NPS Final Final – Rheola, South Wales
What a dry Rheola! I know it seems like madness, but this weekend’s final of the NPS race series in South Wales saw just that. For once though the weather was good, so good in fact they took some of the bridges out on the track as the bogs they once crossed have dried up and the ground wasn’t eating your tyres all the way down. Sure there were still some tacky bits but times where a lot lower than previous races here despite the longer more tech track.
The hill hadn’t shrunk either, walking up and down it dam near killed me, but it had changed a fair bit, new sections had been added all the way down the track making it a bit more interesting for the riders that know this track oh so well.
After walking for 10 mins to the bottom of the uplift, then you got through the hour long queues the buses and trailers then got you up to the top at the speed of a slug pulling a house brick where you were dumped right at the start.
So right off the start was the same old with the turns and steep rocky flat out “biggest balls will win” sections of the track, we are talking 30+ mph down here over rocks and round lots of turns and little jumps. Then the track goes in to a load of big fast bermed switchbacks, over a rock garden then dropped down in to an all new natural rooty section which by the end of the weekend was packed with polished roots that even the best riders where slipping about on left right and centre.
I was here for a while on the sat for practice and the pace some of the top guys hit this steep natural rock drop was insane, pedalling in and no braking down over loads of roots in to shoddy at best rut/berm. Greg Williamson in junior was pinning this section just as fast as the Elites in practice and it showed as he took a good 4th some finals.
After this there was a short stretch on the same rutted up track before going up on to another new natural section that chucked riders out in the bottom of star wars, the infamous section made so famous from the earthed DVDs. Riders from years gone by in the wet here would come down on their ass, but as it was dry just a bit of drifting and slipping about was needed.
Then the riders crossed over a road and down into a few jumps, one of which was for the few who dared a huge triple in the woods, this was a mad gap that got the crowds going every time anyone hucked it, big mention goes to Bernard Kerr who after being red flagged and held back 15 seconds in seeding was still only 3 seconds off first, but in his race run got a rear flat and still sent the triple and was still going the same pace as most of the youths.
Then a few new steep switch backs before dropping down the huge shoot in to the finish and across the line in to the pits area.
The uplift on the day was slow at best but then again the track was amazing… so all evens out in the end really. The track also claimed a few victims, during the finals I was on the road gap and triple and a few people had some high speed meetings with trees, the trees won all times I saw, and with the steep natural top sections people where stacking like no tomorrow.
Now this wasn’t just another round of the NPS this was the series final, so people in the running for over all podiums where in the pits getting their maths heads on, trying to work out how they had to do to secure that podium.
I was in the pits with Tom “Meat” Deacon and Pete from 2stage bikes just before podiums trying to work out if his 6th on the day had kept him in the lead, it had he took the overall for men elite.
His first NPS overall title, he didn’t take the win in any round this year but got consistent podiums which gave him the consistency to take the over all. In women’s elite Helen Gaskell walked away with the top spot, much deserved after a great season and again great consistency.
In juvenile men on the day then the top 5 looked like this:
In youth the top 5 looked like this:
1: Mark Scott riding for Terrain Cycles with a 3:10
In junior the top 5 looked like:
1: Gareth Brewin seconds up on 2nd with a 3:04
Master top 5:
1: Chris Whitfield riding for all terrain with a 3:19
Vets top 5:
1: John Cobb riding for mbr.over35 with a 3:33
Senior top 5:
1: Tom Attlee with a 3:18
Expert top 5:
1: Jack Reading riding for Ellsworth/O Neal with a 3:02
1: Ben Cathro riding for MTB Cut/Cyclejersey with a 2:59(only time on the day under 3 mins)
1: Manon CARPENTER almost a min ahead of 2nd with a 3:39 (would have won in elite by over 5 secs)
As for the overall all you need to know was that Tom Deacon took it for the Men and Helen Gaskell for the women. This was Tom’s first NPS win and it was the 09 overall, so a huge well done for him and 2stage who had a good weekend here with the win in the women’s on the day and over men’s overall!
Well that people wraps up another great year of British racing, roll on next season where a few category changes are sure to keep things interesting, A few things changing for next season even the name of the races but I’m sure it will go well.
A huge thanks to everyone who went to any of the races this year, anyone who entered and anyone who supported it.
See you all at the races! Now get out there and practice and train like mad over winter!
Words/Photos by Jacob Gibbins