After months of preparation, the Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team took to the starting line for their first race on Sunday January 13. Resplendent in their new Champion Systems kit, the riders were keen to put on a good show and secure a solid result. Conditions were cold, especially in the wind which picked up mid race but ground conditions were largely dry allowing Ben and Tim to run dry weather Schwalbe tyres. A good turnout of riders, including the series leader, lined up at the start. If he could get a good result, Tim would be in with a chance to win the series, so securing this was the team’s aim for the day.
Ben and Tim led the way from the start, up the climb out of the arena, around the start loop and into the first section of single track. By the end of the big descent on lap one, Ben, Tim, and series leader Al Fairbairn had put a small gap between themselves and the 175 other racers riding the four-hour distance. The team were looking comfortable.
However, as they entered the next single track section, Tim clipped a tree stump, which sent him to the ground badly winded, and Ben went back to check his teammate was okay. It was a few minutes before Tim was back on his bike, by which time both riders had fallen back to around 20th place. It seemed as if Tim’s hopes of winning the series were already over. He sent Ben off to chase down the leaders.
Over the next lap and a half Ben had to overhaul a three minute deficit but he didn’t panic. Gradually, he whittled away the deficit and overtook rider after rider. Once he’d reached the leader, Ben composed himself, taking on USN gels and an energy drink to ready himself for the second half of the race.
Meanwhile, Tim had recovered his composure and was making his way back through the field, taking a few more places with each lap. When he reached third place it looked as if the chase was still on for second and the series title. Over the last couple of laps, however, the effort he’d had to make to recover from his fall began to take its toll and the gap opened again. Al Fairbairn finished second, leaving Tim in third as he crossed the finish line. But Ben won with a comfortable lead, to take the team’s first victory of 2013.
The result left Tim with second place in the series overall, and he was left to contemplate what might have been. “Sometimes things just don’t work out. I’d just finished a big block of training and, despite a few days off, I still felt pretty tired. And the pace on the first lap felt pretty uncomfortable as my teammate, Ben, glided along effortlessly! After about twenty minutes I began to feel better but then I clipped a big fallen log on the inside of the corner, landing elegantly face first.
“Being the loyal teammate, Ben stopped but I persuaded him to go on without me, with a dramatic ‘Leave me!’ The great course and beautiful winter sunshine helped motivate me to keep pushing and I’m pretty pleased to have got up to third by the end.
“Sadly, there was no catching Al for the series win. But third place on the day and second overall is not a bad start to the year, so hopefully that’s the bad luck out of the way.”
Ben was happy with how his form is coming along. “It’s still very early in the season but I felt great out there, really enjoying riding the fun trails they have at this venue,” he said. “The new Scott bike certainly helped propel me to the win - thanks to Mountain Trax for helping me build the bike this week.
“Tim’s crash on the first lap certainly made the race a lot harder for both of us. It’s really rewarding to take the win and third place, despite all the time we lost early on.”
The Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team’s next race is the Gorrick Spring Series opener which will be the riders’ final race preparation before heading to Spain for the six-day Andalucía Bike Race.
“A huge thank you to John from Vermont Images for his help, keeping us well fed and watered as always, and to everyone at Mountain Trax and Vauxhall, plus all our other sponsors for their very generous support,” added Ben.
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