The first race of the year is always an exciting one, rain or shine. This year, the British 4X season kicked off at the well established Chicksands bike park near Bedford.
As the names suggests, the ground is predominantly made up of sandy dirt with a bit of clay deeper down, this provides a fast rolling compact ground even in the wettest conditions so was a wise choice by series organiser Chris Roberts for the first round of the series.
The dirt is not only good in the wet but provides a predictable drift so there’s no excuses for not smashing the turns and giving it full gas!
The track has two long straights that are in favour of the pony power which also made it a great place to test the winter training. Due to the high speed and tight corners you need to be on your A-game to pull a pass and this weekend proved that the standard of riding across all categories is on point.
With a great turn-out from both riders and spectators the bikepark was buzzing. New faces on the scene, category changes for some and shredders back for more of the 4X action – we were set for some tight racing.
These guys were proving you don’t need to be in the gym to be giving it full commitment and smashing turns. They were super close all day with inside lines and quality tactics it was an impressive category especially when you think that they’re half the size of the jumps!
A special shout out goes to Louie Fernihough for his commitment in the first turn. Unfortunately he drifted wide in his last moto and exited the track requiring a trip the Bedford hospital, fingers crossed he hasn’t broken anything and he is able to return to his radness for the next round at Harthill in a few weeks.
In the rippers final brothers George and Luke Mudley were looking strong with George taking the win but Jack Hoare making a great attempt and splitting them up finishing 2nd.
I wouldn’t want to mix it up with these boys as I think they may be tight on your tail if not in front! Cornish shredder Zac Hudson proved that practice makes perfect, for his first national he made a strong mark in the category with straight wins from start to finish. Louie Partridge also proved that he had been out practicing, keeping a close chase on Zac’s heels. It was great see them both progress from grass roots local races.
There was epic racing from these boys, all pushing their bikes and bodies to the limit in every race. For me this was the best category to watch. In the A-final Tom Bell took a comfortable lead from the gate to the first corner but was unlucky to have not have stayed up right after a inside move by local speedstar Dec Willicome who powered his way to take the win, with Harry Fernihough taking a well deserved 3rd place after some rad inside moves earlier in the motos.
Despite low numbers for this round, the junior men were rapid and oozing skills. Oscar Powell managed to take the win with careful riding. Fin Keogh also proved that he is one to watch this year with smooth jumping skills and commitment, there is no doubt that all junior riders will be swapping place on the podium throughout the year.
With many of last year’s senior riders upping their game and moving to the elite category the senior cat has been shaken up. The mix of riders is great with settled seniors such as Andrew Cooper proving they are still on top along with new riders such as James Ferrand stepping up from the big fun cat.
Adding even more to the mix is Natasha Bradley who is racing the men to help her keep the challenge high and the progression going forward to carry across into international events such as the pro tour and the UCI world champs later in the year. It was great to see.
These guys were riding all types of machine but all had a big smile on their face and hopefully will be part of the rest of the series. This category is designed to allow people to have a go for the first time or make the step from grass roots racing to a national round without race licence. Connor O’Brian won the A final ahead of Oliver Tustain and Martyn Nicholas in 3rd.
2016 Masters dominator Lee Ferry had some good battles with BSX legend Martin Ogden but it was Oggy that proved he had the power to keep Ferry at bay. David Sibley showed great speed in motos with some wise tactics and good starts but unfortunately missed the gate in the final which must have been frustrating.
With a full house in the veteran category it was action packed but as normal Jason Jessop was proving his skills especially on this power dominate track taking the win overall. This wasn’t an easy task with Julian Allen beating him in motos and pulling off some rad tactics to keep Jessop on his toes throughout.
The women’s race was a tight battle all day and with Megan Wherry’s return to the 4x scene it was going to be fast paced racing. Tyde D’Souza had a mechanical issue in practice the day before sending the big doubles, but despite the drama she wasn’t phased and stay relaxed even on a hired trail bike (Orange Crush). She dominated the A final from start to finish. With high numbers and a great overall standard of rider the women’s category is going to be a great one to watch throughout the year.
With many riders stepping up to elite there were a few points to be made. Lewis Ash proved that he had upped his game with some moto wins but the ¼ finals was his limit. Local favourites Jack and Connor Hudson were on fire as predicted both making the A final.
I was pleased with a clean sweep from start to finish in all three moto’s but then gutted to end it early with a collision and crash in the ¼ finals. Chicksands coach and previous world cup racer Tom Dowie was showing form from the word go with a comfortable lead in all motos through to the final where he only just keep the Hudson’s behind his wake to take the win. With Duncan Ferris not making the A final he made it clear he was the 2016 series winner for a reason by blowing the completing away in the B final and grabbing the 5th spot on the podium.
For me the progression of race craft and skills blows me away year on year in all categories within the series. With few dominant racers it makes for awesome neck and neck racing and hard for pre-race predictions!
For many 4X is an addiction; once you get that rush of drifting side by side into a corner or buzz of making a inside line stick you are hooked. This is raw racing at its best that can be no different to hacking it down the woods with your mates with big smiles and hyperness.
So it doesn’t matter if you have a pimp-ass 23lb carbon race machine or an old school 150mm travel bike. Whatever you ride, you’ll be welcomed into the scene with open arms and guaranteed to have fun racing side by side with friends both new and old with categories to suit.