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British University College Sports Mountain Bike Championships
by Jim Norton on 14th April 2009
Jim Norton packed his Dairylea Dunkers and headed off to bask in the sun at the UK Bike Park in Dorset, for the BUCS annual student drinking and MTB championships.
British University & College Sports Mountain Bike Championships
21&22nd March 2009
Words : www.james-norton.com
Photos : www.joolzedymond.com
The annual student MTB championships, to some, doesn't evoke the imagery of lean, athletic or hardened racers, though surprisingly the event always turns out a few good riders, and some healthy competition. It's a bit like a mini national, with a fair few national standard racers turning up and going for gold, but normally on a much more meagre budget harking back to the student halls. A worryingly large amount of Dairylea dunkers were seen to be consumed, along with more obvious classics like value beans, Wotsits and bacon. To put the level of preparation some riders put into this event, and life in general, one of our Hallam University riders managed to forget a plate, and instead used a hollowed out bread loaf as a bowl; there is a reason some of this lot go to university, and also clearly a reason why they haven't yet been given positions of responsibility..
This years venue was the UK Bike Park, in Dorset, and a big thanks go out to the owners of the site, and the organising group of Paddy from BUCS cycling, and the Extreme Medics. They had laid on a huge beer tent, toilets, a couple of shops with demo bikes (one being the wonderful Col of MTB-Direct showing off the shiny new Solid Misson 7, give them a call on 01457 864 606 to find out more!), and transformed their reception building into a canteen stocked with all the food a budding racer or student could require for a weekends racing. And drinking. Obviously...
Monster Energy made clear that there 2008 presence at MTB events wasn't a one off, keeping many a student topped up with caffeine and 400% RDA of vitamin B12 all weekend, and a big marque providing some shelter from the sun. That's right, I said sun. This year was the first students championships event in my memory (and I've done a few... though not as many as a certain Manchester Uni rider), where the temperatures in the day at least were in the positives, with sunshine and a bit of a cold breeze, but generally amazing weather for a late March weekend, and a huge improvement on last years event at Cwmcarn, where tents were destroyed in the wind and everyone spent three days soaked to the skin.
Friday was Downhill practise, and the track was generally liked by all 300 entries, a little short, but making good use of the hill, with a few difficult sections and good flow when it all came together. It started with a quick sprint off the 4x start ramp, over a drop into a fast long left berm and over a road gap. This was the most difficult part of the track, as the landing was littered with pointy rocks, and the landing possible landing areas were only as long as a bike, and as wide as your pedals. Slot through the rocks and chuck an anchor out back to haul off some speed into a right hander, and between two trees.
Most of the track from here to 3/4 of the way down was pretty similar, which made it difficult to remember what came next, especially to a hung over student. Roots, and slippery chalk was the order of the day, with endless left and right corners weaving the way down the hill making the most of the gradient; carrying speed out of corners and the odd sneaky pedal was the best way to guarantee a good time. The bottom 1/4 was made up of berms and jumps, and a strong pedal and a couple of inside lines ignoring the berms for those in the know.
To be honest, the uplift was more scary than the track, with an assortment of ex-Belgian army vehicles rushing you up the hill, some looking like they had seen service in WW2. Great big low ratio gearboxes that required the vehicle to be moving when changing gear; even if that movement is backwards towards a cliff.., three gear levers and 6 wheel drive, as well as a nippy tracked something or other provided pretty speedy uplift, and the bike trailers were spot on, keeping the bikes separate and unscathed. Apparently, the big 6 wheel drive numbers are only £3000, no idea of the road tax or mpg though, sorry...
Come race time a few outfits came out, Buzz Lightyear, muscle men, tweed jackets and a pink skin suit are just some, though the exact effects of these different costumes on performance are yet to be analysed; no doubt it will form the basis on someone's dissertation.
A good crowd had gathered at all the exciting bits of the track to cheer the riders on, and this helped some push a little harder come their runs. One little mistake is all it took to plummet through the rankings on such a short track, with only 10 seconds separating 15th to 100th places. Richard Thomas did well to place highly on his first run after being seeded with much slower riders, and having to overtake 2 other riders in his run!
Defending champ Chris Hutchens didn't manage to retain his crown after snapping his chain on his first run metres from the start, and not quite getting the pace on his second. My first run didn't go too well, ending up off track the wrong side of a tree, and a second conservative run left me 20th, my worst result for a few years, but hey, there's always next year; the wonders of being a part time student on a very long course!
Male DH Champs
1. Richard Thomas 1:23.70 Bath
2. Jack Reading 1.24.76 Manchester
3. Will Soffe 1.26.46 Swansea
16. Chris Pearson 1:33.15 Sheffield Hallam
18. Rauri Hallam 1:34.03 Sheffield
25. James Norton 1:35.03 urbanAir/Sheffield Hallam
31. Tom Whitehead 1:35.65 Sheffield Hallam
41. Edd Wright 1:36.87 Sheffield
45. Frank Fitzpatrick 1:37.35 Sheffield
54. Ed Thomsett 1:38.55 Sheffield
84. Lee Hawden 1:41.97 Sheffield Hallam
89. Mike Jolley 1:42.98 Sheffield
98. Paul Commin 1:43.53 Sheffield
107. Tom Rogers 1:43.98 Sheffield Hallam
135. Dale Hennessy 1:48.27 Sheffield
142. Simon Crossley 1:49.56 Sheffield
171. Shaun Smith 1:54.66 Sheffield Hallam
199. Pip Trenholme 1:59.62 Sheffield
235. Henry Marsh 2:11.73 Sheffield
244. Jez Eaton 2:19.25 Sheffield Hallam Alumni
262. Chris Keene 2:38.55 Sheffield
284. Katie Hegmann 4:32.81 Sheffield
Male DH Champs Team
1. Manchester 4.33.98
2. Bristol 4.35.38
3. Bath 4.35.69
4. Heriot Watt 4.40.05
5. Cardiff 4.40.26
6. Edinburgh 4.42.32
7. Sheffield Hallam 4.43.83
8. Loughborough 4.46.41
Female DH Champ
1. Kerry Wigglesworth 1:58.10 Chester
2. Briony Croft 2:08.97 Southampton
3. Meggie Bichard 2:12.99 Bristol
Female DH Champs Team
3. Bristol B team
After the excitement of the Downhill, the drinking was delayed a little longer (for some), as their was an unofficial students 4X race organised for those budding racers. After a bit of a palaver getting the NPS 4x gate up and running (a 240V plug pin snapped off the air compressor, causing a mad dash to steal a new plug head and a bit of hurried re-wiring..), racing commenced.
There was a good number of entries, 59 in fact, ranging from the local 4X boys turning up in race kit and clipped in, to XC riders who had never jumped or done a gate start in their life, but with a £100 winner takes all prize up for grabs, everyone came out of the woodwork and onto the gate Surprising what a cash incentive will make students do. Sadly, due to a lack of flood lights, and one giving up before we’d even started, the race was reduced to a 60m sprint over three jumps, which resulted in some very tight racing, and a couple of good crashes.
I know who won, but finishing positions after that were lost on me, and I imagine everyone else; did anyone take note? I think I took 5th after a shocking gate and a bar bump in the semi, and local boy and Elite 4x rider Steve Atkins of the again local Torico bike shop took the £100 and ran; being a non student did he fear a lynching by those with the student debt?
1. Steve Atkins, Torico Bikes
Saturday night, post 4X, most people headed to the beer tent, where they were showing a few biking films on a projector, probably in an attempt to calm us all down, and keep us off the heavy drinking for as long as possible. Later on a few of the Hallam lot got leery on some cheap Dorset scrumpy, and some games of rowdy British bulldogs ensued, but in the end no one got hurt, and all that happened as far as I saw was some sausage meat got thrown at our hire van. Nothing got set on fire, no highly explosive materials were thrown on fires, and no one stripped naked and tried to run through any fires. Pretty sensible night on most parts!
Sunday at BUCS is a day of rest for many, and a day of pain for others, with the sport and championship XC races. With 183 entries to the sport xc race, some in fancy dress and some in lycra who should really be in the championships race, things started early at 10am, and three laps of the 6 mile course, with once again the sun shining, and causing a few people to get a bit of a sweat on. We did our best at Hallam University to help one of our riders cope with the energy sapping heat, by emptying several gallons of water onto his head from a camp shower, which was spotted by the commentator, who rightly questioned the showers dubious name.
A energy sapping single track start to the lap soon spreads out the field, up a fire road climb and up the 4X course, down 'Berm Bandit ' (dual slalom) and the downhill runs 'Wiggly Woo' and 'B.T.N.E', along the flat uplift link trail, and then following the very steep uplift track back to the start.
Thanks to a rather fast sport rider (sandbagger anyone?), the championship riders were told to do 6 laps, so 36 miles! The championship race was for those that consider themselves fighting fit and a little more serious about racing, and those who tried to get a good nights sleep the previous night, myself included who was in bed by 11pm.
Those not racing XC were either marshalling or cheering, some drunk, others more drunk. Most of the cheering and banter was pretty light hearted, but some was pretty close to overstepping the mark. Booing girls for not riding steep technical root sections with their seats up round their armpits after an hour and a half of racing in the heat was perhaps a little too far at times, though a certain male rider got his own back when sprayed with water by emptying his bottle on the offender! A good bit of banter and atmosphere always makes for a better race.
Hallam University did well in the championship race, with Rob 'the real deal' Friel piloting his shiny new KTM to 3rd place, and Emily Benham bringing home 5th for the girls. We were even leading the team race for the first couple of laps, until sadly I faded on lap 4, then cramped-up and was left standing for ten minutes on lap 5. Still we came in 5th overall in the team rankings, and added this to our 7th place in the DH rankings, setting off the highly anticipated annual varsity competition between Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield universities off to a good start, in favour of ourselves! Note: we eventually won the DH, XC, BMX and TT races, a bit of whitewash!
Male XC Champs (6laps)
1. David Lee Williams Glamorgan 1h43:00.92
2. Hamish Batchelor Durham 1h46:01.67
3. Rob Friel KTM/Sheffield Hallam 1h47:14.40
20. Andy Douglas Sheffield
24. Eoin Elliot Sheffield
30. James Norton urbanAir/Sheffield Hallam
33. Chris Edwards Sheffield Hallam
44. Mike Guilford Sheffield
Female XC champs (3 laps)
1. Meggie Bichard Bristol 1h11:16.71
2. Rachel Fenton Cambridge 1h17:51.11
3. Jessica Roberts Loughborough 1h19:33.31
4. Briony Croft Southampton 1h26:47.04
5. Emily Benham Craft/Sheffield Hallam 1h28:31.66
10. Katie Hegmann Sheffield 1h43:35.95
Male XC Champs Team
Female XC Champs Team
All in all, a good weekends racing, enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to Rich at www.urbanair.co.uk and his new shop on the High Street, Ilkeston near Nottingham (check it out!), all at www.foxhead.com, Col at www.mtb-direct.co.uk, Dipa at www.vitabiotics.com/wellman , and Adam at www.biketart.com - yes, that was a blatant sponsorship plug, and what of it; us students have got to get our parts from somewhere cheap! Roll on next year!
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