With the weather leading up to the event everything but pleasant, riders could of been forgiven for expecting the worst come race day. But race organizers Run & Ride had promised sunshine, blue skies and a great days riding for race day and they didn't disappoint. With the sun out, plenty of people had decided to come along knowing that Cannock always offered quality racing. The course as expected was described by one competitor as a return to "quality old school mountain biking". Lots of twisty, rooty single track, lung busting climbs and the odd fire-road to recover on ready for the next section. With the weather sorted, a great course and support from sponsors Accelerade, Mt Zoom and Juice Lubes all was set for a fantastic day.
With a shuffle of the categories meaning riders entered on their ability rather than age there was a different look to the riders taking the start line in the main Pro Elite / Racing Snakes. In the men's event we saw Vets / Grand Vets / Sports / Juniors and Elite riders all lining up together. Dan Fleeman (Cycle Shack / Forme Coaching) and Nikki Harris (Fidea Cycling Team) took convincing wins in their respective group. Nikki clearly in great form ahead of the upcoming Cyclo Cross season riding up to 4th overall in the men's group. Matt Gee (Metaltek - Scott) put a first lap collision with Alex Welburn (Cycle Shack / Forme Coaching) behind him to take 2nd place with Ant White (Mt Zoom / Cannondale) pretty much solo from the gun taking 3rd. In the ladies (picture below), Becky Preece (Red Rode Olympic CC) followed Nikki Harris (Fidea) home in 2nd with local rider Emma Birtles (Lichfield City CC) in 3rd.
Proving that local knowledge of the trails can help the top 4 in the Enthusiast category all live near Cannock Chase and use the areas trails for training. Winning the battle between the local guys and in the category was Nick Popham (Cycle Shack / Forme Coaching) who lead from start to finish, completing 4 laps in just over 1hr 15minutes. Having got caught napping at the start Matt Greensill (Rapid Racer Products) pushed hard slowly reducing the gap to Nick but in the end it wasn't to be and he had to settle for 2nd. Riding in his second event of the day was Will Cheaney (Cycle Shack / Forme Coaching), clearly tiring towards the end Will just about managed to hold off the fast finishing John Buchan (Lichfield City CC). The ladies set off just after the men's but completed 1 lap less of the tough 3.5mile course. Paige Coope (Moda Bike Magic team) decided to step up a category for extra training, a decision that clearly paid off as she took the 1st of two wins for the Moda - Bike Magic team. Terresa Billington battled her way around the course to take 2nd place with Ailsa Curtis finishing 3rd in her first ever MTB race.
The biggest category of the day was the Fun / First Timers. Setting off was a 70 strong group with a mix of pale faced - "not sure what I'm letting myself in for" or testosterone fueled riders ready to rip up the trails. Along with the guys was strong group of ladies who proved they can comfortably mix it with the guys on even the toughest singletrack sections! Clearly a man for the Enthusiast category next time around Ray Honour who returning to riding after 1 month off the bike with back injury lead from the start to finish slowing putting time in to Neville Gunn (Solihull CC) to take the win with Neville taking 2nd. 3rd place was a closer race between 4 or 5 guys including local riders Martin Sutton (Lichfield City CC) and Mat Haste. A snapped chain ruled Mat out leaving the rest of the guys to battle it out over the remaining 2 laps. In the end Martin Grantham got the best of the rest to take 3rd ahead of Martin Sutton. In the Ladies, Katherine Gilbert blasted off the start and was soon passing many of the guys. Slowing over her last lap Jayne Rogers started to catch Katherine but the finish came too soon and Katherine held on for the win with Jayne taking 2nd 24 seconds behind. Completing the podium was Tracy Bromley who after being told it was 3 laps thought that she could of beaten Jayne if she'd known....maybe next time Tracy!
Due to a clash with the Youth Road Champs, the Junior / Youth and Juvenile entrants was small but that didn't affect the quality of the racing. They all set off together and it was interesting as some of the younger competitors mixed it with the older boys. First through on lap 1 of 2 was youth rider Dylan Kerfoot-Robson closely followed by Chris Welburn (Cycle Shack / Forme Coaching) and Will Cheaney (Cycle Shack / Forme Coaching) pushing hard to catch the front man. Next through completing their first lap was Junior leader William Hyde (Lichfield City CC) with Juvenile rider Joshua Gunn (Solihull CC) who was clearly loving the challenge of riding against the older boys. Out on the 2nd lap the positions remained much the same as Dylan managed to hold off the chasing pair of Will and Chris, with Chris managing to get the better of his team mate to take 2nd and Will 3rd. Joshua Gunn took the win in the Juvenile making it the 3 trips to the podium for the Gunn family during the day. Daniel Henden came home in 2nd place with Richard Atkins (Lichfield City CC) getting the better of his team mate Samuel Jones (Lichfield City CC) for 3rd place. It was all change in the junior race as early leader Will Hyde punctured leaving Oliver Hawkes to take the win ahead of Will in 2nd and Laurence Smith in 3rd. The only girl in the Categories was Youth rider Amira Mellor (Holme Valley) who got to ride with the boys for a bit of competition. Clearly proving she could hold her own she managed to finish 5th overall!
As always there were bags of enthusiasm coming from the competitors in the U10's and U13's races. Lead out by Run & Ride Performance Team rider Lee Gratton, the guys and girls blasted round the short courses proving they can race as hard as anybody else. Fantastic to see so many young boys and girls enjoying riding and racing the bikes and no doubt some of these will be future champions!
A massive thanks must go out to everybody who helped and supported the event. The marshals, the girls on signing on and who baked the cakes, Chase Trails, Hibbs Lupus trust, the Forestry Commission, British Cycling, Mt Zoom, Juice Lubes, Accelerade and last but not least all the competitors.