Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team updates…

May 22, 2014

The past weekend (16th – 18th April) Ben and Tim pointed the Vauxhall Vivaro team van south east and drove down to the Ardennes for the Belgian Mountain Bike Challenge 3 Day UCI category 2 stage race.

Ben tells us his view from the race.

“On Friday the 2014 BeMC started with a 55 kilometre stage around the nearby hills of La Roche. Not much was expected from today having had only a few hours sleep following a work do spilling out into the corridors and room next door to ours, your think world war 3 was happening the noise was so loud. It was a pleasant surprise therefore that both Tim and me started the race well today positioning ourselves towards the front as we exited town.

“As groups began to form the lead group rode away, I was left in group 2 with the cyclocross riders from teams Telenet Fidea and Sunweb Napoleongames. Tim was not far off the split and found himself in group 3. As you’d expect the CX riders loved the mud, it was pretty scary following them through these sections staying off the brakes. The course had very few flat sections to recover, it was just continuous steep uphill climbs followed by steep downhills.

“Bart Wellens eventually split the group just before the second time up the ‘wall of Borzee’. After saving energy for the first 45 kilometres sat in the group I now found myself alone and chasing. The last 10 kilometres flew by with some real rocky descents.

“At the finish I was 15th and Tim 26th. UCI points go down to 25th, not a bad start after just a few hours sleep!

“Stage 2 was the longest day at 92.5 kilometres with 2550 metres of climbing. You might not think that’s much climbing for that distance but when many climbs are over 15% gradient average it’s a super tough day. The organisers aren’t lying when they say this is ‘the hardest mountain bike tour in the benelux’. The 42 tooth sprocket on the Sram XX1 cassette got a lot of use during this race!

“I rode well again today but just missed the split as the front group of 8 distanced themselves. I ended up in a small second group with 2 Sunweb – Napoleon Games riders who were keen to get across to the leading riders, the pace was just a little bit harder than I wanted to go and I eventually drifted off the back after 30km. I rode alone for a bit which wasn’t ideal as it was pretty windy and maybe should have sat up and waited for the next big group to catch me. Eventually I was picked up by the group just before the second feed at 48km.

“The technical sections near the river had some great singletrack but others sections were just a boggy mess and incredibly hard work keeping up with the cyclocross riders. They gave another master-class on how to ride mud, incredible skills! After feed 2 we rode the most ridiculous climb, 200 metres of ascent at 20% gradient saw a few work muttered! The described ‘easy section’ after this climb wasn’t so easy both with a head wind and with Telenet Fidea drilling it on the front!

“Our group split and I found myself with 3 other riders fighting for 11th place, the 2 Fidea Telenet riders escaped which left me and another rider on a Scott Scale RC (popular bike out here) to climb the last steep climb which had another 200 metres of ascent, pretty tough after 90km! Just made it to the top before sliding down the hill to the finish in 14th place. Unfortunately Tim had a bit of a mare out there today, losing a fair bit of time on the overall classification and probably any chance of UCI points.

“The third and final stage of the BeMC was 87.5 kilometres and had 2650 meters of climbing. With 500m’s of climbing in the first 10km there was no easy warm up but again we both started well, Tim in the 2nd group and me in the lead group.

“There were some great trails today and even some I recognised from the Houffalize Marathon World Cup 2 weeks ago. Sadly the fun trails only allowed a brief let up from the pain and suffering today served up. Unlike the first 2 days where everyone was saving something today every corner and every hill top was followed by an acceleration.

“My calves were solid this morning and took a good 40km’s to loosen up, during this time all I could do was let riders go. Some USN Vooma caffeine gels were needed early on! I fell back to nearly 20th place by the midway point but started to feel better thereafter. Now I was able to go with the acceleration’s and was making up places using my endurance to ride well all the way to the line.

“After 80km we hit the last 250 metre climb which was the singletrack descent from previous days. The gradient was bad enough without the rocks and roots! I caught 2 more riders and hurtled down the last descent using my newly learnt mud skills to narrowly avoiding 2 horses! Into the grounds of Floreal La Roche Hotel and over the line for the final time.

“Wow what a race, one for everyone to try. So many great trails, a good atmosphere, beautiful host town, and so easy to get to being only 3 hours from Calais. Just pack your climbing legs!

“Tim finished 33rd today and 30th overall. I was 14th today and 13th overall, well inside the UCI points and prize money!”

This weekend Ben will race the 3 day Borlange Tour stage race in Sweden and Tim will race Erlestoke 12.

Follow the team on facebook. T eam/330790256947713

Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team Rider Roster.

Ben Thomas, Isaac Pucci, Sam Stean, Tim Dunford


Words… Ben Thomas


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