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World Cup Swinny – Val di Sole

Photo: Sven Martin pinched from Vital Slideshow

World Cup Swinny – Val di Sole

Our Man Swinny’s hard work has paid off and he is riding World Cups this year. He missed out on Fort Bill due to the UCIs inability to process his points in time, however, he’s out in Italy for the second round with the Steel City Media Whores.

See and hear the man himself (and plenty of Joe and Duncans self promotion) on slide 16 of this brilliant Vital Slideshow. Lets hope the nepotism continues and we get more Vital coverage of our lad.

Gwarn Swinny! We’re all rooting for you lad. What a track to start his world cup campaign on, but then again, have you seen his guns? VDS’ rocks had better watch out!

Photo: Sven Martin pinched from Vital Slideshow

Photo: Sven Martin pinched from Vital Slideshow

Race Report: BDS Rd3, Inners

So a mixed start to the 2013 season is the best way to describe my season so far. A couple of good results to kick things off from the Steel City round & BDS rd 1 was followed by a heavy crash at Fort William then achieving a life long goal of gaining enough points to compete at World Cups, all before a huge eye opener at Innerleithen last weekend.

I came into the weekend looking to build on my early form. Iv felt strong, fit & fast so far this season but something just didn’t click for me here. Maybe a few factors out of my power were playing on my mind a bit too much. Firstly the disappointment of not being picked by the British Cycling team to represent at The first World Cup of the year in Fort William, something I have been lusting for these past couple of seasons, then achieving my points, getting overly excited only to be told by the UCI I was not allowed to compete due to not achieving points in time. Steve tried so hard to get me involved in the event, but it was not to be. I cant thank you enough for your efforts dude!
Then, regretably, I had to make a tough desicion to miss out on the SPS training week in the build up to Inners, as valuable holiday allowance from work meant I needed to save days in order to compete at other events through the year.
These training days are part of what makes the SPS so unique, the chance to really see into what it takes to compete at the top level, seeing how Steve approaches his Job & takes on the terrain is a huge boost in both confidence & information, so valuable in this sport.

So without an extra couple of days on the hill, I joined my fellow SPS boys & got to work.
A few laps following James Ramsey down the tight & fast Inners track soon made me realise just what I had missed earlier on in the week. He was riding so solid & smooth, I was struggling to keep up!
The smallest of mistakes on this track pretty much ended your run, the tight trees & off camber gradient, mixed with flat out to tight slow turns made for a really challenging race track. I was struggling to get up to pace.
After 4 runs though I was starting to feel at home, that was before I took the opportunity to do a couple of laps with Steve. Now this was where my eyes were fully jammed open.. The speed, the flow, the smoothness, the control. Yes I kept up, but what a pace. I soon realised I was from from a competitive race pace here. Another lap with Steve & I felt a lot better. Smoother & more in control whilst finding it easier to keep up.

Saturday ended good, the Sun was shining & I felt fast, I was keen for racing now.

Sunday soon rolled around & I was up early to get on the hill in time to get 2 practice runs in. The uplifts were just shocking, a 2 mile ride before waiting in what seemed to be a line involving every rider at the event. Just not enough wagons to cope with the demands.
So, back on the hill & first run leading out Josh Lewis. Things were going pretty good for a first run, until I hit the deck hard. Taking a beating on my right side of my body, arm & hip taking the brunt of the force. A steep chute that dropped onto a fire road was catching a few people out over the weekend. I should have know better though, the cold air at night mixed with warm morning meant for some dew around, this part of the track was so firm being a fire road, a little bit of moisture on the polished rocks & it was like an ice rink if caught wrong.. Which is exactly what I did, hitting the floor hard before I even knew what was happening.
So it was back to the pits & an attempt at a quick patch up so I could get another run in. I was keen to try to block out the pain, think no pain, feel no pain, but things were definitely stiffening up & my confidence had took a knock.

Quali began & I wasn’t riding smooth at all. The light piercing through the trees made for really challenging conditions with vision being interrupted by the intermittent light & shadow effect. I crossed the line after a bit of stop stalling in the lower woods & waited to see where I had placed. 26th.
Their was so much talk surrounding how ‘stacked’ the field was with World Cup contenders, all keen to get a bit of race practice in before the following weekends opening World Cup round, but this doesn’t matter. If I want to compete at World Cup level I need to be able to compete with the top guys time. It doesn’t matter to me who goes fastest or who is attending, its about getting as close as possible to that winning time, & 9 seconds is far to far back for me to be competitive at the highest level.

I was however confident of a big improvement in time, It was not a good run, full of tiny errors & mini stalls, I was sure of taking a good chunk of time off.
But it wasn’t really the case, Race run began & I felt reasonable up top, A solid middle section before again a little struggle in the lower woods before over the line. An improvement on my quali time but by no where near as much as needed, 2.5secs quicker & I ended up 30th, again 9 seconds back on the win.
Needles to say I was pretty pissed off by the result, a safe run the weekend before in Norway lead me to a top ten, but a safe run here put me no where. You cant just be a little quick anymore, you have to flat out from the word go, precise, delicate, accurate, aggressive, confident & consistent, all of which I was just lacking a little come race time. Something I definitely need to work on & quickly!

Next up is World Cup rd.2, Val di Sole, Exciting!

Cheers all!

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TiS at UK Gravity Enduro – Hamsterley

TiS at UK Gravity Enduro – Hamsterley

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This doesn’t happen very often, members of the TiS crew actually racing at the same race together. Individually we’re often out listening to the beeps but collectively, its been quite a few years. There Should actually have been 4 of us in this picture but unfortunately JoBo picked up an injury on his w*nking arm while trying to pick up ICU points in a practice at Swedish mates race. His attempts to impress his Swede better half with race winning times back fired and landed him in the docs instead. Heal up soon lad. Ruari ‘ Bar Drag’ Hallam, his brother Gee and myself all attended round 3 of the UK gravity enduro series at Hamsterley. Gee is back from New Zealand for a mo:nth to visit friends and family and his sister Katie kindly bought his the race entry for his birthday. Alongside her partner John, it was a heavy hitting Sheffield Crew. Even Poppa  Hallam was in attendance and kindly took all the photos in this post. Thanks very much Peter (hope you dont mind me using them!). There were many other of the Sheffield Fam racing too I’d travelled up with my mates Dave ‘fastest hardtail in last years series’ Griffiths and Carrie ‘overall womens champ last year’ Poole,

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The conditions for racing couldn’t have been better, it had rained on friday which left some sections damp and greasy but non of us are used to dust so it just played in to our hands. The trails at Hammers were brilliant, a real variety of trail types. The first two were fairly natural loads of roots and off camber sections with a bit of loam thrown in for good measure. The third and fifth stages were pure trail centre with many berms and a few loose flat corners to keep things interesting. The forth stage started at the top of the 4X track and ran down a very tightly taped DH run, great fun.

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Practise on Saturday was a real eye opener for me, I haven’t raced an Enduro for about 5 years and it took me a long while to get up to speed. My mates Dave, Carrie and Mandy showed me the way though and the whole day was just like going for a ride with a bunch of mates… apart from the sun and warmth. That was very strange… we even got sun burnt.

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Late Saturday afternoon was a seeding run. Stage 5 was used which had some of the highest speed sections of all. That said, there was loads of pedalling required, keeping on top of a gear and sprinting where ever possible on the upper section. Lower down the hill was more of a challenge to carry speed and hold your nerve through the quick berms. Popping out in to the arena at the end I, along with many others, managed to wash out on the final corner. Bugger.

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Sunday was race day and it was an early start as the ladies were off first. I got to the start of stage 1 early and wondered down the track to watch the action. I’m very glad I did as I realised my race craft is crap. There were so many high lines and ‘cut’ lines being employed by the quick vets I saw that I had to rethink my race plan and somehow managed to hold all the new lines. Great fun.

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The rest of the race day went pretty well. The weather gods were again smiling on us and the sun was out all day. With a fairly short loop it was all over in a couple of hours and we were back at the finish cheering in the rest of the racers. The atmosphere was great and the grins infectious, Steve Parr had put on a great event and everyone seemed to have a great day.

In the TiS stakes I managed to Squeeze out the fastest time on the day with a 19:16.58 only good enough for 23rd in Masters. Ruari came home 24th senior with a 19:26.74 and Gee 30th Master with a 19:40.56. It really was a great days racing and reminded me what I’ve been missing out on for all these years… now for some Enduro Mates Races!

Norges Cup, Back on the hunt UCI Style

This past weekend I headed abroad once more on the quest my those oh so valuable UCI points.. So here’s what happened..

The plan was crack out a top ten at the Norges Cup in Drammen, Norway. A quick Bank holiday weekend trip with a happy ending.. Well, it nearly wasn’t..
I had planned everything to run quick & smooth without taking any more time off work, who have so supportive of me these past two seasons, so I could save that valuable holiday allowance to book time off for the World Cup rounds I was hoping to head off to..

Friday night ship out, me & Mari (PA/wag) were on the road to the airport for 17:30, loads of time to get stuck in traffic in Glossop & still make our 20:45 flight. Easy done as it turned out Glossop was not even that bad! (For a first) Everything was going according to plan, on time, organized, right up until check in. Lost wallet. Uh oh. Hadn’t a clue where it could be. Last I remember I had it at the bus stop, damn. A quick call to the bus company but no sign of it. A 45 minute round trip with only 45 minutes to our flight time.. even bigger uh oh.. Jet Parks plus were awesome, they sent me a personal pick up from an Irish fella named Willy, top guy, cant thank him enough for ragging that bus around getting me back to the car park to search foe the wallet. But no joy. It must be either checked in with my bag.. or someone has it. Hoping for the former i was rushed back to the airport, bouncing over kerbs & worrying other drivers as we sped back to the terminal. Dropped as close as possible i ran to meet Mari, picked up both hand luggage bags & sprinted to the gate, girlfriend in tow. Just in time we made it to are gate, only to find the flight itself had been delayed slightly, which was nice. A bit more time to add that bit of worry as to where the wallet actually was..

A few anxious hours later & the time had come to collect baggage & see what situation we were in… was good news? At first no, no signs of the little fella. oh bugger, my heart sank a little, then success! Nestled away in between my shoes, there he was, sneaky thing! relief..

So, on we pressed. Rent-a-car, then hotel for a sound nights sleep.
Again all was running smooth but time was really getting on. Gone 01:00 in the morning & still traveling, I had been up since 04:30 am the day before! Starting to feel tired & really want sleep we pulled up at the hotel, Which turns out they mixed up our booking with another hotel some 15 minutes back up the road. So off we went again. 03:30 am we eventually got our heads down. 23 hours awake in total, great.
Up at 07:45 am for breakfast. An all you can eat mix of hot & cold buffet style delights & those that know me when it comes to food know this is never a ‘quick feed’. A little insight into how I ate..
It started with a large warm plate, A large helping (and large means what you would imagine as large, plus more) of eggs, beans, meatballs, little sausages, some onion omelet things & potato chunks, with a side helping of a couple of sizeable hand cut slices of seeded bread & coffee. The size of meal you’d normally look & think, ‘Wow, I’m gonna feel full after this!’
But that’s not all.. Onto a helping of porridge & more coffee, before helping myself to the cold buffet, a couple of bread cob sandwiches stacked with hams, cheeses & salads before heading back for another plate of warm. Not as much as first time around admittedly but considering the size of round one, even half that portion size was still pretty sizable.
Not done yet, a bowl of cereal & yoghurt, more coffee before another sandwich & a take away coffee.. That just about covered it I reckon.

Enough about food, Time to ride!
30 minutes down the road we arrived at Drammen Skisenter. Pulling into the car park a noticeable in feel between British rounds & this one. So much more relaxed, no one rushing about, no struggling to squeeze runs in, just calm & welcoming. The chairlift probably helped a lot, set just off the road, such easy access.
We set up our pits for the day, built the bike up & headed to the lift, around 11:00 for first runs.

Slide1The track was cool, a huge rock slab to build speed before dropping into a very loamy section. Due to pretty severe weather in the build up to the race, this section as littered with thick deep mud bogs that killed your flow, but as more riders descended, soon dispersed the most & dug down to the bare rock.
A tricky switchback before a large rock roller to build speed! A couple switchbacks later before opening up a bit. Building speed was fun on this track! Smashing through 2 very soft turns, easy to bury the front end & get pitched forward before opening up over large rolly rocks again. 1 more tricky wooded section before exiting onto the ski slope to the finish line turns & jump.
A rad track. so enjoyable it didn’t feel anywhere near as long as the race times suggest.
I headed straight back up.. no queue, at most it was 3 people deep, just pleasant.
Unfortunately this time around I clipped a rock in the high speed rock roll section, got bucked pretty bad but held her down! Determined not to crash! (it pays off being strong!!) damn rock though bent my pedal pretty bad, too bad to be able to ride it.
A quick call at the Norwegian Santa Cruz & one of their riders sorted me out with a fresh set of pedals, cheers guys! would have been really stuck without you!

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New pedals fitted & back up the hill. 2 more runs but was starting to struggle with fatigue & tiredness. So headed back to pits for a lie down.
So, 4 runs, a lengthy pit stop & it was still barely 14:00!
A lie down turned into a nap.. nap turned into a sleep.. so I called it a day & went for a track walk. 17:45 & still riders on track, Norwegians have riding priorities dialed!
A couple of fresh lines had appeared in the tech sections, something I was keen to try out in Sunday mornings practice.
We headed back to our hotel, passed out pretty early on after scouring what delights Norway had to offer on telly. Why oh why do you guys seem to have a channel dedicated to breast feeding?! Its just creepy!
Back up for more breakfast (see above for portions) Before arriving for 09:00.
To the the lift for 9:30, practice closed.. oops.
So, First run Sunday with trying new lines would be seeding run, not the best prep but that’s the position I got myself in!
A gentle run scoping things out. Over the line & in 10th place. Pretty positive.
Top ten was the goal for the weekend, this would give me the points needed to compete at World Cups this year.
Off for race runs.
A bit different to what I’m used to this year, no trainer, no music, just myself & my thoughts.
Its easy to over think things & get wound up before a race run, something I have struggled with greatly in the past. So for now its off for a walk, a bit off warming up whilst picturing back to back clean runs of the track.
Into the start gate & a sudden flutter of nerves, before being able to shut them out with some clean thinking.
Onto the pedals & away! cranking hard I could feel I was under power from fatigue but no excuses, time to race.
A small error into the first woods dropped me off line slightly, not loosing too much time though as moment was kept.
Onto the open section & time to open up, some stiff pedal strokes before nearly ditching it in the soft switchbacks. Thrown over the front wheel as it dug in, foot dab to hold upright, before getting back on with it.
The final wood section was clean & smooth before smoothing out the final turns, squashing the last jump before crossing the line.
Slightly nervous as id crossed the line in 2nd & waited for the next man down to see where id end up.. A chance of missing out on that top ten was a possibility.

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Fortunately for me that didn’t happen! 7th the end result, a little further back than id have liked but still, job done! Happy with the result & 100Euros better off! Cheers Norway!

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So, back off to pack up with smiles on our faces. A good weekend of sun & bikes with a result that would give a life long ambition of competing in World Cups a reality.

Thanks Norway for having me! You were all so awesome! See you later in the year for Hafjel!!
Cheers all!
SwinnySlide1

‘Win’ an Santa Cruz Blur Tr: Peaty’s Steel City DH

‘Win’ an Santa Cruz Blur Tr: Peaty’s Steel City DH

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May the forth be with you. Well it was, last weekend, for the 3rd Steel City DH as this great edit from Gee Milner shows. The biggest little race in the North just keeps on expanding. This year, aside the 200 racers who ensured the entry was sold out within an hour and a half, over 100o spectators filled Grenoside woods heckling and eating and drinking everything that was on offer in the bombhole. When was the last time (other than a fort bill world cup) a mountain bike race had that many spectators in the UK? Peaty had to think back to the Malvern classic’s way back when to remember a similar atmosphere.

This great edit from X Trail Films gives another angle of the day.

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Dave Griffiths - Photo: James Brown

Dave Griffiths – Photo: James Brown

This years race was given a bit of a twist as it was on 4th May, we pushed May the forth be with you as much as possible with Cotic offering a BFe frame for the best dressed Star Wars character! It was won by a plastic bin tranformed in to a fully functional R2D2. Peaty himself was rocking a full on Storm Trooper outfit with a custom TLD lid aboard his Santa Cruz Brosnon Speeder Bike

Steve 'Storm Trooper' Peat: Photo - James Brown

Steve ‘Storm Trooper’ Peat: Photo – James Brown

Winner of the Cotic Prize for best Star Wats fancy Dress, R2D2

Winner of the Cotic Prize for best Star Wats fancy Dress, R2D2

For the first time ever for the race, the sun had been shining for the fortnight leading up to the race and the woods and the track was dry. The funds raised from last years race had been ploughed back in to the woods by the Sheffield Wildlife Trust and improvements to the track made by local firm Bike Track and volunteers from Ride Sheffield made for the fastest racing yet.  Gone were the days of the muddy slog pedal fest, pumping through the rocky course and carrying speed through the bermed corners was the order of the day.

Mark Wilson kicking up dust - Photo: James Brown

Mark Wilson kicking up dust – Photo: James Brown

As ever the generosity of the events sponsors was overwhelming with prizes galore for all podiums places and the every popular raffle. The race has always served to be completely inclusive with kids from age 10 upwards racing in the rippers category. This year we also had 30 ladies racing, amazing for a race of 200 people. They were split in to two groups; one for those racing for the first time and the other for those more experienced. Our oldest entrant was Pat Horscroft was in her 70th year and celebrating by racing for the first time ever. She was rewarded with a special award and bear hug from Peaty on the podium.

Track builder David Gregory of Bike Track makes the most of his hard work on race day. - Photo: James Brown

Track builder David Gregory of Bike Track makes the most of his hard work on race day. – Photo: James Brown

As ever the atmosphere all the way along the track but particularly at the gap jump and finish bomb hole was electric. With so many people out watching and banging the hell out of the noise makers they had brought the racers were often seen smirking from the hilarious heckles.

Well Prepared career marshal Rob Jolley came armed to the teeth

Well Prepared career marshal Rob Jolley came armed to the teeth

Shef Uni were out in force and the Stoke levels were kept high

Shef Uni were out in force and the Stoke levels were kept high

Although most prizes were given away on the podium or in the raffle one very important one remains. A brand new Blur TR donated by Santa Cruz bicycles. In a size large it up for auction on Ebay with all proceeds (minus the ebay fees) going directly in to the charity pot. The frame with a Fox Float CTD Adjust Kashima Shock is worth over £1900 and we are open to reasonable offers. Please use the best offer system on Ebay to make your bids. Ideally You’ll collect from Sheffield to give cash on collection so we can avoid paypal fees.

If you want to win it, get your bids in here.

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So back to the racing. For the 3rd year running, Dr Peat took the win, this year on his Santa Cruz Brosnon. That means he’s won on a different wheel size each year. Maybe 20″ next year? Full results are available on roots and rain but here’s the podiums

Pro/Am

1 1 Steve PEAT Santa Cruz Syndicate 1:17.293 (1) 1:16.644 (1) 1:16.644
2 4 James SWINDEN StevePeatSyndicate 1:20.373 (2) 1:21.004 (2) 1:20.373 3.729s
3 3 Sam DALE Madison / Saracen 1:22.124 (3) 2:36.933 (10) 1:22.124 5.480s

Rippers

1 22 Sam TAYLOR Biketrack.org go to site 1:47.219 (1) 1:43.888 (1) 1:43.888
2 17 James ELLIOTT 1:52.664 (2) 1:52.988 (2) 1:52.664 8.776s
3 18 Luke MUMFORD TeamCHR 1:56.900 (3) 1:56.530 (3) 1:56.530 12.642s

Juvenile

1 30 Kade EDWARDS Torico Morzine 1:45.902 (5) 1:36.766 (1) 1:36.766
2 31 Oscar MONK Sheffield Dirt Society BMX 1:37.401 (1) 1:55.542 (7) 1:37.401 0.635s
3 32 Jake MONK Sheffield Dirt Society BMX 1:37.657 (2) 1:37.529 (2) 1:37.529 0.763s

Youth

1 40 James HURST Evolution Racing 1:28.898 (1) 1:29.597 (1) 1:28.898
2 44 George VEALL 1:33.691 (2) 1:33.784 (2) 1:33.691 4.793s
3 39 Tom GRICE 1:37.935 (6) 1:35.601 (3) 1:35.601 6.703s

Junior

1 51 Liam MCDERMOTT TRG Racing 1:32.205 (2) 1:29.145 (1) 1:29.145
2 52 Sam ROBSON MIJ Downhill Events 1:31.759 (1) 1:33.699 (3) 1:31.759 2.614s
3 56 Marco WOOD-BONELLI Sheffield Dirt Society 1:33.402 (3) 1:31.767 (2) 1:31.767 2.622s

Seniors

1 217 Luke MEREDITH StevePeatSyndicate 1:24.251 (1) 1:24.546 (1) 1:24.251
2 227 Andrew WALKER 1:25.368 (2) 1:24.842 (2) 1:24.842 0.591s
3 232 David CAMUS The University of Sheffield Cy 1:27.892 (6) 1:25.626 (3) 1:25.626 1.375s

Masters

1 141 Chay GRANBY Cotic / Steel City Media 1:23.862 (1) 1:25.082 (1) 1:23.862
2 142 Rich NORGATE 1:25.262 (2) 1:25.246 (2) 1:25.246 1.384s
3 144 Adam TAYLOR Plushhillcycles.co.uk go to site 1:27.395 (3) 1:29.328 (5) 1:27.395 3.533s

Veterans

1 171 Scott TURTLE 1:30.809 (1) 1:31.374 (2) 1:30.809
2 177 Martin CREASER 1:32.223 (2) 1:30.956 (1) 1:30.956 0.147s
3 151 Simon CHATTEN 1:33.171 (3) 1:32.319 (3) 1:32.319 1.510s

Women

1 79 Cheri MILLS 1:38.970 (1) 1:39.744 (1) 1:38.970
2 88 Carrie POOLE Osprey / Thebiketree.co.uk go to site 1:44.287 (2) 1:44.072 (2) 1:44.072 5.102s
3 83 Becci SKELTON Team Cycopath 1:45.489 (3) 1:54.870 (10) 1:45.489 6.519s

Open Women

1 67 Emma PEASLAND Stilettos on Wheels 2:05.149 (5) 1:49.278 (1) 1:49.278
2 73 Jody VALLANCE 1:53.076 (1) 1:52.788 (2) 1:52.788 3.510s
3 74 Jessica WIEGAND Atgni 2:00.245 (2) 2:02.635 (4) 2:00.245 10.967s

Massive thank you’s to all the event Sponsors, Helpers and Marshals. Many people willingly give up their valuable time to make this race happen and it could not happen without them. Its part of what makes this race so special, the people and smiling faces that help year in and year out. Thank you!

The race is organised by a team of 4 riders, myself Nick Hamilton, Steve Hardcastle, Henry Norman and Joe Bowman. If you see us out on the trails or at the bar, give us a pat on the back if you had a good day in the woods.

Until Next year…..

Winter Dual Round 8 – Fast Grass

This was a race which had to be seen to be believed. The move from our loamy home turf over to the close horse cropped grass of Farmer Jacks field was a real eye opener to all who raced. The Speed was unbelievable! So So fast. Scary fast. But the grass was gripper that you could believe, but those that believed cornered like nothing else. Truly amazing to watch.

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The push back up was all that kept us warm. Photo – Josh Lewis

The cold and foggy winters night added to the atmosphere and the steep push up was enough to keep everyone warm. The grip lasted only so long though. Soon enough it began to give way and not always in a predictable manner with some brilliant crashes as a result.

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One of my favourite ever dual photos, Me and chegs setting up. Photo – Duncan Philpott

Duncan’s edit goes a long way to explaining the evening. Shot by him and part time pro tog’ Josh Lewis you can start to get an idea of the speed and some of the crashes. Joe Bowman goes down hard in the semi final against Chay at 45 seconds after a lovely big tank slapper (those are loose dogs girly screams). Joe had been on fire all night and had the right hand lined totally wired (see 54 seconds). The final big right hander was just the fastest and driftiest corner. Loosedog also suffered the same fate after look hot in practice, however he went down in the first round.

Did John Lawlor cut the course at 23 seconds? He was certainly on it throughout the night but lost his back end in one run on the last corner and couldn’t quite run across this line in time. His #WontBackDown partner Clay porter made a mistake in his first run and Ruari punished him for it. Peaty showed him how it was done though and was just screaming through that last right hander and took the overall win on the night against Chay.

Massive thanks for Farmer Jack for the use of his field, it really is perfect for Dual. Thanks also to our inimitable timing lady Steph Anderson and her assistants for the night, Dave Camus and Joe Spivey.

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So Timmy Dared to miss a round, its this because he has it sewn up already?

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Winter Dual Round 7 – Let it Snow

Winter Dual Round 7 – Let it Snow

We haven’t had a grassy dual for a long while. Swinny’s field is currently unavailable for use but Farmer Jack came to our rescue with the offer to use one of his grazing fields. Plans were all set and the crew were ready to get slideways when the chuffin white stuff decided to pay us a visit again. The roads were probably passable, just, but conditions up on the farm were miserable and we may never have got out of the parking yard again. Therefore, last minute, we changed back to old faithful and rendezvoused at Endcliffe park.

Axle Deep Corner. Photo: Nick Hamilton

Now, not that many folk turned out. It was probably the smallest attendance we’ve had in a couple of years which was a real shame; because it was one of the best duals we’ve had in a couple of years. I laid out a pretty simple course with a long start straight which go so chewed up you could barely make headway. This led in to a right hair pin which was the most fun corner we’ve had in a long while. It got axle deep in mud but was still rideable, just. The fast lads were almost making it through without a paddle but the rest of us were coming together with our feet off and our elbows entwined. After a fast traverse it was in to fast lefts and then tight tree lined corners to finish. The left lane was a little faster and made you feel like a hero as you caught your opponent.

JoBo about to kiss a tree. Photo: Duncan Philpott

With only 14 racing JoBo and I ended up with a bye to the 2nd round which meant we could take care of early timing duties. Once we were racing we handed the watches over to Jolley and Jack Read who took care of the rest. Thank you very much lads, your interpretation of the rocking out syncing technique was sublime. The first round saw Foxy beat Joe ‘Splatshop’ Spivey by 0.01 seconds, Joe had an amazing second leg but a stumble in the first let him down. Baybutt was on fire and comfortably dispatched Jack Read to make the second round for the first time in a long while. Baybutts form ended in the second round where he came off work with a coming together with Foxy who had his best performance to date (did anyone check him for spikes? ;). Bowman showed me a clean pair of pedals and smashed me in to submission as did Chay to James ‘Bike Garage’ Irwin. The really interesting battle was between series leader Timmy and FAF Craig Evans. Normally meeting in the finals these two sized each other up on the line. Timmy won the first leg on the quicker left lane by just over a second then Craig took the second leg. However, not by enough. In the quarters JoBo kissed the final tree a couple of times but amazingly stayed upright and took Chay by over a second. This setup a small final of old mates Foxy and Chay. It was a proper grudge match and anything but clean with Foxy pressing any advantage he could but he came off worse in one of the tangles and sat in the mud for 10 seconds giving the win to Chay. The Big final was more of a love match than a grudge match with Joe and Timmy hugging it out on the line. They both won in the fast lane with exactly equal times but Timothy managed to press the advantage in the right hand lane putting down the fastest time of the night and taking half a second out of Joe.

Late night eye surgery. Photo: Duncan Philpott

The other highlight of the night was a little impromptu eye surgery performed on Rich Baybutt. He’d got a huge chunk of loam trapped under his eye lid during practice and just couldn’t get it out. So he held a bike light pointed at his eye while pulling down his lid. JoBo then poured in water and I rammed a filthy finger in to get it out. It truly was a torture scene from some kind of Hollywood movie.

The overall point’s situation is looking a bit sewn up now. Timmy has showed up to every round and virtually dominated. He’s only dropped 7 points all season finishing either first or second every round but the last one. Chay is looking very comfortable in 2nd spot but Chris Pearson could take him in the final rounds. Ruari is coming up fast from 5th and will doubtlessly get the better of me if he keeps turning up. Its going to be a great fight to the finish.

Jacks offered his field again for the next round, so hopefully we’ll get some back to some grassy action without any of the white stuff.

Winter Dual Round 6 – Snowy Berms

Baybutt captures the mood

Winter Dual Round 6 – Snowy Berms

First off… watch this great edit done by Baybutt, it’ll sum up the nights activities much better than my waffle.

Round 6 was planned to be held up at Farmer Jacks field on the amazing cow patted berms. Massive thanks to him for letting us play! That was before the snow came… again. In the days leading up to last Tuesday there were many texts and phone calls checking on conditions and accessibility. It all just adds to the excitement. On the day, the roads were clear but the farm yard and the berms were under a few inches of neige. Peaty was out early shovelling off the first few corners to make sure they were running ok and Josh Lewis had run a quad over them a couple of days before. JoBo helped with the final few corners later in the afternoon after he’d played cash in the attic at Steve’s.

Baybutt captures the mood

When I arrived the Genny and bulding lights were getting set up and Jack already had a massive fire going to keep us warm. All the makings of a royal nights racing. Once the rest of the lights were set up to illuminate the lower turns practice started in earnest. Despite the snow the course was actually pretty grippy once you could distinguish between snow berm and dirt berm. That track is so much fun with a couple of very challenging corners.

With 23 riders signed up racing got underway at 8 and straight in to the big guns, Will Swinden vs Chay Granby. Chay is currently trying to chase down Timmy at the top of the table and is feeling the pressure. He managed to fend of Mini Swinny… but only just! Team ‘This is Peaty’  also faced off in the first with Steve deliberating whether Joe could use the points more than him. He decided not and smashed him. Craig Evans was on fire from the off and carrying more speed out of the first right hander than anyone else by far, absolutely amazing to watch.

The Winter Racing Scene: Photo – James Irwin, Bike Garage

As our lovely timing ladies had decided to take the night off I was down at the finish line being ably assisted by a lovely cast of drop outs. First of Chris Pearson joined me and we developed the ‘rocking out’ technique for stop watch synchronisation. After being put out in the first round Baybutt and Joe Spivey also came to help out and we danced about, took the piss and jumped out of the way of crashing racers getting squirly on the finish table top. Tom England rounded out the evenings timing crew, many thanks to you all. That poor, poor whistle.

The 2nd round put an end to Chay’s points dream as Dave Camus showed him who was boss. Craig Evans also broke the 15 second mark for the first time while racing Tom Duncan who ended up over a berm. The Quarters saw Timmy out classed for once by Craig, amazing, and Loose Dog also showed me how it was done but at least he gave me a smile doing it. This setup a Peat, Evans Semi which was much hyped and anticipated. Craig had been putting down consistently faster times all night, could old school rise to the challenge? They both felt the pressure and had sloppy and slow first runs but Craig was ever so slightly ahead. In the other semi Chris Pearson showed his skills and kept his cool dispatching Loose dog who had another massive off in his second run. The same happened to Craig in his second run, misjudging the flat left and giving the win to Peaty.  This was almost as humiliating as loosing his car keys and having to call his mum to rescue him. Steve went on take the win although only on time as Chris won the second leg and Craig had to make do with 3rd.

 

One thing that struck me again about Dual was that the racing is actually only a sideshow to the main event. Socialising. There’s so much chat and banter going on all night that a lot of the runs actually go almost unwatched. With there being a lot of snow about of course there was the obligatory snow ball fight, epic by any proportions. Naturally this also spilled over to the racing and the last few rounds of racing had added flying obstacles. Brilliant.

This leaves the top of table pretty tight but Timmy is looking pretty unassailable at this stage. Can Chay pull his Socks up and catch him up or will Chris overtake him before he gets chance? Until the next time…

The Baybutt files – X marks the spot

The Baybutt files – X marks the spot

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Baybutt Smashing out the smiles at the Laps. Photo: Henry Norman

So as you may have read, our mate and Pro ‘Tog, Rich Baybutt accompanied JoBo to have their cyclocross cherries taken together. Baybutt shared his experiences with me which made me giggle… Rich takes up the tale.

It was as epic as you can imagine. So fun – so much effort! We giggled the whole way round the practice lap. The jelly babies on top of a cheese sandwich before didn’t help but as long as I kept riding, I didn’t vom. Joe’s brakes packed up 2nd lap and neither of us used more than 4 gears the whole race. You could have drowned in the puddles. Like the worst Glastonbury you’ve ever seen. I would say like the Somme but it was no way near as serious as that; although I couldn’t have ridden any harder even if people were shooting at me.

Joe had a wobble in the woods and I had an tumble on a slippery log on the last lap but otherwise we stayed upright. The tyres work really well but then again it might be because you are moving so slowly. Project “don’t finish last” was a success.

We were stood in the van afterwards, shivering, soaking, half naked, trying to get our frozen fingers do do up shoelaces without covering everything in mud, thinking “people actually move to Belgium specifically for this!?” You need it in your life at some point – it makes all kinds of other riding seem easier!

 

Winter Dual Round 4 – The Christmas Special

Winter Dual Round 4 – The Christmas Special

Sticking with the age old tradition, the last dual before Christmas was a festive affair. This consists of everyone togged up Santa outfits and all the prizes being wrapped up secret santa style. Its adds to the fun and gets us in the festive mood. This year we outdid ourselves and everyone made a real effort including our lady timers, Steph and LJ who were sporting red dresses and LJ even had matching lingerie. Amazing. Thanks as ever to both of them for keeping us on track and timing us.

Ho Ho Ho – A great sackful of Santas. Photo – John Horscroft.

I set out a slightly different course on our familiar hillside with the corners and the big traverse working the other way round. The first set of double lefts into a big right around trees got slick quick but not as much as the traverse. If you lost speed here, you were screwed as it meant a slightly uphill pedal. The remainder of the corners were fast, loose and close to your competitor, especially the last few tight ones. Great fun.

The Lovely LJ Showing off her Christmas goods. Furry Muff. Photo – John Horscroft

The Christmas spesh has also brought a few dual stalwarts out of the wardrobe which was great to see. First off I got a massive man hug from our own James Swinden who’d forgone Pilates in favour of getting sideways in the loam again. Also showing his winter Hobo Chic look for the first time this season was Stephen Peater of Ecclesfield. It was great to have them both back and in the same Santa suits they rocked last year. As well as Cheg’s, Steve brought along his mate Turtle who hadn’t raced our dual before, but more about him later. Henry Norman was also back racing for the first time this season and especially in the festive spirit as his wife Helen is expecting their first child! Congratulations to you both! (Just hope it misses the ginger gene…).

Timmy and Swinny Facing off – Not trying at all. Photo – John Horscroft

We had 28 entries overall which tested the new bye system (which means my comprehension of it). It worked out well though as the Pearsons turned up after eight with Joe Spivey in tow. As punishment they got no practise at all but unfortunately Chay didn’t get the bye he’s been promised. The first round saw a few interesting match ups as ever. JoBo got drawn again Swinny but had an epic fail in the second leg and didn’t put up a fight. Henry was paired up again Jake Monk and unfortunately failed to beat a child, something I hope he continues with into fatherhood. I was drawn against the ever quick Will Swinden. He fell badly in the second leg on the big right hander leaving me with a clear lead. Unfortunately I panicked, froze and still managed to lose. Gutted. In the second round Chegs and Swinny faced off first and it was a close one with Swinny only winning by half a second. Peaty came up against Will who resoundingly took him apart on both legs and 5 seconds overall, maybe it was the increased drag from the beard? Then came the Pearsons. They’d had a few rides down the sides of the track to figure out where it went but no actual practise. Tim had the easier draw and showed Joe Spivy who it was done. Chris was up against Chay who’d been practising for an hour and is rapid anyway. It was very close but Chris took the win in both legs and went through to the quarters. The Quarters were all tight, non more so than the brothers Pearson however Turtle, in his first dual outing, was smashing his way through the field. Watching him ride was an education, he was cornering on drifty loam like no one else, bike right over but still in control, feet up and peddling. I was impressed. The semis saw him face up again Swinny who managed to get a half second vitory and move on to the big final. Timmy brought a halt to Will’s progress and also moved through to the Big final, where Swinden senior beat him enough in the first leg to make up for a second leg loss. First time back this season and he takes the win. That boy can’t half ride a bike (and gives the best man hugs).

Get on board the Santa Train. Photo: John Horscroft

Once the poles and the lights were packed away it was on to the prize giving. With all the prizes wrapped up it made for an exciting selection process. The first few were shown off but it soon descended in to a blur of flying paper. As Turtle picked up his prize for 3rd place a definite grumble was heard from that side of the ring of people. He stepped back in to the ring, head bowed and admitted shamefully that he’d been running spikes. Swifter than the USADA with Lance he was stripped of his prize and his crys of not knowing the rules fell on deaf ears. Spikes are banned to keep things even and this was a very good demonstration of why. Tsk tsk Turtle.

Rhubard. Photo – John Horscroft

The Controversial Turtle using his unfair advantage to challenge the mighty Swinny. Photo – John Horscroft

After the 4th round the top of the Gnar points table is already hotting up. The best 7 out of the 10 rounds will decided the winner but at the moment Timmy is comfortably sitting at the top, with Chay 14 points behind in 2nd and Will Swinden sitting in 3rd.

 

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