23 Aug 2013

RESULT: Altura Nutcracker XC Round 6 - Dales Bike Centre, Swaledale

Saturday 10th August saw 5 RAF riders compete in the final round of the Altura Nutcracker XC Series.  This was touted as a challenging finale to what has been a well organised series racing on some of Yorkshires toughest terrain.  The event was based out of the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, Swaledale none of the RAF riders knew what to expect having never ridden at the venue before.  Dales Bike Centre in contrast to many trail centres serves not to service a network of sanitised man-made trails but as a jumping off point into the Dales stunning natural terrain.

Unusually the participants would gather at the bike centre before completing a neutralised transition to the starting grid.  During the pre-ride it turned out that this neutralised section comprised a severely steep 10 minute road climb before popping out onto the hillside where the start was.  The course was as promised very tough, tight rocky singletrack, steep climbs, exposed tracks with strong headwinds and steep technical descents.  Interrogation of the Garmin following the pre-ride revealed a 6km lap with 250m of climbing, it quickly became apparent that consistency and pacing would be key as would careful line choice to avoid having mechanical problems.

The RAF Riders competing were Mick Hardcastle (Vet), Mitch Webster (Sport Male), Fie Innes (Sport Female), Lou Robins (Expert Female) and Martin Pearson (Expert Male).  Russ Holman though injured turned up to provide support by handing out bottles, which on a deceptively hot day proved a lifesaver!

First on course were the Elite and Expert riders, although unsure what to expect following return from Afghanistan Martin got a good start and unusually made steady progress through the groups of riders ahead on the first climb.  Maybe no alcohol, average food and a spinning bike with no power/HR measurement is the way forward!  Despite going out pretty hard on the first 2 laps he put in a consistent performance over the 4 lap race distance and was somewhat surprised to find that he had won the Expert Male category on crossing the finishing line!  

Next to start were the Sport and Vet categories where Mitch and Mick represented the RAF interests.  Mitch continues to improve in his first season racing and his consistent results were reflected in his strong series position.  The tough course required pacing and Mitch rode a strong race to finish 17th and secured 12th place in the series.  Without a doubt though Mitch was the winner of the day when it came to the post race charity raffle, taking home no less than 3 prizes!  Mick had a few technical issues throughout the race losing his only water bottle on the first lap, then tearing a tyre on the first lap which required a lengthy repair and a tentative final lap, despite this he still achieved 13th place... unlucky for some?

Probably the most hotly contested race of the day was the womens race, with all categories racing together there were a number of races within races.  Fie was racing against fierce rival Vanessa Holmes in the sport category, with the winner not only taking the race but the overall series victory.  Although the only expert rider racing Lou Robins would also become involved in this battle with the 3 girls racing together for much of the race.  In the end Vanessa's climbing ability would prove decisive with neither of the RAF girls able to stay with her.  Fie took 2nd in Sport and 2nd in the overall series a great result in her first season of proper competition especially given she is the number 1 ranked Sport rider nationally and won the National XC series this year.  

Lou came home just ahead of Fie to win [sic] the Expert category, and took part in probably the most comedy podium of the day!

Series sponsor Altura provided the generous prizes in the way of clothing vouchers and the Cafe at the Dales Bike Centre provided an array of delicious cakes.  At the end of the series it is worth saying a big thanks to all of those who made the race and series possible, its superbly organised with brilliant courses and has well supported by both sponsors and riders.  I'm sure the RAF will have a continued presence at the series next year, hopefully on the podium!


Expert Male
Martin Pearson 1st

Expert Female
Lou Robins 1st

Sport Female
Fie Innes 2nd

Mick Hardcastle 13th

Sport Male
Mitch Webster 17th