Merida UK rider Paul Hopkins going for the win at Hopton Woods
After another successful event at the South England Championships at Wasing Park Merida UK rider (and 26inch lover) Paul Hopkins turned his attention to the 3rd Round of the National Points Series which was a incredible course at Hopton Woods, Nr Ludlow in Shropshire.
Here his report: “We arrived quite late on Saturday around 7pm, but still managed to get a practice lap in, to see what was in store. To sum it up it was the biggest climb on the race calendar this year, from the arena it just went up and up. Even at race pace it took 15 minutes to reach the summit and then you were rewarded with an incredible singletrack descent winding through the woods with jumps, bumps, berms and slate sections. I know there is a big buzz going on this year with 29ers, but after riding my Ninety Nine round this course I could not believe any bike would suit this course more. I only did one lap on Saturday but the only way to describe the way I felt on my Ninety Nine was 'dialled'.
I went into this race tied with my arch rival Lewis King, but gridded as number one. It was good to be at the front of this huge field of riders and I managed to get a good start and led the race out of the arena and up the climb. The heat could be a factor, so I wanted to see if I could control the race at the front for a while. When we hit the steeper section Chris Rathbone a definite favourite to win here after destroying all the opposition in the North of England so far this year, pulled alongside me to take the lead. I turned up the pace to try and stay ahead and he decided to pull in behind me and follow my wheel. After 3 minutes of climbing we got to a zig zag section, the corners were tight and slow which meant you had to virtually stop and then accelerate as quickly as possible, this is where I am sure I had an advantage over all of the other front runners behind me, as they were all on 29ers. I could throw my Ninety Nine around the corner and get up to speed again very quickly. When I hit the firetrack climb I had made a gap on Chris Rathbone and the chasing pack. This gave me confidence and when I reached the summit I knew no one had a better bike to fly down this descent.
The first time around the arena I was clocked as having a 26 second lead from Lewis King who had now taken up second place no doubt by using his downhill skills. I felt comfortable and efficient and as the laps went by my lead increased. By the end of the last lap I was over 2 minutes ahead of second place, a winning lead that I didn't think I would see again. A great result for us meaning I now officially leading the series and although there are 2 more races to go in the national series, if I can keep this form I am looking forward to the up and coming hills that Scotland will provide in Round 4 at Kirroughtree.”
Congratulations from us at Merida tower and good luck for the next round in Scotland.