Words: Dave Thomason
Last Saturday was the biggest race of the national 4X calendar, with the fight for the coveted title of National Champion taking place down in Falmouth. The Falmouth 4X track was introduced last year to much acclaim, being a true mountain bike track – it’s big, it’s rough and it’s loose, with nothing else like it in England. The track itself was unchanged from that inaugural race 12 months ago, but to keep things fresh, a line was taped in that cut off the rock garden / drop line (straight after the point where the pro line and chicken run converge) and forced riders to the right and through a grassy chicane, before rejoining just before a left-hand berm.
Talk before the race was, as usual, about the weather – and with good reason. The tail end of Hurricane Bertha was due to hit over the weekend, but even on Friday it was uncertain as to when and how bad this would be.
The format had changed for this year – usually national champs takes place on a Sunday, but this year the powers that be decided to have a Saturday night race, followed by a party, with the penultimate round of the national 4X series on the Sunday. The blessing of the format was that the track didn’t open until 1.30pm (instead of the usual 9.30/10.00am) so I had a leisurely (and traffic affected) drive down in the morning.
An hour’s open practice was followed by gate practice, and then a qualification run for senior men and women and initial motos for all other categories.
Lewis Lacey took the early hot seat, before being knocked back a place by five thousandths of a second by Alex Metcalfe. Alex held on for a while, until the times started to tumble. With one man left to come down the track, the top 8 qualifiers were all within the same second – times were tight. Then the man, the machine, that is Scott Beaumont came down, putting in an imperious run and taking first place by over a second. In the ladies, Liz Fowler qualified first ahead of Cara Murray, by just half a second.
Qualification runs started at 17:00 and racing proper at 19:00, so there was some awkward time to kill in between, trying to stay energised and warm whilst also trying to relax. Racing started through with the round of 32, and towards the end the session the weather that everyone had been talking about really started to close in. After quarter final, the usual suspects were still in the mix with the only major surprise being that track builder and local boy Will Evans hadn’t made it through.
In semi final one, with the rain starting to fall a little harder now, Scott Beaumont and Duncan Ferris pulled away from Alex Metcalfe and Luke Cryer. In the second race, Nathan Parsons cruised through with Lewis Lacey looking like he was set for second until he ran a little wide and made contact with Leon Rosser. Leon held on for second and Jack Hudson took third.
All of the finals followed the elite men’s semi finals. Tyler Rosser won rippers, Fin Keogh won juniors and Dylan Grell-Delsol held on for yet another national champs title, in youth. Conor Hudson threw away the junior win with a slide out on the grassy turns, and Joe Wallbridge took full advantage, taking the title.
Lee Feery should have won masters, but Chris Smith held it together and pushed on right to the end, clinching the win in the final turns. Ben Rafferty won the veterans title. For the first time ever there was also a women’s youth title, which Tyde D’Souza won.
Cara Murray had been building to the national champs for a number of months and was always going to be in the mix. However, local girl Liz Fowler had won qualification and was looking rapid. It was on for a tight race, with Heather Kay and Hannah Escott also qualifying for the final.
Liz pulled a lead from the gate, and held it despite the ever attacking Cara. Cara was visibly pushing so hard – too hard – she crashed on the lower corners of the track after having given herself too much to do to catch up with Liz. Fowler took the win, with Heather and Hannah riding round Cara for the 2nd and 3rd positions.
By this point the track was properly slick, and the conditions had changed a lot since the top boys had ridden it, so it was a huge gamble. Who was going to lay it all on the line? As per usual Beaumont got the snap, but Ferris was absolutely not letting it go. Coming through the first corner, Duncan was 4th but he found massive reserves of speed to make up two places by the end of the pro line.
Duncan drifted the bike into the grassy turns, holding more speed than Beaumont and looking so determined. Right on the edge. Rejoining the track he refused to brake and just tried to rail the berm. He got so close to it, now right on Beaumont’s wheel, but he’d just pushed the limits of physics too hard. Down he went, to a massive shout of disappointment from the impressively loud crowd. Scott was then free to dominate yet another national champs, taking the title. Duncan managed to recover quickly and maintained second, with Nathan Parsons third. A truly incredible race.