Well after a week of weather watching, against all odds Sunday 18th March dawned sunny if a little chilly!
Round 1 held at Checkingdon was the first "real" race of the season the opening round of the Southern xc series attracts a lot of the big guns to start accruing points towards the overall championships.
With heavy rain in the preceding days the course was slick to say the least on the obligatory practise lap. Tyre choice was the hot hot topic of conversation while most chose the run what you brung option.
The course was a fun mix of slippery rooty single track with a lot of loose flints mixed in the later would eventually claim a victim in the shape of Steve Moors who flatted on lap 2 and under pressure struggled to fix it costing valuable time, time that would later cost him the win! However positives can be taken and barring a mechanical mishap his form this season is his best ever and he must be amongst the favourites for a striped National champ’s jersey in the grand vets category later in the year.
Hail on the start line did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the gathered riders in the veteran’s race as they awaited the gun.
With no major climbs on the course this race was not about brute force, rather smooth lines and limiting mistakes easily made on such an unpredictable surface. Race craft and experience was paramount with Mark Chadbourne choosing to lead from the front from the gun in the veterans class, while he had other riders in tow he was never passed and took the win in a sprint for the line against Bee line cycles rider Lewis King. Mark is in great form also this year after a solid winter training but was quick to sing the praises of his new Scott Scale 29er offering grip and speed where needed.
Also in the vet category was Jon who also aboard a 29er this time a Super Fly from Trek. Having moved up to the ever green and exceptionally competitive field had to start from the rear of the grid as rankings are not carried over when a rider changes category, so having to overcome all riders in front worked hard to move up early settling in to a rhythm inside the top 10 and eventually finishing in 8th out of a field just shy of 50 riders.
Ro Tilley finished 13th in the same category, having just returned from 2 weeks training in the Canaries may have found the just above freezing temps and muddy conditions a bit of a shock to the system. However wife Carol aboard a Scott Scale this time with the more conventional 26" wheel size took her first win of the year in the grand vet female category.
Part time racer Lloyd made the trip to Checkingdon to kick off his race season also aboard a 29er, a Whyte this time and posted an 8th place in the junior category.
With Jon moving over to the veterans category masters representation is left to Stuart who got a flyer off the start and led the race for the first 2 laps, feeling the effects of his earlier efforts faded a little but after an incident free race posted a very respectable 6th in one of the most hotly contested categories.
Last but not least Liz Gilmore took 2nd in master females.
So to recap:
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