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Stilettos On Wheels: Sheffield race report

Following on from the resounding success of its first year of women’s mountain bike racing in 2012, Stilettos on Wheels was back last weekend for its northern round at Rother Valley Country Park, South Yorkshire. The threat of rain didn’t even stop play for the Stilettos On Wheels girls.

The entrants to the Stilettos On Wheels getting their pre-race briefing. Image courtesy of Hannah Saville.

A forecast of heavy rain didn’t stop more than 60 women gather on the start line for the first of Stilettos On Wheels mountain bike race of the year. With almost double the number of riders in the event this year, competition was certainly fiercer, but with super friendly marshals, supporters and sponsors in the arena, plus a mix of expert and novice racers on the course, Stilettos On Wheels managed to maintain the fun, supportive atmosphere which sustains its popularity.

The race was held at Rother Valley Country Park, in South Yorkshire, last Saturday and featured two- and four-hour solo competitions and a four-hour pairs race. The venue is new for 2013 but has strong roots in the Sheffield mountain bike scene – it was the first place legendary rider Steve Peat raced!

Especially designed for the event to include something challenging for all levels of rider, the course was 3.5miles long. It began with a hill start out of the arena up a rocky road, to spread the riders out, and then followed a route up and down a hillocky, grassy field. Then followed some fast singletrack through the woods with a few technical challenges thrown in for good measure, jumps and rollers and the like, all were avoidable for less confident riders. But what goes down, must get back up, so a fun series of super-slippy- in-the-mud switchbacks came next. More swoopy singletrack through the trees and then the course turned a sharp left out into the open and into the basin of an old quarry, which (obviously) led to a short sharp climb up to the top.

The track at the top was a complete mudfest, featuring a fun mix of both claggy and sloppy mud and then it was on to a fireroad for a chance to put the pedal to the metal before another climb back into the woods and yet more singletrack, hurrah! Before you knew it, you were back at the hillocky field and climbing up the other side towards the event arena. Another bumpy descent followed by a hairpin bend and another burn up a fireroad came next, before the final swoop down to the finish line. The rest of the course was fun and challenging in equal measures, but really the course designer (good job Emma Peasland) saved the best for last with this short speedy downhill – berms, jumps, swoops, whoops, a little bit of mud, some motivational on-course graffiti – it was brilliant. All credit to Nick Howarth, Park Ranger, and Rother Valley Riders who do volunteer trail work at the park to maintain the bike trails and keep them interesting.

So, on to the results.

2-hour solo

Hannah Saville, winner of the 2-hour solo race, joined by Jessica Connor, Kali Taylor got bronze. Image courtesy of Hannah Saville.

Hannah Saville, riding for Norton Wheelers, completed four laps 6 minutes faster than the next rider to take victory in the two hour solo category. At just 15-years-old Hannah was the event’s youngest competitor and is in the British Cycling North Midlands Youth Squad. The battle for the next two steps on the podium was closely fought, but Jessica Connor, riding for Kenilworth Wheelers, completed four laps in 1.45.06 to finish second and last year’s winner Kali Taylor, riding for Craven Energy, completed her four laps just under two minutes behind for third place. Just 6 of the 34 riders in the 2 hour category managed to complete 4 laps, showing just how challenging the course and conditions were.

4-hour solo

Elite female mountain bike racer Amber Southern, riding for WXC World Racing, bagged the win. Amber completed an impressive 9 laps of the course, including the events fastest lap overall of 22.30, and won with a comfortable 11 minutes to spare. Helen MacGregor, riding for VC Lincoln, also completed 9 laps to take second. Helen is currently ranked number one veteran female mtb xc racer in the UK. Last year’s northern round winner Amelia Cambridge, for Velo Club Rutland, completed 8 laps for third place.

Amber (centre), Helen (right) and Amelia (left) made up the podium for the 4-hour soloists. Image courtesy of Hannah Saville.

The most senior racer in the event Ann Robinson, Lichfield City Zipvit Sport, completed 6 laps for 5th position in the four-hour solo race. Ann usually races in the Grand Veterans category and is currently ranked 9th in the country for her age-group. Local cycling clubs were also well represented, with an amazing 11 women from Bolsover and District Cycling Club taking part in the three races.

4-hour pairs

The four-hour pairs category was probably the most closely fought in the event, but the victorious Team MazNEm managed to complete 9 laps just in the nick of time to clinch first position. Two of the Formidable Five, also known as last year’s pairs winners Theresa and Sheila, completed 8 laps to finish second, and Team Kazuth also did 8 laps to place third.

Bit of a squeeze, the victorious pairs. Image courtesy of Hannah Saville.

Every finisher received a bespoke sprocket medal at the end of their race. The top three in each category also received special leather medals, designed and made by Katie Bebbington of Dormouse Inc, a professional leather and metal-worker (and keen cyclist). After the prize-giving, an impressive array of spot prizes for Stilettos On Wheels’ generous sponsors were doled out, including shiny Lezyne track pumps, funky AnaNichoola and Morvelo clothing, bike parts from Mt Zoom, custom-painted Stilettos On Wheels OdPod bike stands from Od Designs, cycling jewellery from Fine Fettle, discount vouchers from Bamboo Bikes, and a £100 voucher from Sheffield bike shop Over-Ride Cycleworks.

Happy competitors with their sprocket medals designed and made by Katie Bebbington. Image courtesy of Hannah Saville.

JE James Cycles were at the event again, providing bike maintenance and a very-popular bike wash service. Over-Ride Cycles, Od Designs, and Bike Rehab also displayed in the arena. First laps for some were powered by Torq Energy, who provided a free Raspberry Ripple energy gel for every racer, and riders and pit crews were able to keep up to date with lap times and positions through the efficient technology of Race Timing Solutions.

If you’re tempted to give mountain bike racing a go, don’t forget that there is still space on the southern round of Stilettos on Wheels, held at Stanmer Park, Brighton on Saturday 7th September. Click through on to the Stilettos On Wheels website to enter now!

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