Team CRC Mavic’s Kelan Grant came out of the blocks swinging for the opening round of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup to take a muddy win at Ravensdale.
Claiming first blood at round one of the 2019 series, Grant enjoyed a clean sweep of stage wins to top the overall King of the Mountain podium. Under 21 hotshots Harry Byrne (Expert Cycles) and Drew Armstrong (Vitus First Tracks Race Division) were second and third.
In the highly competitive Women’s class it was Irish Enduro Champ Leah Maunsell (Kona) who enjoyed the spoils of victory over CRC Belfast’s Hannah Harvey and Green Bike’s Meave Baxter.
“I’m delighted with that win,” told Kelan following the podium celebrations. “I always love racing at home any chance I get and today was pretty sweet.
“It was muddy and technical, but these stages are real gems. It’s been cool to win them all and top the podium.”
A new venue to the series, the First Tracks Enduro Cup also marked the first major MTB race in the Ravensdale forest since the glory days of downhill.
After many, many months of building, the local trail fairies had come up trumps with four national-calibre enduro trails for the 260-strong entry to sink their wheel tracks into.
A lead-in of April showers ensured a muddy and slippery day of practice on Saturday. But with a weekend of sunshine for racing, the stages began to show their best as Sunday’s action progressed.
Grant Clean Sweeps Ravensdale
At the head of the field it was Grant – fresh off his 28th place EWS result in Tasmania – who started as the hotly tipped favourite. And he didn’t disappoint.
Holy Grail, arguably the gnarliest of stages to open on, saw Grant set the pace stopping the clocks with a four-second lead.
Split by one second, young guns Byrne and Armstrong were nipping at his heels, ready to capitalise on any mistakes made.
Cycleology Racing’s James MacFerran was fourth fastest down stage one, followed by VFTRD duo Jack Devlin and Glyn O’Brien, ensuring the top six were separated by just 12 seconds.
Keeping the pace high, Grant continued to build on his lead through stages two and three and as the only rider to comfortably dip inside the three-minute and 10-second marker on Born Slippy’s stage four he secured victory while also topping the Senior ranks.
Byrne And Armstrong Impress
Behind him, Byrne and Armstrong continued their fight for the remainder of the podium. A slip-up on stage two by Armstrong gave Byrne the slender breathing room he needed.
And with the pair trading placings on the final two stages, Byrne ended his day as a worthy runner-up, while also winning Under 21.
Enjoying the slippery roots of stage two to post the second quickest time, MacFerran used that gain to his advantage keeping O’Brien and Devlin at bay. He finished fourth overall and first in Master A Men.
Proving age is just merely a number, the wiley cat of O’Brien kept teammate (and birthday boy) Devlin in his wheel tracks to complete the overall top five. O’Brien also won the Veteran Men.
Standout Ride For Fleming
With Devlin sixth and third in Under 21, it was FMX Photography’s James Fleming who carded the day’s standout performance.
Climbing the ranks during the previous couple of seasons, Fleming will be a rider to watch for in 2019.
Keeping O’Brien and Devlin honest throughout, he finished seventh overall – second in Senior – but only five seconds behind O’Brien in fifth.
Moving up to Under 21 for 2019, Ronan Dunne (Biking.ie) didn’t disappoint in the mud with eighth overall followed by Chris Brown (CBracing) – third Senior – in ninth overall.
Mech Monkey’s Ben Irwin showed he’s got the pace to run up front with two top-five stages, but 11th on stage one and 14th on stage four ultimately dropped him down to 10th overall.
Women: Maunsell Masters The Mud
In the Women’s class Leah Maunsell shone best in the mud. Despite missing Saturday’s practice, Maunsell didn’t let that faze her and comfortably won the first three stages.
However, a crash on stage four almost saw her day’s work unravel, but with enough in hand she got the job done.
“With a crash on stage four I nearly threw it all away, but luckily I had enough in hand to get the win,” said Maunsell. “It was tough to ride the stages blind because you didn’t know where the grip was, but overall it actually wasn’t too bad.
“I caught my front wheel on a tree down stage four and went over the handlebars. I landed hard on my shoulder but managed to shake it off and get home with enough in hand to win.”
Capitalising on Maunsell’s mistake, Hannah Harvey took the stage four win. After a day long battle with local hero Meave Baxter that time proved crucial in claiming the runner-up result.
Stepping up to the Women’s ranks for 2019, 14-year-old Hannah Mullin (Green Bikes) put in an impressive ride for fourth, while Lorraine O’Sullivan (KMBC) completed the top five.
Beefy Best In Master B
Moving to Master B for 2019, CRC Belfast’s Beefy Mullan – 2018 Master A champ – finished inside the top 20 overall to claim the category win over Steven Bradley and Lucas Wolczyk (EE MTB).
Taking the Master A win, James MacFerran was joined on the podium by Nathan McCormick and Mark O’Hara in second and third respectively.
Daniel Eastwood won three stages to claim victory in the Hardtail class, with Ian Bailey (Stanton Bikes) runner-up and Alan Gilkinson (Sperrin MTB) third.
Clerkin Off To Winning Start In Junior
The Under 16 Junior Men saw Rostrevor MTB’s Niall Clerkin secure the top step of the podium. Winning the opening two stages, he then controlled his lead during the second half of the day to take a 12-second win over Brendan ‘Djouceman’ Conroy (Bespoke Cycles) and Robbie Dugan.
The Youth (12-13) saw Callum Morris (Dirtyrides MTB) secure a commanding victory over Jay Mccord (McCord MTB) and Matthew Moore. Morris also won the Challenger category.
Brian Finnegan won all but stage three to top the Super Vet Mens over Marcus Swail (Velocity MTB) and Plush MTB’s John Glover – the duo split by just one second.
With Glyn O’Brien racing clear to the Veteran win, Derek McLaughlin was second, while Michael Cowan (CRC Belfast) took third.
The newly introduced E-bike class saw five riders compete with CRC’s Ian McIntyre win following a day-long battle with Dean McArdle – the duo shared stage wins between them equally. Lee Hulme (High Flyer) completed the top three.
The First Tracks Enduro Cup continues with round two in Big Wood on May 12
First Tracks Enduro Cup Ravensdale Stages
Results – Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup, Round 1 Ravensdale
Overall Top 20
Complete Results: First Tracks Enduro Cup – Ravensdale
For all race images visit: Industry Image
Taster from Saturday practice. More to follow later.Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup. Ravensdale #1 Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup https://www.industryimage.com/vitus-first-tracks-rd-1