REDDITCH Road & Path Cycling Club members Sulli Berry and Isla Mason were faced with sweltering heat, brutal climbs and highly-technical rock gardens but they rose to the challenge to impress at the National Mountain Bike Championships.
Held at the London 2012 Olympic mountain bike venue in Hadleigh Park, the competition pitted the best riders in each age group together in gruelling conditions.
The start of the under 14s race was manic. Starting 11th on the grid due to national rankings, Berry moved effortlessly towards the front group going into the first technical feature – the iconic Tripple Trouble.
Showing maturity, he took the easier B line and, as the other riders slowed for the A line, Berry managed to sweep into seventh showing that a fast B line can be quicker than a slowly-ridden A.
Hills are not really his forte and, as the front six pulled away, a chasing pack seemed to be looming with the first big hill to come.
At the top of the hill, three riders had pulled away, with another three just behind Berry who pulled away from the pack on the infamous rock garden and was now into his stride.
On the second lap Berry made his move, taking the next three riders into the technical climb to move into fourth. He did not quite have enough to pull back third place, but finished with his best result of the season just off the podium in fourth.
Mason, on her return from injury (broken wrist), had her first outing as a Team Empella rider in the under 16 girls’ race. Starting at the back of the grid, she used her impressive climbing ability to move through the field on lap one.
Going into lap two, the other girls were fading in the heat but Mason kept going and eventually moved up to tenth which, considering the lack of training and technical practice she has had, is a superb achievement.
For a small club like Redditch Road & Path to have two youth riders again in the top ten of a national race is a fantastic achievement – both by the individuals and coaches at the club.