On Wednesday night I was reminded that mine is in the woods, on my bike, racing dual with a great bunch of mates old and new. I had a massive smirk on my face all night. I felt at home and content, pushing bright orange leaves aside with my tyres, blinded on my push back up by the lights positioned to illuminate our sideways journeys down the hill.
As the first race of the series there was a lot of catching up to do and lots of new friends to meet. Everything is word of mouth, friends of friends, no Dicks. Last year’s winter series was another classic with a great battle for the top step of the podium and Dave Camus victorious for the first time. Lower down the table new racers were making their mark with Rob Shaw getting hooked and never missing a race. The Pearson’s both fought back from poor starts to finish Tim 2nd and Chris 4th with a Monk breaking both his cherry and the top 5. Jake was 3rd. What happened to Will Swinden? Well as we have learnt over the years, the key to doing well in the overall is mainly just turning up. Will forgot that.
The question I posed for this first race was, Has Camus still got it? Had a summer of fun blunted his dual skills, did he still have the hunger? The opener turned in to an instant classic. Endcliffe was at its glassy best losing any sense of grip gone within 10 minutes of practise opening. As the furrows appeared in the leaves giving a false sense of berm, lines got dialled and tyre pressures adjusted. With Steph on the timing buttons she called order with a long blow on the whistle. The nature of the course brought racers together in a lovers clinch about half way down, whoever got there first was in control and had the upper hand in to the final sprint. However, off camber roots, greasy arse corners and a bunny hop finish had to be negotiated first. With 26 racers turned out we cracked straight on with Faux Oscar and Dave sprinting off the line on the second whistle. New lad Aiken gave Will Swinden a run for his money but fell foul of the off camber roots on the upper traverse taking a little dirt nap. There were a lot of Cotic’s and Cotic staff in attendance and the first face off came in the first round. Rich Baybutt and Sam Capper squared up and although Sam put up a very good fight, Rich was too hungry. Two Cotic lasses then got their first taste of Dual with Hannah and Kelly getting to grips with the format. Joe Spivey’s extra head protection (full trials helmet) didn’t help him beat Jake Monk but did give him a run for his money.
In the second round Leeds local Mandy Devine eked out a win over Chrissy P by only 2 hundredths of a second. Old rivals and best of mates James ‘Rocketman’ Swinden and Timmy P had a brilliant battle with Tim trying to shut Swinny out. But James saw the move and took the fast line around him, then putting the power all the way down and sprinting to the line. Tim just couldn’t match his speed. John Horscroft beat Rich Baybutt in the first leg of their battle after Rich found and surpassed the edge of traction and finished up on his back (he got him back next run). On the other side of the ladder it was a case of master versus apprentice when Jake gated up next to Dave Camus. These two ride together loads but in that race, no quarters were given. Jake put a shoulder in to Dave to force him in to a tree half way down. He wasn’t happy! After fair complaints of unsportsman like behaviour which fell on deaf ears Dave took matters in to his own hands putting a move on Jake in the crucial corner. But it wasn’t fast enough and Jake moved on up. Camus hasn’t still got it. The battles in the quarters set the Brothers Swinden on a collision course in the semis, Mandy on a overzealous trip to the floor, Baybutt and Rocketman in to a double bed on the floor and revealed the sleeping giant that is Giles Grover. Giles matched Jake for speed in the first leg and then Jake couldn’t stay on his bike for the second. Grover has arrived.
The Swinden semis were brilliant, both Bro’s wanted it bad. Swinny’s been absent from dual for a couple of years and it was really good to have him back between the posts. A fall by James in the big right gave the victory to Will who finished things off on the second leg but James retained the crown for fastest run of the night, just, on his final run of the night.
The meant that Giles faced Rocketman in the small final and I was up against Will in the Big (I was only there due to a ‘lucky’ Draw). Inevitably Giles and I’s talent ran out and the Swindens were victorious! The prize pile was a bumper one with advent calendars, beers and wooden puzzles aplenty and the fastest riders of the night picked first.
Stoke is high for the season ahead, we’ve lots more happy places to visit.