Report by Gareth McKee.
Following a solid showing a few weeks back at Sherwood Pines in Nottingham, James Curry and I traveled over to the second round of the British XC National Points Series at Newnham Park in Devon to represent Cycling Ulster & Banbridge CC. We arrived on Friday and the priority was to get rested up and ready for practice on Saturday. When we arrived at the race HQ on Saturday and completed a lap of the course it was clear to see that it would be completely different to round 1 – there were two main climbs on the course which were super steep with gradients of up to 17%, but what goes up must come down and the down hills where well worth it. There was a great mix of technical features with lots of different line choices and steep descents.
Come race day the team where in good spirits about the race after a good warm up and a few practice starts. It was the Elite men off first with me starting in 28th place on the grid. I didn’t waste any time getting to the front of the race, going round the outside on the first corner and taking the lead into first technical section. This clear ground avoided the bottle neck effect, however once the top riders came to the hill they were able to get a bit of a gap. After a tough first lap I’d settled into a good rhythm in the top 10 but with a lot of big names getting caught up in the start it was going to be tough to hold this position. Gradually riders were starting to get past but with a long six lap race it was all about pacing it correctly, in the last two laps I was able to pick up a few more places and had a sprint finish for 16th position – I had to settle for 17th which was an improvement on 21st at round 1.
James Curry, riding for the Cycling Ulster team but sporting his Irish National Champions jersey, was next off in the Junior race. After a fantastic start to the series in round 1 ,finishing 6th meaning he was on the front row of the grid, James had a great start going into the first technical section in third position. James lost a few places in the first lap however, dropping him out of top 10 going into the second lap, he never gave up though and kept a good pace for the next few laps slowly picking riders off and as the rest of the field started to tire on the final lap. James dug deep setting his fastest lap on his last lap, moving him back into the top 10 eventually finishing 9th. This was a great start to the series with two top 10 results setting James up for strong overall series position. The next round is in Wales at Forest Fields on the 16th of May.