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HSBC British Cycling Schwalbe 4X Series Rd2 Harthill

Photos By: Charles A Robertson // Words By: MopHead

Hales Bike Park played host to round two of the Schwalbe British4x Series just over a month after the first round at Chicksands.

Harthill is well known for throwing out surprise results, not least in 2011 when Luke Limbrick took the National Champs title despite never having won a National race.
The track is full of overtaking opportunities. There are big wide corners with multiple berms (one turn has four!), multiple line choices and adjacent pro and novice jump sections give racers lots of attack and defensive choices. No race is certain and riders need to keep their guard up until the finish line. Bike choice varied across the board, many riders are now packing short travel trail bikes and proving they offer good speed over the hardtails.
Race day started as always with two hours of open practice. Next, the motos kicked in and riders get three races to earn points. The winner gets four points, 4th gets one point. If you don’t finish or get DQ’d you get zero points. Points count towards the series overall and the highest scorers advance through to the final – so everything has to be given out of the gate.
Just before moto’s began the British summer came right on schedule to dampen the track and raise the nerves of the racers who would now be diving into unknown conditions after riding a dry dusty track all morning. The rain stopped just before racing started, the track dried quickly but would be peppered with slippery patches to catch out any unaware riders.
round 2 of The Schwalbe British 4X Series at Hales Bowl, Harthill, Cheshire, United Kingdom on April 16 2017. Photo: Charles A Robertson
Through the moto’s it was a shame to see Ripper’s category (10-12) Jordi Hart leaving the competition after a fall in moto 1. He looked sensational in practice and had some of the Elite cat riders in envy of his cornering prowess!
If you fancy trying 4X but don’t fancy taking it too seriously, the Big Fun category is for you. It’s just simple racing and perfect for new comers. Taking 3rd in fun was Andrew Cross while riding a cracked trail bike, Angus Child took 2nd behind Elite racer Ben Jones’ younger brother Scott Jones.
Rippers start things off in the age categories. This is for kids aged 10-12 and has some of the most competitive racers I have ever seen. George Madley won the first round but this time out would see him finish 5th. The top 4 was completely different to the previous round with only one rider maintaining consistency, Reuben Mills would finish 4th in a tight final that would see Charlie Palmer and Jack Skinner take 3rd and 2nd with George’s brother Luke Madley taking the win.
Juveniles (13-14) is a mix of the prepubescent versus the growth spurts. Bigger is better it seems as Zac Hudson and William Chater took 1st and 2nd ahead Louie Partridge in 3rd and Cameron Roberts in 4th.
Youth (15-16) would see round one winner Dec Willicome struggle in moto’s two and three preventing him from making the top four A-final. He had to settle for a best possible 5th place podium spot. The A-final was a battle of closely matched abilities, Will Fuell hasn’t managed to match his string of wins from the Juveniles but a 4th saw him heading in the right direction. Jay Fairbank slotted into 3rd with the powerhouse Will Mills picking up 2nd and Tom Bell taking the win three spots higher than his last time out.
The Juniors (17-18) are going to get well acquainted with each others elbows over the course of the year! So far it’s domination by 417 Project local Oscar Powell. Having a 4x track at his Saturday job is clearly paying dividends! The next three spots were populated by the Cornish contingent of Finlay Keogh, Matt O’Brien and Alex Piper while Matt Griffin was left feeling disappointed with his airtime abilities in 5th.
The seniors (19-29) is a category full of differing abilities currently with all the racers enjoying moto’s that really mixed their positions around with no consistent favourite shining through. The A final was a hot ticket with Dan Marshall in 4th, last round’s winner Joe Prestwood had to settle for 3rd as the Scotsman Jordan Winning in 2nd and the lairy kit of winner Cameron Edwards proved insurmountable.
In the Masters (30-39) Alastair Keen would finish 5th for the second time in a row. The A-final was a shocker with David Sibley crashing out while attempting an overtaking move on leader Lee Feery who would get tangled up on the fallen Sibley relegating them to 4th and 3rd. This allowed me (Mop Head) and Richard Dobson to dive through to take 1st and 2nd respectively.
Obliterating the Veterans (40+) category was squat rack enthusiast Jason Jessop who took victory at every opportunity. Neil ‘Hitman’ Harbour would take 2nd closely followed by Michael Dewsnap freshly returning from injury. 4th was Tristan Nunn returning after a few years away and Chris Ames would win the B final for fifth.
round 2 of The Schwalbe British 4X Series at Hales Bowl, Harthill, Cheshire, United Kingdom on April 16 2017. Photo: Charles A Robertson

The Women’s cat lived up to it’s reputation as the best category to watch. There was lots of close racing, plenty of overtaking and some good old elbow rubbing!

Hannah Escott rounded off the podium with 5th after spending the entire day making moves on track. Promoting themselves from 6th and 5th at Chicksands Ami Grindley and Rona Strivens finished 4th and 3rd. No change at the top though for Megan Wherry and Tyde D’Souza who would once again finish 2nd and 1st. Both girls racing with class and styling the pro line to boot! I’m looking forward to watching that rivalry develop over this season.

Onto the Pro Elites! There is never an inch given and that’s why we love it! Alex Metcalfe after a tough time in the moto’s would manage a top to bottom lead in the B final to net him 5th place. In the A-final, fresh off the plane from building a new pump track in South Africa DMR Bikes Duncan Ferris would take to the outside of the corners trying to overtake Luke Cryer but to no avail as the pair would finish 4th and 3rd. At the front Connor Hudson had a great start but it wasn’t enough to get him into 1st and it would be a close 2nd place for him behind Will Evans who blitzed the start and made use of the tracks inside lines to defend his lead at the start and from then on victory was his.

So that was round two all wrapped up, a fantastic day of racing, 4x has a real camaraderie about it. All the competitors just want to race, the pits are a hive of parts sharing, food sharing and having fun, a real family atmosphere. Next up the series heads to Afan on May 7th. Where other disciplines are getting more serious 4x is just getting more fun! You have to try it for yourself!

You can learn more about British 4X at http://www.british4x.com/

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