Rob is TORQ's Performance Mountain Bike team's manager and chief. He's the brains and passion behind the team, organising their competition schedules and escorting them around Europe to race World Cup's.
3 is the Magic Number
Once again, the TORQ Performance MTB headlined with some cracking results two weekends back. This time it was Lee Craigie's turn to impress the sponsors with a 2nd place in the highly competitive Elite Women's field. Oh yes, and the boys did rather well too, with 1st, 2nd and 3rd on the Sunday enduro...
The big Welsh Weekend takes place on the first weekend of June every year at Margam Park. It incorporates round 3 of the national points series and an enduro on the Sunday. The week leading up to the weekend had been blessed with sunshine and the prospect for a fast, hard packed course looked promising. Well, that is if you're used to the weather systems in the South of France. We are talking about beautiful South Wales here so, being woken in the early hours of Saturday morning to the pitter patter of rain (becoming more torrential by the minute) on the caravan roof didn't feel me with joy. My first thought was that I would have to stand and feed the guys, on the most exposed part of the course and not being in the same league as a football team manager, I would have no cosy dug out to hide in!
Dead on ten o'clock the elite female riders were underway. We had Lee Craigie racing and she would be mixing it up with some of the top end World Cup riders such as Rosala Joseph, current national points champion, TORQ-fuelled Kate Potter and winner of Round 2, Lilly Mathews not to mention the National Champion Sue Clark. Lee's thoughts had been well documented about the lack of hills in the first 2 rounds of the series, but Margam was a totally different prospect with its lung bursting climbs and technical descents, this was always going to be a hard race but with the course conditions worsening by the minute it was going to be a battle of mental strength and bike handling skills. Lee has all these qualities in abundance, so when she came into the feed zone in third place, at the start of the second lap, it started to confirm that perhaps Margam would give Lee her best ever finish at National level. On lap, 3 she had moved up to 2nd and managed to hold position giving her first visit into the top 3 and best British finisher (Rosala Joseph, the winner being a Kiwi).
A very muddy (and blurred) Lee Craigie
Next up were the guys. We had 5 elite riders and James Lister riding sport. Anthony O'Boyle was our first rider round in ninth position but Ant, Andy Blair and Ben Thomas were plagued with mechanical problems on this demanding course. The best finishers were Tim Dunford in 14th and a very impressive ride, by our youngest rider Sion O'Boyle, in 17th. In the sport category, James Lister, starting at the back of the grid went on to improve on his second place at Sherwood by taking the win with a 4 minute margin over second. James comes from enduro racing stock, which is how he earnt his place on the team, and although we think he's of elite standard, he's not alowed to ride at that level until he earns the points. That's fair enough, but we do feel sorry for the opposition in the Sports race! Lydia Gould took her second win of the series in the grand Vets, so all in all, the Saturday XC was a great day for TORQ.
James Lister on his way to the top spot of the podium
On Sunday the conditions could not have been better, with blue skies and temperatures into the 20's. We had Tim Dunford, Ben Thomas and James Lister racing the blue ribbon event, a gruelling 75k marathon race. With each 25k lap the riders had to climb around 3000 feet. From the gun James Lister set a blistering pace, which only his team mates could keep up with. By the start of lap 2 Tim had enough and decided to let James and Ben go it alone. On the start of lap three James kicked again and rode the last lap on his own. The race ended up with the guys taking all three spots on the podium. I don't know of another team achieving a result like this in the UK, so well done guys.
123 James Lister, Ben Thomas, Tim Dunford and the trusty steed
Here's James Lister's slant on the race:
"On Friday the 28th of May I headed down to Margam Park in South Wales for round 3 of the national series. The weather on the journey down was fantastic; I was hoping it would last for the whole weekend, but on checking the forecast for the next few days Saturday looked set to be a little unsettled.
I arrived on site at around 4:00pm and had a quick scout around to check out the facilities (this was my first time at Margam). I couldn’t help but also notice the surrounding hills and was eager to get out on course for a practice lap. A hilly course at last - this should suit me down to the ground!
As race day approached, so did the rain clouds and the heavens had opened overnight. As the dry dusty trials disappeared I decided on a last minute tyre change before the start of the race.
At 12:30 we were off. As I hadn’t pre entered the race I was gridded right at the back but I'd been here before and it didn’t deter me. As we hit the first climb I was up into around 10th place and at the top of the climb I had hit the front. The first section of singletrack was now fairly slippy so I jumped off and ran the section. This seemed to be the quickest option and as I emerged at the other end of the first section of singletrack I was on my own. From that point everything went really well for me. I ran most of the muddy singletrack, effectively turning the mountain bike race in to a cyclecross race and pushed hard on the climbs and had opened up a fairly good lead by the end of lap 1.
Lap by lap I extended my lead and I crossed the finish line in 1st place, with roughly a 4 minute advantage over second. Winning this race gave me alot of confidence for the following days event, the 75km marathon.
Margam Park – 75KM Marathon: After the previous days race and a now much dryer Margam Park I was really motivated for the Marathon. I would also be accompanied in this race by two of my team mates, Ben Thomas and Tim Dunford, great for strength in numbers as they say. As well as my two team mates there were also a few other handy riders on the start line, so in my mind I was hoping for a top 5 finish!
As the race got underway we followed the same start as the previous day, but instead of cutting off into singletrack we continued straight up (literally). The first climb was pretty viscous and it did a good job of separating the field. A group of 5 riders quickly formed on the front and to my relief it included myself and both my team mates. We rode most of the first lap together but towards the end of the lap, as we approached the start/finish, myself, Ben and Tim had pulled away from the other 2 riders. We quickly changed bottles and away we went on lap 2 of 3.
This marathon course really suited me as it had a fair amount of climbing, I knew this would be an advantage to me as the race progressed.
As we started to climb again, Tim started to struggle (not surprising after his previous days efforts) and he told myself and Ben to push on without him. We worked hard for the second lap and increased our advantage over the rest of the field. As we started our final lap I was feeling really strong and started to pull out a lead over Ben. As the gap started to grow I knew the win was in the bag as long as I had no mechanicals.
I crossed the finish line in a little over 3h:18m for the 75k and I was absolutely chuffed to bits. Ben and Tim came in just a few minutes back which made it a 1, 2, 3 for Torq Performance. A fantastic result for the team."
Once again, we are extremely grateful to our Sponsors:
www.konaworld.com - Frames
www.sram.com - Groupsets, Suspension Forks and Brakes
www.met-helmets.com - Helmets
www.ritcheylogic.com - Handlebars, Stems and Seatposts
www.schwalbe.com - Tyres
www.exposurelights.com - Advanced Lighting
www.juicelubes.co.uk - Lubrication
www.lakecycling.com - Shoes
www.jagwireusa.com - Cables and Housing
www.crankbrothers.com - Pedals
www.bikeboxalan.co.uk - Bike Boxes
www.fizik.com - Saddles
www.superstarcomponents.com - Hubs and Headsets
www.alexrims.com - Rims
www.sapim.be - Spokes
www.maxgear.co.uk - Glasses, Compression, Tools
www.champ-sys.co.uk - Performance Cycle Clothing
www.joolzedymond.com - Photography
www.fibrax.com - Brake Hardware
www.sport-torque.com - Torque Wrenches
www.cycleops.com – Power Measurement, Turbo Training and Bike Racks
www.notubes.com - Tyre Sealant
www.portablepressurewashers.co.uk - Cordless Pressure Washing
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