After our Renvale RT- team launch the day before, a few of us made a weekend of it and took to the start for the final round of the Thetford Winter Series. Following a great meal with our teammates, Si Ernest and me headed back to the Travelodge for an evening on Inbetweeners The Movie, hot chocolate and tales of parenting woe, rock n’roll! Race day dawned bright, but very cold with a hard frost. We’d been nervously refreshing the forecast on our weather app as rain was due to arrive in the afternoon, the only question was when.

Many of the overall categories were still all to play for and the four hour men’s 18-39 race was no exception. I’d only done one round previously, so sadly was not in the hunt, but Andy Cockburn and Ryan Henry looked keen and with my teammate Si Ernest joining me, it was shaping up for a good battle.

Off the start Si pushed the pace down the fast fireroad out of the start area, the speed only increased by the ripping tailwind. Before we turned off into the first section of singletrack I jumped in front, keen to be able to set my own pace in the twisty bits. I felt pretty comfortable so set a nice tempo for the first lap. Although only across the road from the previous round at Mayday Meadow, the course was quite different in character and certainly seemed tougher. A strong headwind made some of the open sections hard work and although not mountainous there were a couple of small climbs which quickly split groups. There was still lots of amazing singletrack and the strong wind and sunshine was drying out any dampness.

On lap 2, despite setting what felt like a good pace, just after a headwind section Si jumped in front before some downhill singletrack. Railing round the bermed singletrack, he made full use of the Cannondale Scalpel’s full suspension and I had to take a few risks to hang on. Up the climb to the finish Si gave it full gas, seemingly forgetting the race was 4 hours long! I played the dutiful teammate and let the gap go, letting Andy take the front to close the gap! Undeterred by the ripping headwind Si pushed on and opened a gap of around 40 seconds. Gradually the gap closed, only for our teammate Rich Jones to tear past leading the 2 hour race. We thought better of jumping on his fast disappearing rear wheel, but Si clearly thought different, latched on and disappeared again.

Ryan took to the front and put in a really fast lap, tearing through the singletrack, which unhitched Andy. After 4 laps and with 2 hours on the clock we caught Si, forming a trio at the front. With Si back in the group I was free to set the pace again so moved to the front and feeling good, I started to push on. Unintentionally I got a little gap on Ryan and Si so pressed on, only to wipe out round a loose left hander! I hopped back on only to find my front wheel pointing one direction and my bars another! After another delay to straighten the bars I was convinced I’d get caught, but fortunately I kept a gap. It then dawned on me I still had 2 hours to go, maybe I too had gone too soon. However I felt strong so was able to keep the chasers at bay. I was conscious Si and Ryan were both really fast through the singletrack so kept pushing but as the laps ticked by there was no sign of the chasers. The tenth and final lap was a bit of a toughie and with the rain arriving a little ahead of schedule I was pretty pleased I’d opted for a gilet. But the finish line came and it was great to get the win. Heading back to the car I came across Si looking a little chilly, woops, is that the car key in my back pocket! But we’d got a 1-2 for the team and Si had had do one lap less so I don’t know what he was moaning about! All in all, a fantastic weekend away, topped off with a brilliant race, and well it’s always nice to win too! The icing on the cake was the team also taking the first two places in the 2 hour men’s race with Rich Jones taking the win from the boss, Steve James, and Hollie took a great second spot in the 2 hour ladies. Top stuff!

A great day out for team Renvale RT –, taking the top two spots in the four hour race.
Big thanks to Thetford MTB Racing for putting on a brilliant event. Thanks to Clif Bar for keeping me fuelled to the end, Pactimo for the lovely winter skinsuit which was spot on today and all our other sponsors for their amazing support this year. Next up is the first round of the Southern XC, which must mean winter is over! Hope to see you there.

Words - Tim Dunford