Round four of Midweek MTB Madness was hosted by Adrian Watts of Rossendale RC and raced off at Lee Quarry in Bacup, an old familiar venue for many an MTBer from both sides of the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. This venue is the most rugged in the series and by its nature the quarry is rocky, twisty and turny with some quite spectacular ascents and descents. It seems to have its own microclimate that is the opposite of elsewhere in the locale and it also seems to contain the North Wests number one rendezvous spot for the midge (Midgetus Bastardicus)
In the mens event the dominant pairing from the last round at Beacon Country Park, Tom Bell and Will Lewis, were both absent but another pair of old adversaries in Giles Drake and Chris Lever slipped comfortably into their tread marks to provide the upfront action.
From the gun Drake and Lever grabbed a healthy lead over the rest of the field. I first shot them ascending a particularly rocky part of the course and there was nothing to choose between them. Third place and beyond were already over half a minute behind so barring mechanicals (a distinct possibility on this challenging track) this was definitely a two horse race.
Onto lap two and the pair went past me still neck and neck with the field now over a minute back. Tellingly though as they were going out of sight Lever was heard to shout to Drake that “you’re on your own now, I’m done”. That’s when the elastic snapped. And so it was that this situation remained for the rest of the race and although the race for the minor positions was more nip and tuck the status quo between Drake and Lever was maintained to the end with Drake crossing the line comfortably ahead of Lever. Third place was taken by Joseph Peatfield.
Drake has had a few strong challengers in this series but his endurance levels seem to be a class above the others, meaning that he will generally win a war of attrition. He was pushed very close at Chorlton by emerging star Will Lewis but the wily old dog just nicked it on the line. Drake is an outstanding athlete and once again proved that he is the regions dominant force in this form of racing
The women’s race proved a much closer affair. Becky Preece had returned from her holiday and ended up in a neck and neck duel with one of the stars of the series, Alison Rushton. Although Preece led for the majority of the race she never fully shook Rushtons shadow off. In the closing laps Preece appeared to slow quite visibly and Rushton rapidly closed the gap to just a few seconds. As the light began to fade and the weather closed in a real battle for top honours was playing out.
Onto the penultimate lap and Rushton took the lead for the first time and seemed to have it in the bag. Preece, grimacing, was not going down without a fight however. And so it was that as the rain started Preece emerged out of the gloom to take the win just a handful of seconds ahead of her rival.
Becky explained afterwards that she had started to blow up in the last few laps and had to pace her effort. Alison had erred and put a foot down on the last lap and this was all that Becky needed to snatch back the lead and hold it to the line. Great credit to both women for an excellent performance . Series stalwart Maggie McPhillips put in another great effort to take the final podium spot
The Lee Quarry round was originally intended to be the series finale. However Dave Harrison over at Beacon Country Park has managed to squeeze in another round on August 21st. That’s Sunday August 21st. Midweek on the weekend.
2107, 2108, 2109……Just counting my midge bites. Anybody else get nipped at the quarry or am I just tastier than you lot?