Midweek MTB Madness came around for the third time this season last Thursday , the latest venue being Beacon Country Park near Upholland. Beacon park is set within 300 acres of countryside with a great variety of terrain much of which was brought into play for this event. Conditions were quite heavy, the area having suffered from more than its fair share of warm British rain recently and the course, familiar to many competitors who contest the NWCCA series over the Winter, proved quite challenging.
The sun actually made a brief appearance as racing got underway, although this was soon pushed aside by a more familiar grey blanket which successfully dulled the natural light (photographers notice these things). An enthusiastic field of off roaders paid little heed to the adversities of the elements however. After all there aren’t many of this type of good quality races going on in the middle of the week (hey that must be where they get some of the title from…) and the North West is particularly blessed to have a group of people dedicated to providing these well organised and challenging events throughout the Summer.
With the victors from the previous round, Giles Drake and Becky Preece absent without leave, the results were bound to have an air of unpredictability and the men’s favourite based on current form was now Will Lewis. He wasn’t going to have it all his own way however as the field included Yorkshire based pro Tom Bell, fresh from the MTB Marathon worlds in France and making his first appearance of the season on the madness stage.
The womens field was short on numbers but not on talent. Martha Gill and Alison Rushton would battle for top honours here but more of this later.
Back to the mens and Bell and Lewis got off to a flyer, distancing the rest of the field from the off. This was going to be good!
Lewis’s slight frame and boyish appearance belies his natural athleticism and on his day he is a match for anyone. And so where Lewis had pushed Giles Drake previously Bell was getting the same treatment here. Lets get all three racing together for the next round. It would make great tv!
As the race progressed the pair widened the gap back to the main field headed by Dave Powell and Christian Smith but these were always going to be racing for the final podium spot barring accidents. And so it was after an hour of nip and tuck racing including a tactical go slow towards the end the two charged for the line resulting in Bell nipping away from his younger rival to claim the honours. Lewis again had to be content with the runner up spot with Powell grabbing third.
Back to the women and a similar battle was shaping up between Martha Gill and Alison Rushton until mysteriously, on the penultimate lap, Gill seemed to fall away, allowing Maggie McPhillips to get between them. Gill fought back on the last lap to overtake McPhillips but Rushton wasn’t going to be reeled in. She crossed the line exhausted but satisfied with her efforts.
In the post race interviews, conducted by series lynchpin and (for this event) race commentator with a helmet on, Karen Long, Lewis declared this the best course of the series and despite being beaten enjoyed the event immensely.
Bell too enjoyed the racing after his DNF at the MTB Marathon Worlds and we look forward to seeing his return and maybe that triple header with Lewis and Drake.
The next round in the series is at Lee Quarry, Rossendale. This is another challenging venue and should make for great racing. Ideal scenario is a Lewis/Bell/Drake showdown.