The mountain bike season started in tough fashion on Sunday (25th February), with Round 1 of the Mud, Sweat and Gears Eastern Region MTB Series taking place on the 2012 Olympic Games course at Hadleigh Farm, Essex.
Read how WVCC rider Louis Jakobson got on, in his own words, in an excellent write-up…
A 6am start was needed to ensure we reached Hadleigh with sufficient time to sign on, do a warm up lap of the course, and guzzle down two energy gels.
The cold, Siberian winds added to the already challenging course, which consisted over five hundred feet of ascent per lap. However, whilst the course had easily enough climbing, it lacked many technical features, with just two A/B splits, something which suited my strengths. The course began with a sharp drop through the park, travelling down the multiple switch-back berms of the early section of the lap. Next, the course opened out into two parallel single-track paths; it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t quickest to stick to either path, faster in fact to switch between the lanes. After that, the course descended further towards the Thames Estuary, with a lengthy single-track loop.
The course, now almost half way through, climbed for half a kilometre through a grassy field, then proceeded to climb, on the trails adjacent to the legendary ‘Snake Hill.’ A further descent down the Oak Tree Drop, followed by another ascent, led to another series of downhill, switch-back berms. Looping back towards the start arena, the course tackled the first A line; an uphill rock garden. During practice, I only saw a couple of people who were able to ride this feature, and sadly, I wasn’t one of them, so during the race, I had to ride the B line instead. The final section of the lap consisted of an uphill, rocky blast, then a steep, drop-off filled descent – which was the final A line – to the finish line.
I was gridded on the front row for the race, which came as a surprise, as the gridding was based on last year’s series standings, and I only did three races (one of which I won, however). The start was a good one for me, as I managed to work my way up to second after a clean getaway. I stayed on the wheel of first place (Sam Trotter) until the grassy ascent back up from the estuary, where I attacked and pulled a significant gap back. I crossed under the finishing gantry, for the first time out of four, with a 7 second gap back to ex-National Road Champion, Joe Kiely. However, as I began the first descent of the second lap, the loose nature of the woodland berms caught me out, as the rear end of my bike slipped away from me and I fell. I quickly recovered and managed to hook onto the back of Kiely’s rear wheel, however, and attacked once again up the grassy hill later in that lap. The gap between Kiely and I ebbed and flowed throughout the race, as I increased the gap on the steep climbs and downhills, whereas Kiely gained time back on me on the uphill A line rock garden and through the twisty single-track sections. I had a scare on lap 3, when I fell off again, but managed to just about retain my lead, and by the end, had forged a 23 second gap to Kiely to cross the line in first.
A very tough race to start the series, due to the weather conditions and the climbing involved on the course, but I am delighted to start the season in the best possible way! As this is the first MTB race of the season in the whole country, I believe that I’ll be ranked number 1 in the UK (!!!) – even if only for a couple of weeks!
Well done Louis on such a fantastic result and amazing start to the season!
Other Welland Valley participants included: Sarah Vigrow (2nd Open Female) and Jake Jakobson (25th Open Male).