders came on the hunt for big UCI points. Mary Mcconneloug was the convincing winner, loving the fast singletrack and coming home five minutes ahead of New Zealander Rosara Joseph.
First Brit was Jenny Copnall in third, who seems to have recaptured some form after only managing fifth at round one. The final podium placings were taken by Jenn O’Connor and Janka Stevkova to complete a global podium.
Round three of the BMBS is in three weeks time at Margam Park, Wales where there will be some monster climbs and descents that are sure to add a whole new dimension to the races.
Rosara – “A big improvement over Thetford, a bit more tech. I managed to stay with Mary for half a lap and then had to let her go. Right now things are busy, but hopefully after my exams in July I can focus on the bike a lot more.”