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.