The sand dunes of Pembrey Country Park in Wales were host to the first round of the British National XC series. The whole of men’s 2017 Island Games squad travelled to Wales as part of their build up for next years Games in Gotland. The course tested the riders with short sharp climbs and a number of technical features that pushed the riders to there limits.
Sam Culverwell and Brad Vaudin lined up for the first race of the day in the Youth Category. After winning the first round Southern XC two weeks earlier Culverwell was looking for a good result. His top 5 national rank from the previous year gave him a front row grid position of a large field of 60 riders, unfortunately a slipped pedal off the start left Culverwell with work to do but after a strong recovery he worked his way to the front of the race and led the pack for most of the first lap. A group of 6 riders opened a gap on the rest of the field as they entered the second of four laps. Half way through lap 2 Sean Flynn from Scotland attacked and established a small gap on the chasing group of 5 riders, Culverwell was left to do the majority of the work in trying to close down on the leader but the gap slowly grew and by the end of the race Flynn had increased his lead to 30 seconds. Culverwell did his best to break up the remaining group of four riders by riding hard over the last lap, and as they entered the finishing area he had a narrow lead over English rider Ben Tullett but Sam was unable to hold him off in the final sprint to the line and finished a very creditable 3rdplace, his best ever position at this level. Vaudin was racing at national level for the first time, suffered a crash in practise but put in a brave ride to finish well inside the top half of the field in 21st, , an excellent result considering his heavy crash the day before. Brad will have gained a lot from the race and will be looking to build on this result in future National Series event.
By the time of the Elite Race in the afternoon the rain had started and the course deteriorated quickly adding to the challenge for the riders. Three Sarnians Andy Colver, James Roe and Mike Serafin lined up in an international field with riders from 11 different nations all fighting for the early season UCI World ranking points. With the local riders gridded towards the back of the grid the first few laps were a fight for position. Roe settled into the race and by the second half was making is way though the field to finish strongly in 24th position in 1h52:18, his best placing at this level. Colver was the next rider home with an impressive performance in his first race at Elite level finishing in 33rd in 1H57.08 just 11 seconds behind last years Island Games silver medalist Jersey rider Rhys Hidrio. Whilst Serafin who was struggling with illness finished in 38th a lap down on the leaders.
A successful first round of the nationals as the rider have a week off next weekend before heading to Checkendon for the second round of the Southern XC series.