All content © Bob MuIIins
Rock Oil Youth XC, Fast Eddy XC, GBXC
The Ratlinghope venue is used just once a year by Fast Eddy Racing and it is easy to see why. It takes most competitors 12 months to recover from this huge, mountainous, boggy venue that, no matter what time of year, is a real old school endure type place. From the bottom of the valley and the numerous stream sections, to the tops of the huge hills, this place is tough going. Although the climbs and much of the open going on the hill tops is fast and off-cambered in many places, there are still numerous hidden ditches and bogs to cross before the steep descent back to the valley floor. Going off course is very much as your own risk.
Racing began on Sunday with the Rock Oil Youth XC enjoying a somewhat limited course compared to the adult races. The stream sections and fast fields, dotted with ditches, still gave the youngsters something to think about. Cory Cookland, in the 85-150cc class, was absolutely flying and lapped the whole field twice. His abilities should at least put him in the adult Sportsman class but his age keeps him firmly planted in the youth ranks. Cynan Jones held a solid second spot just ahead of Lewis Hurdsman, as the pair could only look on as Cookland lapped them again and again.
The SW 85cc Class saw Billy Austin dominate throughout and take the win ahead of Endaf Hughes, who was a lap adrift of the leader, with Callum Millward a further lap adrift in third spot. Archie Jordan nailed the 65cc Class win ahead of Rylee Francis and third place Josh Cole. The two auto riders deserve a big round of applause for even attempting the course, which was shortened even further just for the two of them. Winston Wright came out three laps ahead of Harry Jordan.
As the afternoonís Fast Eddy XC combined with the GBXC got underway, the riders thundered off through the stream section and out into the hills, returning towards the end of the lap to once again tackle further stream sections which began muddier with each passing rider. A last minute entry by Mark Roberts was well worthwhile as he took the Expert win ahead of Ricky Wiggins and Jack Ditchfield. All three looked as though they had found several of the bogs high up in the hills. Cole Cookland normally takes the Clubman 2T win but not on this occasion. Harry Houghton took the win a lap up on second place Cookland, who was fighting off a serious challenge from Charlie Chater in third spot.
In the Clubman 4T class, it was Lee Hattersley who ground out yet another win and already seems destined to take this yearís Clubman 4T title. Ryan Phillips matched Hattersley on laps to take second spot with Ethan Pugh, a lap adrift, in third. Chris Wagstaff led the Vets A Class to the chequered flag with Kev Sandland someway behind in second spot as Cefyn Gamez secured third place in class.
In the Fast Eddy XC ranks, it was once again Over 50ís star Dave Cooper who took the win. Dave has really been on form this season and never seems to mind leading from the front. He was joined on the podium by Mark Plain with Jon Malone taking third spot in the class. Steve Cranshaw headed the Vets B class with Stephen Parry and Kieran Jordan trailing in his wake as Shaun James just missed out on a top three spot. Top Sportsman spot went to Ollie Harcombe who completed 12 laps with Dave Withington, also on 12 laps, a little way behind in second place. Paul Thomas completed the Sportsman top three.
Billy Haigh had a cracking ride in the Youth B Class beating quite a few GBXC riders to the chequered flag. Adam James took second in Youth B as Doug Lote rounded off the top three. The Novice Class saw a lone entrant in the form of John Hirst. It could be that many other regular Novice riders realised just how tough Ratlinghope can be and decided to give it a miss. For all his efforts and ten solid laps, John took the Novice Class win.
Ratlinghope, once again, didnít disappoint and kept its reputation as possibly the toughest course in the GBXC Series. If you can ride here, you can rider anywhere and it is one of the few places that still has traditional strength sapping bogs to test riders to the max.
The course was fast and flowing, apart from the bogs, and the Fast Eddy crew did a great job with the layout, giving multiple lines through all of the tough sections. In the warm summer sunshine, it seemed a much better option to be a spectator rather than a rider on this particular day.