Cross-Country ‘XCO’ races are held over multiple laps of an undulating circuit and have evolved massively in recent years: Races are shorter and more intense, with power and technical skill now as important as fitness to be successful. Over the course of the series you should expect everything from blazing fast descents and elevated boardwalk, to technical singletrack and lung searing climbs, giving everyone the chance to shine.
The ‘Hanchurch Hills Hundred’ in Stoke is our longer distance mtb race, classed as Cross-Country Marathon ‘XCM’. Utilizing a 20km lap to create a choice of race distances up to 100km means bigger climbs and longer descents. Combine this with no chance to pre-ride the course and the emphasis is on speed endurance, while being smooth and efficient.
Rounding things out are the Midlands Cross-Country Eliminator ‘XCE’ Champs taking place at the Cliffhanger festival in Sheffield. This is the newest discipline on the block, combining the speed and intensity of 4-Cross, with the tactics and endurance of XC. Using a 500m-1,000m length XC course and a knock-out format, each 3 minute heat sees 4 riders going head to head, with the first two progressing to the next round each time, until the field is whittled down to 4 riders to contest the final and take the win!
Do I need a licence to race?
A race licence is not compulsory, except for Elite and Expert categories, where the current British Cycling licence states Elite or Expert beside the discipline MTB XC.
How long is a lap?
In line with UCI / BC regulations, lap length for XCO is limited to 6km and where possible will form a cloverleaf shape, giving spectators multiple viewing opportunities. Just as important is the target lap time for the leading riders allowing us to hit the optimum winning time, so the hilly course at Eastridge Wood will be shorter than the flatter lap at Cannock Chase to ensure the lap times are the same.
Do I have to compete at every round to be in with a chance of winning the series?
No – best 3 XC results count. The series finale at Eastridge Woods is the decider with series presentations taking place after the race.
For 2013 there is also a ‘Midlands Best All Rounder’ (BMAR for short) award based on your XC Marathon, XC Eliminator and top XC result. It’s an idea we’ve pinched from TTers while they were hunched over their tri bars in a private world of pain. It’s to recognise the best all round riders and allows for the reduced number of categories in the Marathon and Eliminator races.
How can I get involved?
The Midlands XC series is organised by a core group of friends and volunteers, with a local club presenting each round. If you’d like to give something back to the sport then get in touch – these race are for you and can’t happen without you!
What time should I arrive?
Give yourself enough time to sign on at registration and collect your number board. You can only pre-ride the course once your number board is attached to your bike and at the designated times (08.00-09.00, 10.30-11.30 and 13.00-14.30). Allow for faff time and remember you’ll need to bring your own water onto site. Someone always forgets their shoes/helmet/gloves, try to avoid it being you making that mistake… Shops in the arena will have most of the spares you’ll need to save the day in case it is!
Will there be any camping available?
This varies for each venue. Keep an eye on the news section for up to date info. If there’s no camping available at the venue there will be sites nearby.
It’s my first time, what can I expect?
Cross country mtb racing is about finding out who is the quickest from point A to point B. It’s about pushing yourself harder than you ever could in training, it’s about going faster than you ever could on your own and it’s about having fun! “You can’t win the race on your first lap, but you can lose it” Sage advice! You’ll start at the same time as everyone else in your category, so get warmed up and ready to go from 0 to 180 bpm in the blink of an eye as you sprint off into the distance. Mt Zoom are sponsoring the fastest lap prize at every round, but try and save something for the last lap – that’s when the race is won.
How long will my race last?
The faster you go, the quicker you’ll finish… But on average 1hr 30mins. If you arrive to the race fresh, rested and ready to go your body will have enough glycogen stored away for 1hrs riding. This means most people will need to take on energy of some sort (hence the wide array of energy drinks, gels, bars etc) during the race to get them to the finish. 1 litre of water equals 1 kilogram – that’s a fair amount of extra weight to carry around, so many racers take along somebody to pass up water bottles etc to them each lap from the feed zone. A Camelbak is another option, but not often seen. Remember this ain’t no Sportive – people won’t be stopping at the feed zone for a slice of cake, a banana and a chat! Same goes for pee stops…
Any tips for me?
Cross-country racing is about racing – it’s not a time trial. It’s about overtaking and being overtaken, trying to keep up with someone else’s pace and them with yours. It’s tactical – different people have different skill sets. Do you limit your losses on the climbs and make time gains on the downhills, or the other way round? As well as using your practise lap to work out what is the fastest line for you through any given section of trail, look for where you could go off the ‘racing line’ to overtake and decide where you’ll be able to ease up and swig a mouthful of drink. It is courteous to warn the rider in front if you’re going to pass them and on what side. The impetus is on you to do so safely – this is a non contact sport, treat others as you’d want them to treat you.
What should I wear?
We’ve had elite riders win races in the past wearing baggy shorts, so whatever your comfortable in, not everyone wears a skinsuit! Bring a selection of kit with you, at the very least knee / arm warmers and a gillet. We’ll have spot prizes from Pearl Izumi to hand out to those in need! Don’t forget some clean kit for the podium too
Am I eligible for the Midlands Champs?
You are classed as living in the West / East Midlands by British Cycling if you have one of the postcodes listed below. You don’t need to live in the Midlands to take part though – we’ve had riders from as far afield as Europe, Australia and North America in the past!
Doncaster (DN15, DN16, DN17, DN18, DN19, DN20, DN21, DN22, DN31, DN32, DN33, DN34)
Peterborough (PE10, PE11, PE12, PE20, PE21, PE22, PE23, PE24, PE25)
Sheffield (S18, S21, S40, S41, S42, S43, S44, S80, S81)
Shrewsbury (SY1, SY2, SY3, SY4, SY5, SY6, SY7, SY8, SY9, SY11, SY12, SY13, SY10 7, SY10 8 )