Everyone has been talking about this for months. The first round of the SPS Events Chain Reaction 2007 NPS lifted off, read the full report.
2007 hails the introduction of a completely new team of organisers for the National Points Series. Quite frankly they need no introduction being BUSA champs race organiser Steve Parr and Descent-World’s Si Paton, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 6 months you’ll have known this for ages. There was much hype about how great the NPS was going to be this year with Parr and Paton at the helm, everybody looking forward to round one so much that it was full to capacity over a month beforehand. So was it really as good as hoped? Well overall I’d say yes. I’ve just had one of the greatest weekends of racing in 6 years of racing!
So what made it so great? Well first and foremost is the track. I had heard from Ali MacLennan that it was going to be a new track and seen a few photos of a pretty steep looking hillside. Walking the course initially I was thinking “motorway”, but the further up I got, the better it was looking. Steep, reasonably technical, but we’re still not at the top yet.. Scramble up a really steep chute and look up to see what I’d seen in the photographs. Yes. This was steep. Tight. Technical. Oh and rocky. I was looking forward to practice on Saturday that’s for sure. The only concern was that in the bottom section we’d be carrying too much speed as the jumps were perhaps a little small! Come Saturday there were some quite long queues in the morning for uplift. This was due to a safety pad which was deemed to be necessary by the Commissaire, and had to be in place before practice could start. The long turnaround caused by having the uplift going directly from the finish area also meant uplift had to be reverted back to riding along the road to cut down on turnaround times, but I don’t recall having to stand around for an hour at this race, unlike last years NPS at Innerleithen, waiting for an uplift. There were 8 pairs of cattle trucks and busses taking riders to the top, and it seemed to run pretty well. First run down the top steep bit and I realised exactly how tight it was at speed on a bike – it seemed all quite reasonable when we walked it – but I couldn’t wait to get back up for another go. The rest of the track wasn’t quite as steep, but it was still steep enough, with a few tricky bits and high speed “straight down” bits into bus-stops into tight turns. The bottom part of the track was a bit flatter, but still flat out, with a kind of six pack of doubles/tables into a fast near-straight through trees, hop off a rock into another near-straight into a little hop into berm and another swoopy flat out section that came out on a fire road with three bus-stops and then a few more jumps into a flat out right hander into left-right then the usual bombhole jump Innerleithen is famous for. There was a bit of a change though, after the first right-into-left berm, gone was the really long right hand berm, in its place a flat turn immediately after the left hand berm into a weird bombhole/bermy thing with a mellow jump over the old track, crossing the road and sprint to the finish.
Seeding in the afternoon got off well, and they were in fact running around 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Josh Bryceland set fastest time of the day with a 3.13, and Helen Gaskell set fastest time of the day for the women with a 3.37. Brendan Fairclough was out with a broken hand but did manage a practice run and his seeding run, although he ended up sitting it out on race day. The rumours about no one being allowed to touch his bike are true, not even to feel how heavy it is. The atmosphere at this race was the best its felt at a National for ages. It seemed pretty relaxed, there were some good tunes playing over the p.a and Si did a great job of keeping us all informed about what was going on, particularly about when practice was closing, meaning everyone had ample opportunity to get another run in if they wanted it. The finish area was a good mix of team pits and shop stands, and there were a fair few non-riding spectators, in fact there were so many up the course (even really close to the top!) come race run I was a little taken aback, almost distracted by them! On Sunday there was again a bit of a hold up before practice could start but this was due to a couple of missing marshals. Once sorted, practice got under way without further ado, and was extended by half an hour at the other end to make up for the delay. A few nice touches included free Red Bull for the riders, Tacx turbo trainers/road bikes at the top available for anyone to use for warm ups – how cool is that! They had some at the bottom as well so you could warm down again. The living timing board showing the top three and the person on course’s time was really cool as well. In fact there were a number of things about this race which had a world cup feel to them – the number of spectators all up the track, the proper timing board showing several people’s timing being just two. There were mechanics on hand to fix your bike for you if needed as well, now you don’t get that at a world cup unless you’re on a pro team! The Athertons were all looking resplendent in their new race kit, and clearly with the results over the weekend have very quickly adapted to their new Commencal bikes. Nice graphics on their new team van as well. You couldn’t very well miss Dave Wardell and Dan Critchlow with their yellow race kit and pink lids, and on the subject of pink, Ralph Jones and Rob Breakwell riding for Dirt in lovely manly pink Troy Lee jerseys also aren’t too mistakable either. Sam Dale’s Solid bike is a lovely green colour, you can’t miss that, actually you probably could cos he’s so damn quick blink and you’ll miss him.
Race runs got underway pretty much on time and things ended up like this. In Juveniles the race for first was pretty damn tight, as only 2 hundredths of a second separated winner Lewis Buchanan and Mark Scott. Lewis Buchanan 3.32.37 Mark Scott 3.32.39 Andrew Mabon 3.40.44
Youth and Danny Hart is screaming and took 14th fastest overall.
- Danny Hart 3.12.46
- Arran Gannicott 3.19.56
- James Scott 3.20.71
Junior Ruaridh Cunningham took the win in 3.06, a time which ended up being 2nd fastest time of the day, and putting 6 seconds into Sam Dale in the process. Nice one Gump!
- Ruaridh Cunningham 3.06.05
- Sam Dale 3.12.05
- Scott Mears 3.14.71
Masters: Following his first race back from a broken back with a win at the SDA last weekend, David Tallontire made it two in a row putting nearly 4 seconds into second placed Aidan Bishop in the process.
- David Tallontire 3.22.40
- Aidan Bishop 3.26.40
- Andrew Titley 3.27.79
Veterans: Not content with just winning his cat, Paul French also walked off with 200quid courtesy of TFTunedShox for the biggest winning margin.
- Paul French 3.21.96
- Alastair MacLennan 3.35.12
- Keith Wilson 3.44.90
- Andrew Buddin 3.26.02
- Dale McMullen 3.28.72
- Tom Rodgers 3.29.52
Non-Elite Women catagory saw Aimee Dix as Miss Consistent this weekend – 4.00 in her seeding and 3.59 in her race to take 5th overall and the win in non-elite women. Nice one Aim. Monet Adams is doing well so far this year too, with some good solid results at the Midlands here’s another she can be proud of. Good one Monet!
- Aimee Dix 3.59.29
- Lynda Davies 4.23.72
- Monet Adams 4.24.63
Expert Men: Adam Brayton absolutely blew the rest of the field away. I didn’t see, but did hear about his crazy launch out of the bombhole to land sideways in the berm. Someone needs to sponsor him now!
- Adam Brayton 3.11.60
- Jon Brain 3.17.78
- Graeme Forest 3.17.98
Elite Women: Rachel Atherton is on fire, well so is Helen Gaskell for that matter. 66th overall for Rach and beat all but one of the Senior men and some of the Elites too. Helen was 89th overall. So including Tracy, British top three at Fort William this year? I reckon so.
- Rachel Atherton 3.26.04
- Helen Gaskell 3.29.98
- Fionn Griffiths 3.44.25
Elite Men: Peaty wasn’t having Bryceland show him up twice in a row and took the win in Elite with 3.04, and fastest time of the day.
- Steve Peat 3.04.12
- Gee Atherton 3.06.90
- Marc Beaumont 3.07.51
- Matt Simmonds 3.08.29
- Dan Atherton 3.08.47
So that’s it. I reckon that’s the best race I’ve been to in 7 years of racing in the UK, even despite the fact my own run wasn’t superb. There were some problems, but they were sorted and taken as an overall event, you can’t fault it. If this is a mark of things to come, the National series is now definitely the pinnacle of British racing. Round 2 at Ae is already full with Greg Minaar, Nathan Rennie and Matti Lehikonen confirmed and if you want to race any of the others get your snap on cos they're filling up fast – www.npsdh.com. Swing by the SDH Pit tent at Round 2.
Full results are at http://www.mikrotime.com/mtb/nps2007/inner07.html
Report: Emily Horridge – www.emilyhorridge.com
Pics: Dave Lane – www.fastlanephotography.co.uk – Official SDH Pap…