The Bristol BikeFest on Saturday June 7 paid tribute to late bike reviewer and Bristol resident Steve Worland with a special category in the 12-hour mountain bike race, the Steve Worland Memorial Cup, won by a team of bike community old stagers known as the SWMC Reprobates.
The Steve Worland Cup combined three of the great loves of Steve’s life: riding bikes; Ashton Court, venue for the Bristol Bikefest; and drinking cider. Participants were invited to down a glass of cider halfway round each lap. It wasn’t compulsory, but most riders went for it, which made large relay teams a good idea.
Rory Hitchens of Upgrade bikes was one of the protagonists of the winning squad. He and Paul Mackie (Zealous Cycles) pulled a group of eight friends together at almost the last minute with Shift Active Media’s Matt Skinner as directeur sportive.
Rory takes up the story: “The tracks were sketchy as hell in places as the morning rain left a slime of tyre mud on the rocky trails. All good fun but tyre pressure definitely needed to be lowered.
“Riding the Ashton Court trails in those conditions it was easy to think of Steve and I did my best to loosen up and get all ‘flowy’ on the bike like he would. I am sure his lap times would have put us to shame.
“As we descended to the lower trails the heavy beats and synth overtones of a large ’80’s pop concert were clear hitting ups up at every berm. Nothing quite like hitting the pump track trail section in time to Visage’s Fade To Grey. How fitting for Steve’s race that music was built in.
“Just as I started feeling the lap in my legs the refreshment stall was on hand, the highlight for the Worland racers. John “Shaggy” Ross and his apple helpers had their own DJ set and cider-swigging stall at the top of the long climb.
“Gasping for air I sipped my way through the first cup of Worland nectar. The strong ginger and chilli overtones hit the back of my throat and the thirst for more was quenched with a down-in-one full cup and a skyward “cheers Steve” before tapping out the rest of the lap to a slightly mulled overtone.
“Passing the baton to Michel (Mavic) and sinking into a handful of Jelly Babies and mini sausage rolls it was everything fun team racing was supposed to be.
“Winning the Steve Worland trophy was a bonus that we were all over the moon about and with the mix of us on the team we will do a good job at promoting the event for next year.
“We will be back to defend the trophy. I somehow think the racing will be faster next year—but just as fun.
“Cheers Steve, you really did start something special.”
Rory’s team-mate Matt Page added: “Our table in the pits looked more like a party buffet, the banter was flowing as much as the trails and the damp course made things a little more exciting.
“My aim for the weekend was to put in a few fast laps and then chill out and enjoy. We had no aims of winning, we were all there to have fun and enjoy but winning was a nice bonus and I am sure we will all treasure such a brilliant trophy!”
Named in a nod to Steve Worland’s column in MTB Pro magazine many years ago, the SWMC Reprobates comprised: Matt Skinner (Shift Active Media); Dave Hemming (Vulpine.cc - Pivot Boompods Racing); Rory Hitchens (Upgrade Bikes - Pivot Boompods Racing); Matt Page (A-Cycling/Pivot); Michel Lethenet (PR for Mavic Europe); Paul Mackie (Zealous Cycles); Dave Froy; and Rawson Pilon.
Organisers plan to make the Steve Worland Memorial Cup an annual part of the Bristol Bikefest.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.