Under a cloudless blue sky on a fresh November morning the first competitors arrived early to Tyneside Vagabonds' first ever CXNE event, and first cyclocross promotion in many years.
The venue of Thorneyford Farm provided an unusual variation of course and facilities to those usually experienced by CXNE followers at locations like public parks, country parks or schools. The course, set in a single field had two levels of relief connected by steep banking giving the effect of a valley top and bottom, sloping down to the swollen River Blyth. The course design had ensured a mix of rolling straights to test the heart and lungs, hairpin corners, switchbacks and off-camber descents to test technical prowess and a steep incline to run up followed by a more gradual ascent to the valley top to examine the brute strength of the competitors. Luckily, the field benefited from excellent natural drainage meaning that, if anything, it ran faster in most places as the day wore on and clear racing lines were established. The openness of the terrain provided spectators with unparalleled views of the action, particularly from the pit area, from where the majority of the course could be seen.
Ward dominates open race
The main event was the Senior Open. 36 took to the start line, but it was Blackhawk Bikes rider Darren Binks who was the first to grab the bull by the horns, getting off to a flyer with Scott Bikes UK rider Keith Murray paying close attention. The chasing riders brought them back to the fold just before the first ascent of the ‘Kirkleyberg’ where Derwentside’s Tony Glover was the only rider to make a clean attempt on the obstacle, all others forced to dismount and run. This gave Glover a clear gap which he carried over the line to complete the first lap. Steven Ward of MTS Cyclesport was unperturbed, and set about clawing back Glover’s advantage, finally wresting the initiative from him on the second pass of the line. Ward didn’t look back and relentlessly built his lead lap upon lap, finally claiming victory after 10 laps and nearly 55 minutes of racing, clear in first over a minute up on the second placed rider.
If Ward’s win was a dominant one, the battle for second was a race long ding-dong between Blackhawk Bikes’ Colin Ash, and TEF Richardson RT’s Mike Thompson. The two, neck and neck for most of the race had passed the eventual fourth-placed Glover, before Ash put in a big dig on the eighth lap to distance his young adversary. Ash extended his advantage in the final two laps to take second by 20 seconds from Thompson, who was the first placed Under-23 rider. Behind the first three there were battles for position throughout the field.
During the race, many of the expectant crowd had gravitated with a sadistic magnetism to the cruelly placed run-up; expectant, that was, of struggle and failure to ride the beast. Most of the field gave them their blood, that is, apart from the RAF’s Ian Lee who delighted the onlookers with metronomic regularity as he crested the berg clipped-in and saddled-up lap after lap in an entertaining display that combined strength, panache and technical mastery.
Ashbridge takes Vets prize with Edmond first Junior while Blakeman best of the women
Earlier in the day, the Vets, Women and Junior race had been run off with a CXNE season’s biggest field of 67 racers. Veteran Keith Ashbridge of VC Cumbria and Juniors James Edmond (Ferryhill Wheelers) and Luke Parkin (Hetton Hawks) were fastest from the gun with Derwentside Junior Steven Lee not far behind. Parkin’s challenge for the win faded as Ashbridge and Edmond pulled out a gap, and Ashbridge’s endurance came to the fore as he distanced Edmond with two and a half laps remaining. Meanwhile, Derwentside veteran John Mein, initially under the radar, rode a well-paced race to take third overall from under Parkin’s nose with just over a lap to go. Ashbridge, Mein and MTS Cyclesport’s Steven Brazier completed the veteran podium while Edmond, Parkin and Lee prevailed in the Juniors. Infinity Cycles’ quickly improving cross rider Bev Blakeman took the women’s prize by a nose from Beacon Wheelers’ Nicola Davies with Karen Robertson of One Life Tri in third.
Youths bested by Worton
The Youth race saw a battle of attrition between Hetton Hawks’ U16 Matthew Worton and U14 Mark Donovan of Beacon Wheelers. Worton held the early advantage, but was passed by Donovan after three laps only to shadow Donovan into the final lap before launching an attack that saw him take victory by six seconds. The overall podium was completed by Thomas Mein of MTS Cyclesport, just over a minute back. Connie Hurton of Beacons Wheelers was best girl.
Huge U12 field
A season's biggest field of 40 U12’s took to an abridged version of the full course staying on the high part of the valley to avoid the climbs. Matti Egglestone of Beacon Wheelers took the win followed in on the same number of laps by Ben Dowson of Hetton Hawks and the unattached Oliver Drafton. Fiona Turnbull of the Vagabonds was the fastest girl.
Seniors Open Race:
1 Steven Ward – MTS Cyclesport
2 Colin Ash – Blackhawk Bikes
3 Mike Thompson – TEF Richardson RT
4 Tony Glover – Derwentside CC
5 Keith Murray – Scott Sports UK
6 Kenny Haswell – Cestria Cycles RT
7 Darren Binks – Blackhawk Bikes
8 Neil Wesley – Van Dessel
9 Malcolm Lewis – MTS Cyclesport
10 Ian Lee – RAFCA
Vets Women and Juniors Race:
1 Keith Ashbridge – Vet – VC Cumbria
2 James Edmond – Jun – Ferryhill Wheeler
3 John Mein – Vet – Derwentside CC
4 Luke Parkin – Jun – Hetton Hawks CC
5 Steven Brazier – Vet – MTS Cyclesport
6 Steven Lee – Jun – Derwentside CC
7 Rob Smith – Vet – Derwentside CC
8 Richard Atkinson – Vet – Hambleton RC
9 Elliot Davidson – Jun – Hetton Hawks CC
10 Sean Hoban – Vet – VC Cumbria
1 Keith Ashbridge – Vet – VC Cumbria
2 John Mein – Vet – Derwentside CC
3 Steven Brazier – Vet – MTS Cyclesport
1 James Edmond – Jun – Ferryhill Wheelers
2 Luke Parkin – Jun – Hetton Hawks CC
3 Steven Lee – Jun – Derwentside CC
1 Bev Blakeman – Infinity Cycles
2 Nicola Davies – Beacon Wheelers
3 Natasha Walsh – MyTriClub
1 Matthew Worton – Hetton Hawks CC
2 Mark Donavan – Beacon Wheelers
3 Thomas Mein – MTS Cyclesport
4 Joe Mann – Derwentside CC
5 Miles Worner – Teesdale CRC
Please credit www.britishcycling.org.uk and link back if you use any of our race results.
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.