If you go down to the woods today...

HSBC UK National Cross Country: Sherwood Pines

As the riders were tearing through the woods I realised that this was just like the rallying – athletes going at breakneck speeds along a tiny track to beat their competitors.

For me, Sherwood Pines has a bit of a history of sporting events, more specifically rallying. When I was younger I came along to this very woods and spectated at my first rally, watching the cars come tearing through the woods at breakneck speeds into a tight right-hander was something I’d never forget. It was really the moment where I fell in love with the sport. I visited the event time and time again at different times of year and spectating different types of rally; from classic cars to modern world rally spec machinery. It may not have been the most picturesque venue to watch a rally at but it certainly held a lot of memories for me.

Then a few years ago that was it – no more rallies at Sherwood Pines. The Forestry Commission put their foot down and said no more. I’ve honestly not visited since that decision was made.

When I saw the HSBC UK National Cross Country (XC) Series’ opening round was to be held at Sherwood Pines I knew I had to be there. It felt odd arriving at the woods to not be there for four wheeled action but those thoughts were quickly dispatched as I realised what a cool track this was going to be to work at.

Whilst it’s perhaps not known as being ‘one of the best’ mountain biking courses in the country Sherwood Pines does provide some fast and equally tight sections that are challenging for the riders. The sunshine-drenched forest meant that the course was relatively dry and dusty in places creating a blisteringly fast course.

I’d never really had a chance to photograph off-road biking before but quickly got to grips with the sport and all of it’s quirks. As the riders were tearing through the woods I realised that this was just like rallying – athletes going at breakneck speeds along a tiny track to beat their competitors. Even photographically it’s similar!

As the day drew to a close the Elite Men’s race had gotten underway which was decided after seven laps in a sprint to the line between Grant Ferguson and Cameron Orr, who would eventually take the victory in a race that came down to the final metres. In the women’s race Annie Last (British & Commonwealth Champion) went toe to toe with Dutch rider Lotte Koopmans for the opening few laps before stretching her lead to a staggering 2 minutes – a true show of power and performance.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the woods– even without the rally cars! It was great to witness another top class sporting event being held at Sherwood Pines again.

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