Pearce Series 2010 round 5 – Hopton
Victims and the phenomenon of the Turberiod (don’t ask)
Round five, Hopton. Where the sun shines, the medics are busy and Ginger Rick is bored. Hasn’t it flown by? It was only the other day we started the season, well it certainly feels like it. With the forecast chopping and changing throughout the week it was anyone’s guess as to what we would face. Last year at Hopton on this track it was a wash out if memory serves correctly. Maybe the fair eyes of the lord have been looking over the series as once again another dry race day graced the picturesque hills of Shropshire. We did have drizzle mid-Saturday but it wasn’t enough to dampen track or spirits.
The well-oiled machine of the Pearce Series fired up on all cylinders bright and early on Saturday morning to get those all-important runs in. As per, the uplifts ran without fault and they just keep getting quicker, taking around 10 minutes out of your day per lift – not too shabby at all. The track in use was the one that runs down the left of the hill (looking from the bottom). The crew had made some changes to the track from last year, some changes were welcomed others not so, it depended on what tocked your ticker.
Starting at the same point as round two it was all out pedaling in the top section. The weather had not quite penetrated the trees to dry things out so the relatively flat wind through of the top was as greasy as an eel in an inner tube on the part-rock, part-mud mix. Hitting the bermed corners at speed had you sliding two-wheeled – it was a test of nerve. The gas had to be applied between features to keep your speed up with berms, doubles and roots to challenge you. There were however some ‘pro-lines’ that could be nailed if you had it in bag that sent you clearing sections that could have slowed you down, but as ever it was all or nothing. The first new feature was in the form of a fallen tree with a small kicker to help you over it. I couple of choices here; go high and wide to straighten it out, or hip left over the tree. If you were on a hardtail the tire tap/root ride was on!
The first fireroad crossing lead you into the first signature open section – time to catch up on the seconds dropped in the chip fat. Whisking around the first right-hander popped you out onto a few line choices over the stumps and roots. Nothing too demanding but getting straight for the next loose and rocky left-hander was key. Now this is where the choice and talk is so pay attention. Out of the rocky left-hander you’re up and over the fallen oak tree down toward another rock-strewn corner. You had three options, try and use the berm and lose speed, try and straighten it out and clip the edge of the berm, or stay left and use the drop to keep it straight. The latter possibly being the quickest but in Saturday practice this was taped off for some reason, but that soon changed after a few runs down. Now the real choice is on. ‘The stump’ was the hot topic on the uplift. Do you man up and dust the lot? Try and pick your way through? Or take the tight right of the stump? Well on Saturday morning the tight right was blocked up with a log, so that was off. Someone moved in it at some point so it was soon on. But then this lead to the uplift gossip that it was closed again for race day – fortunately it wasn’t. The right line was the line of choice for most after the stump taking a few victims – both body and bike.
After all of that thinking palaver you have now met the second woods where the roots live in their murky rich soil. A couple more choices had to made through the roots to catch the high line if you wanted the seconds to wilt. Here your mind is knackered but your legs are rested and it’s a good job too because here lies the speed trap. Speed trap or not the gas had to be burned here to try and iron out the ‘tables’. Ahem. Now a wee off-camber section leads you down to a fire road crossing. The Pearce crew had made a small change in the next section, taping off a straight line to create a small snaky entrance into the second open section where your speed is built back up through the following corners.
Hitting the drop into the long lefty was a bumpy affair with riders snatching handfuls of brake to slow up for the super-tight right-hander over the roots and round the tree. Moving on swiftly with a few pedal strokes the tricky over-the-log-and-down-the-roots corner welcomes you. Two lines here, one the speed of Birmingham’s world famous number 11 outer-circle bus route and one a short taxi ride straight to your destination. A no brainer one might say.
Time to enjoy the ride now and start thinking of the beer, for a couple of seconds anyway. Just a few steep switchbacks getting progressive in their flow leading onto a suckable step-down straight into a speed nurturing berm to wang you over the triple. The triple did require a slight tweak so as not to fire straight into the following berm, where you wanted to carry enough speed, but not too much, for the finishing show jump – a tidy-nice kicker that noses you down the bank right into the arena at around mach 1, but no, it’s not over yet. The tricky loose right corner to actually cross the line has to be dealt with. The line was inside on the grass meaning a wide cut across on the previously mentioned landing, failing that, the barriers where there to break you if you washed out. A few did, almost Sam Hill style ala 2008 Worlds. Well that’s what you tell your mates anyway. If you did stay on then all you had left was a most welcomed short sprint to the finish line.
All in all the track was probably one for the fitter rider who could lay down the power as and when required, the rest of us just did our best. It still took its fair share of victims though with a collar bone, hand, thumb, bruises, grazes and a deemax rear wheel down, and im sure there were more in the medics book.
The elite field was on the smaller side of things with Champery falling the same weekend. The glitz and glammer was tarnished somewhat, but still a race had to won! Dave Smith, who appears to be sans sponsor, took the win with a 2:27.73, just 0.08 seconds in front of Sion Whitecross. The women’s field was a desperate affair with only nine riders across all categories but the elite top step went to, oh hold on, there were no elites… errrrmmm so the senior podium when to Annie Matthews with a 3:08.11. Well-done Annie. Hopefully this will spur on a few more female riders to get a number board.
The penultimate round lands at Bucknell – the crowd favourite. The talk on the uplift rumour mill is that there are changes underway including a wall ride after the step down and a tweak to the big table after the ski jump. Changes or not its one hell of a track to finish on and one to look forward too! Right, now lets all sit together and cross our fingers for a dry finishing round. Anyone?
Full results can be found here http://www.pearcecycles.co.uk/files/pcss10_hopton_250710_-_event_ranking.pdf
Words by Nathan Carvell www.nthncreative.co.uk
Images supplied by Turnip Towers www.turniptowers..co.uk