Altura Nutcracker Series - Round 5

Nutcracker 5 1

The 5th round of the 2013 Nutcracker Altura Mountain Bike Cross Country race series took place at the weekend on the Aske Hall estate just outside Richmond in North Yorkshire. Being the hottest weekend of the year so far race conditions were destined to be tough as over 150 riders took to the start line in their respective race categories. Following some amendments to the now well-established course at Aske by Nutcracker’s resident course guru Adrian Dent, a dry, dusty, lung-busting, technical fest awaited the riders.

The first race of the day included the Under 16 Youth and Juvenile categories, as well as the fun open race for novice riders. At the time of the gun, temperatures were already well in excess of 25 degrees as Richardson’s Cycles’ rider Frazer Clacherty put in a strong first lap to build a gap between 2nd placed rider Elliot Metcalfe of the Nutcracker Racing development squad. Competition for 2nd place was toughly contested for the first lap, with Metcalfe’s teammate Tom Seaman holding his wheel. Metcalfe opened the gas on lap 2 and pulled away, reducing the gap between himself and race leader Clacherty to less than 2 minutes at the chequered flag. Clifton CC’s Scott Woolley crossed the line in 3rd, with Teesdale’s Miles Worner following just behind having passed a demoralised Tom Seaman halfway into the second lap. Only 30 seconds separated the top 3 girls, with Scott Contessa’s Sarah Lomas taking the win from Holme Valley Wheelers’ Amira Mellor. Strong performances in the Juvenile (Under 14) category saw Thomas Mein and Rhianna Stoves take the win. A disheartened Eve Lyon of the Nutcracker Racing development squad rode home to a 3rd place behind Anna Kay following an almost catastrophic mechanical incident partway through the race. In the fun category a dual between Stuart Jackson and Tim Evans saw Evans cross the line first, having pulled away from his closest rival on the 2nd lap. Meanwhile a dominating performance from Louise Hamilton saw her finishing over 1 minute in front of her closest opponent Katie McEndoo.

By the time of race 2, temperatures were in the high twenties. With many of the UK’s finest riders taking to the start line, this was sure to be a tough race. Series regular Paul Oldham took an early lead, chased by junior and Olympic hopeful Mike Thompson of the Nutcracker Racing development squad. Oldham’s closest rival in the Elite category, Tony Fawcett seemed to suffer in the heat and was soon over 2 minutes down on the leading duo of Oldham and Thompson. After 5 laps of racing Oldham crossed the line over 3 minutes ahead of Fawcett, with Thompson putting 8 minutes into his closest junior opponent James Edmond of Ferryhill Wheelers CC. Perhaps the closest competition of the day came in the Sport ladies’ race, with the top 3 riders almost head to head for the first couple of laps. A mentally demoralised Sophie Carter of Pace Cycles gave in to the heat after lap 2, with Arrow Cycles’ Vanessa Holmes bridging the gap to RAF rider Fiona Innes. A 2 lap duel saw Innes put in a last minute sprint for the line coming into the finishing section, with Holmes finishing just 4 seconds down. Meanwhile, having made the 3.5 hour journey from Wrexham to compete in the event, North Wales MTB Association’s Lucy Marshall took an easy win in the Expert category after a strong performance. A mechanical retirement in the ladies’ Elite category by Amber Southern saw Becky Preece take the chequered flag in first place.
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The biggest race of the day kicked off at 2pm, with riders aged 30 and above taking to the line. Following a flying first lap and one of the quickest lap times of the day, Kevin Smith finished 2 minutes ahead of Alan Nixon in the Master’s (30-39) category. Kate Carmichael dominated in the ladies category, finishing 1 lap up on Weldtite’s Dee Fry. In the veteran category (40-49), a similar performance by Jedi Cycle Sport’s Ian Taylor saw him finish 4 minutes ahead of team mate Andy Peace. National Champion and veteran series leader  Helen MacGregor of VC Lincoln had other commitments for the weekend, allowing Ruth Thompson to take the win from Jane Squires and Nicky Hartle respectively. As the gun went for the Grand Veteran category (50-59), National Champion Pete Harris set off hard, forcing JD Cycles’ Bruce Rollinson and teammate Stew Coates to chase hard. After 1.5 hours of racing in 30 degree temperatures, Harris crossed the line 2 minutes up on Rollinson and Coates who had fought their own battle for 2nd and 3rd place for most of the race. Local MTB legend and former National Elite Ladies’ Champion Sue Dent of the Nutcracker Racing development squad took an easy win, meanwhile Colin Murley romped home 3 minutes ahead of Cliff Featherstone in the Super Veteran category (60+) having completed 4 laps of the tough and technical course.

With the modified course riding well and receiving positive comments from all riders, organisers now hope to use this as a basis for a round of the 2014 British Cycling National XC Series, in which 500 of the country’s best riders will take part. Summing it up quite aptly, Joff Lazenby, one of the competitors from Sunday commented “those new drops were great. I also think that steep, hot, windless, granny gear, ‘I'm gonna boil in my own blood’ climb is needed on that course too”!

Looking ahead to the nearer future, the 2013 Nutcracker Altura Mountain Bike Cross Country race series concludes at the next round on Saturday 10th August. This event takes place on the savage slopes of Fremington Edge in Swaledale with organisers keen to claim the award of the course being one of, if not the most physically demanding Olympic style cross country course in the UK. “It’s just one big climb – and I mean big, followed by 1 big descent, with a sweet section of singletrack joining the 2 halves together”, comments Adrian Dent with somewhat of a sadistic grin on his face. “And don’t forget the beer – there’s lots of it afterwards at the Dales Bike Centre and camping on site so we can all celebrate the season end in style” he went on to say.

Further details about round 6 and general information about the race series is available on the Nutcracker website: