The re-launch of the great Britain Cross Country series got off to a steady start at Westwood last Sunday around the longest course ever laid out at the venue.
Saturday saw a Youth race followed by a practice day while Sunday hosted the usual Sportsman, Novice Vets B and Youth B classes in the morning and Expert Clubman, Youth A and Vets A in the afternoon.
Saturday’s Youth race was good fun and provided some great racing between Cory Cookland, Doug Lote and and John Stanley.
Cory took the lead from the start and was in total command until on lap 6 he had an argument with a tree that slowed him down and needed a little pit repair giving the lead to Doug Lote for the next couple of laps. Cory managed to get back past him on the last but one lap taking the flag with about a 30 second lead from John Stanley with Lote eventually taking third. A great little battle between the first three throughout the race.
Sundays competitors had quite a challenge. Taking in virtually every available section and then some the lap was over 11 minutes for the best of the morning racers while the afternoon fast lads cut it to just over 9 minutes.
From open field sections to streambeds, ravines to quarrys with plenty of twisty woodland in between the tight and technical nature of the track gave riders no respite as the course cut up in places, especially around the water sections.
Saul Hirst and Richard Moorhouse contested the first adults race, Hirst in the Sportsman class and Moorhouse in the Youth B, with both riders clocking 10 laps as Hirst took the win with Moorhouse second and a terrific ride by the ever-improving Nick Whitehead who took third overall and second in Sportsman. Ben Martindale in fourth overall grabbed the final podium place in the Sportsman class.
Moorhouse took the Youth B win ahead of Toby Flack and Adam James with Flack managing to pull over a three-minute lead to be safe in second spot at the end of two hours of racing.
Shaun James rode a solid race to take the Vets B win ahead of Simon Nutter and Tony Gunn, all three posting nine laps. Simon Tate headed the Novice ranks by keeping over two and a half minutes between himself and second placed Sarah Thomas as Garry Peacock took third.
The afternoon race was interesting. In the Expert ranks an on-form Sam Winterburn had serious competition from Lee Sealey, Harry Edmondson, Lee Sampson, Derek Bawn and Ben Murphy who took the plunge and chose to race for once rather than pose in the paddock and pits. Murf had a terrific race and has decided to try it more often!
Straight off the start Winterburn had control and pulled a considerable gap, leading the two and a half hour race until the halfway point where Sealey suddenly mounted his challenge.
The lead switched between the two as the finish approached with Winterburn over a minute ahead at one point as Sealey pitted then charged to catch him and pull a minutes gap in the space of two laps. By the end of the race he was nearly two minutes clear and took a well deserved win. Winterburn was disappointed with second after such a great first half ride but Ben Murphy showed he still has what it takes by holding third place throughout the race.
Youth A class rider George Yardley worked his way to 10th overall at one point, a cracking achievement, but slipped to 12th overall by the end of the race although he won his class and was seven minutes clear of his closest Youth A rival James Palmer in second spot. Cole Cookland had an impressive ride to take third in class.
Ryan Armitage was in great form as he took the Clubman class win by nearlt two minutes over Vinnie Mullen in second spot. Mullen has managed to keep Tommy Grimmer at bay as the finish approached and has a minute and a half gap as the chequered flag was waived.
Chris Wagstaff took the Vets A win by nearly three minutes over John Bradford, the pair matching each other lap for lap, as David Williams took third in class a lap down on the leading pair.
Not the biggest entry for a GBXC but one that will see the series gradually build back to its former glory over the coming seasons. Westwood was in excellent shape and the course was a cracker.
Well done Fast Eddy and his team.