Report by Jenn Hopkins…
Race organisers Brownbacks were playing a risky game staging round 2 of the Hope Race Series on a Bank Holiday Monday but the Bacup micro-climate played into their favour this time around.
Whilst the surrounding valleys were shrouded in mist and drizzle, riders had only grey skies and a stiff breeze to contend with as they made their way round the revised course.
With a shorter lap than Round 1, the racing was fast and furious, with the fastest Racers lapping well under thirteen minutes and even the Have-a-go Heroes getting multiple chances to tackle the Lee Quarry’s demanding trails.
After the customary practise lap and ensuing freezing wait on a freezing start line, the Racers sped off up the Tramway climb to disappear amongst the spoil heaps and mine workings, where a spot of cyclocross action was called for as a short but rhythm sapping off-piste section saw many fumbling gears.
When the field reappeared on the well-trodden red route, the distinctive orange Mountain Trax kit of Calum Chamberlain (Mountain Trax/Torq) was opening a gap on the chasing group behind.
Unfortunately Chamberlain was to puncture further on in the lap, leaving the way clear for Niall Frost (Team Milton Keynes) to cruise to his second victory of the series, looking apparently untouchable ahead of Tom Bell and Patrick Goodwin.
Julie Barrett (Ride On) was again on her own in the women’s Racer category and like many, didn’t seem to be appreciating the grey day, completing her five laps bundled up in a waterproof and hoping for a warmer day out next time around.
The women’s Weekend Warrior class saw an increased turn out, with first time XC racer Amy Baron-Hall (Horwich CC) narrowly taking the win from Molly Whittall (White Nancy Boys) after a six lap chase.
Unlucky Whittall snapped her seatpost in a final-minutes tumble and crossed the finishing line after Barron-Hall carrying her redundant saddle and some expensive Easton shrapnel between her teeth!
The top step of the 49-rider strong men’s Weekend Warrior category was revisited by Round 1 winner Craig Holden, with Tom Stockhill (Richardsons CC) and James Dyson (Pedal Sport CC) putting up a good battle behind him for second and third place.
Amy Baron-Hall also took the singlespeed win, ahead of Weekend Warrior Simon Fox (Darwen Dashers/IFB), both receiving suitably eclectic medals from one-speed advocate Charlie The Bikemonger.
With more new faces in the Have-a-go Heroes category, it’s clear that Brownbacks’ aim to encourage participation at both ends of the speed spectrum is proving successful and there were big smiles all round as podium placers Robert Ormrod, Carlton Bradley and John Begley received their prizes at the presentation ceremony, with lone lady Have-a-go Hero Helen Hyder (MTC) rounding out the racing for Round 2.
Round 3, on Sunday 17th May, will see more course changes, with many racers hoping that they’ll be treated to the glorious singletrack finale of The Woods that was absent this time, as well as plenty more of the technical challenges and friendly atmosphere that’s helping the Hope Race Series, Brownbacks and Lee Quarry to offer the best grassroots racing in the North.