The Nutcrackers - Hamsterley

October 21 2010

This year has been pretty mental for the Orange Sprinter, lots of trips all over the country for all manner of races, events, demos and bike shows. One thing we have missed on our travels is a good old fashioned XC race, an opportunity to don the lycra and race flat out around a field. The format might not have changed too much over the years, but the courses certainly have. We went up to Hamsterley to join in with the final Nutcracker event, let the XCness commence.

Flying the flag for the Orange factory was our resident powder coater, Vaughan Evans. A regular on the DH circuit, this year he's been branching out to the Enduro scene. So with fitness on his side, we suggested he might like to give a full on XC race a bash, he was keen to oblige.

Vaughan Evans XC racer style Hamsterley Orange Elite

Vaughan gets to work with his strengths, going downhill...

 A 6AM start saw us trucking up to the North East to our favourite forest, and with 200 hectares to play with, we expected the track to be fun; we weren’t disappointed. As soon as we got there Vaughan was out on track honing his XC skills and utilising his radness to perplex the regulars. He had plenty to smile about with a nice mix of fire-road, coniferous and deciduous woodland, and even some fast manmade terrain with the liberal smattering of berms, lumps and jumps we've become accustomed to. To say this was a rider’s course would be an understatement, the fitness fanatics had plenty of chances to make time, and the more capable technical riders had good opportunities to catch up on the descents. It was fantastic to see the amount of effort the crew had put together marking out a track with something for everyone from the stalwart roadie to the weekend trail warrior.

Matt Brown Team Inov-8

Matt Brown from Inov-8 turned up on a singlespeed, he still came eighth...

The day is a relatively laid back affair, plenty of time to hang out with friends and enjoy the scene. Plenty of families about too, with newcomers and seasoned riders all enjoying the atmosphere. Youth and fun riders kick proceedings off with the rest of the riders heckling and encouraging as they wish. Experts, Elites, Juniors and Sports are up next, with the old guys rounding off the race. Here’s our amateur edit to show you what the riding’s all about, no witty interviews here, just some misdirected headcam and the odd comedy crash…

So what did we make of XC racing after spending a season riding enduro and DH type events? Well, the difference here is you turn up, race and go home. It's all about the day and being easily accessible, it doesn't involve the sheer amount of preparation that goes into a 24 hour or even 10 hour event. It's also a scene where people can just turn up and have a go without much experience on almost any level of bike. In the fun category we saw everything from a £200 Giant to a rather nice Orange Five (piloted by Andrew Diamond).

Hamsterley Nutcrackers Crash

Parts of the track were quite technical, Ian Bremner lands like a cat on his way to 18th in Race 1.

The kids were also out in force either racing before the parents had their go, or turning up specially to race in the Nutcrackers programme for youngsters. Like so many parts of the mountain bike scene, it's an event where people put time into organising events that promote cycling, and encourage people to participate in something special, mountain biking. 

Hamsterley Nutcrackers

No, not an adult on a 29er, but one of many young rippers getting in on the race action.

The racing was at times difficult to follow from the side of the track, but with camera in hand it was great to see the changing facial expressions of riders as the race progressed. Lap one, excitement; Lap two, focus; Lap thee, over it. In endurance events you often finish with just enough left to do a little more, in XC very few pace themselves to have anything left, that's not the point. If you're not dizzy at the end then you weren't taking it seriously. Vaughan was a shadow of his former self when he came in tenth in Race 3.

P7 Pro Hamsterley Nutcrackers

It doesn't have to be carbon or even aluminium to be a race bike, Karl Holtby makes good use of his P7.

So what of the event from an Orange perspective? It was a fantastic opportunity to see what goes on at the grassroots level of XC and get a little more involved. There’s so much potential with these fantastic events and with fewer races in next year’s series, everyone’s expecting even bigger fields with more argy-bargy. So if like me you need something to train for over the winter months, get your diary ready for next year’s dates, XC is awesome fun and lycra isn’t compulsory…disappointingly.

Hamsterley Nutcrackers

Blood, sweat and tears - XC racing is hardcore, whether lycra clad or not...

To find out more about the Nutcrackers XC series and take part next year, all the details are available on their website. Have a flick through the race reports, photography and video, the Swaledale race looks particularly epic...

Full results from Hamsterley are available on-line here.

Enigmatic Photography were on hand at Hamsterley with event photos available here. Ben Fursdon was also out snapping, his contact details can be found here.

Bring on 2011.


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