The ACU has a new champion! Billy Bolt’s second place at the H2O Xtreme Classic over the weekend was enough to secure the title for this talented and entertaining young rider.
The title was hard-earned, not just at H2O, which proved to be possibly the toughest course of the season, but at the four previous events which began in January at Tong in Yorkshire, then moved to Cowm Quarry near Rochdale. Third in the series was Ed’s of the Valley which ran in horrendous conditions near Abbey-Cwm-Hir in Wales while Extreme Ravines in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, occupied slot number four.
The H2O event had a lot to live up to but succeeded on all counts with a cracking entry list and a course that truly was extreme with a new woodland ‘off-camber’ section that simply isn’t justified by the term off-camber. It was horrendous to negotiate across possibly the steepest hill at H2O, there are bigger but not as loose or full of trees and roots and it soon became a focal point which saw the marshals working extremely hard from the first lap onwards.
A new stream section, more climbs and descents and a general fine tuning of the course from last year’s event saw a much harder challenge for the 120 riders who chose to test themselves at such an exceptional venue.
The single race, lasting two and a half hours, began at 11.30am with the Pro Championship class riders blasting off the line and heading across the fields, through a ravine and into the woods. Eurotek KTM’s Paul Bolton took the lead but was never more than a few feet ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Extreme Team Factory power duo of Graham Jarvis and Billy Bolt. The three pulled away on the first lap leaving D3 Racing’s Sam Winterburn, Husqvarna’s Danny McCanney and St Blazey MX Husky mounted Keelan Hancock in the chasing group.
With a new course layout it took a while for the riders to reach the rock garden, approached from the opposite direction to the previous year, but Paul Bolton still maintained his lead on the first lap with Bolt close on his heels and Grand Master Jarvis slightly adrift in third spot.
Even by the second lap backmarkers became part of the game for the leaders to negotiate, the off-camber claimed scores of victims and was strewn with bodies and bikes. Both Jarvis and Bolt opted for the near impossible direct route to the top of the off-camber hill and both pulled it off with ease. Bolt eventually took the lead, followed by Jarvis as Bolton slipped to third spot but it was far from over, even by the halfway point.
Jarvis’ arm-pump wore off and his pace increased significantly, Bolt rode a couple of laps without gloves which slowed him down considerably while Bolton survived a couple of hard crashes unscathed as the running order finally sorted itself over the last 30-minutes of the race.
Jarvis had stretched a significant lead of over three minutes by the time the chequered flag was waived. Bolt had slowed without gloves but a quick stop to replace them saw him up his pace by which time it was too late to catch the leader and he settled for second spot which was enough to give him the Champions title. Paul Bolton was a further two minutes adrift in third place, all three riders were breathing hard by the end of a race that had really tested them.
Danny McCanney took fourth spot, a lap down on the leading threesome, with Sam Winterburn finishing fifth and Keelan Hancock in sixth to wrap up the Pro Championship class.
William Hoare nailed the Expert class win and matched the Pro’s on laps with nine to his credit as Chris Madigan and Charlie Frost took second and third a lap behind him but the overall title went to Matthew Jones who finished in fourth place. He had breather pipe problems and lost a lot of time but still did enough to take the Expert Champions title.
Juan Knight put in a terrific performance on a Gas Gas UK machine and was a long way clear of Andrew Reeves in second place and Grant Churchward in third. John Shirt took a creditable fourth having recently revived his riding passion and loved every minute of the race. Mick Boam took sixth in class but had done enough to take the Vets Champion title.
Fred Adams dominated the Clubman class, his good form seems to know no end. He really has impressed all who have seen him this season. Not so impressed was Ash Bell who took second behind Adams but in a class field of Clubman riders it was a decent result. Brad Lilburn was once again in the mix and took a solid third place just ahead of Lewis Ellis, both riders having had tough but determined rides.
Chloe Richardson showed how it should be done in the Sportsman class by taking the win ahead of Richard Hawes and Luke Evans. Although all three completed only half the number of laps that the Pro riders did, they possibly had the hardest race of all but they upped their game and battled onwards. It was a very tough course for Sportsman riders.
Dawson Marriott lead the Youth riders home with yet another impressive victory to his credit. The ever-improving Tom Knight charged to second place with Paul Bolton’s protégé Suff Sella from Israel in third. This was Sell’s second attempt at the H2O Classic and the improvement in his riding capabilities over 12 months was impressive.
As Billy Bolt crossed the finish line the celebrations began. Jarvis had won the race but Bolt had his first Champion title to his name and it has been a long time coming but obvious to everyone that he has the ability to gain many more titles in the years to come. With Lee Edmondson on the spanners the pair make an unbeatable if somewhat crazy combination but they certainly add plenty of fun to the sport, which can be overly serious at times.
Congratulations to Graham on his win and massive congrats to Billy on his first Championship but, looking back over the season, the whole series has been of the highest standard and thoroughly deserving of the ACU British Extreme Enduro Championship title.
This is in no small part due to the influence of Paul Edmondson who has persevered in his quest to raise the bar and make the series inclusive for all standards of rider. He succeeded with flying colours.
Report and Photos by Tim Tighe