Report: Eastern XC Round 1
Words: Chris Reeves Photography: Flash Harry Photography
A very wet Sunday May 2 brought the opening round of the Mud Sweat and Gears Series of races in the East of England. With a selection of races on offer and a large number of pre-entries to the race, the weather didn't seem to stop people turning up to have a go at racing in the torrential rain and the mud that was brought along with this. The TROGs (Tunstall and Rendalsham Off Road Group) had spent some considerable time sorting out the 4.5 mile race course, and their efforts went well received to the 200 or so riders than turned up.
The first race starting at 10am saw the "Grommets" race for under-12s with a field of 12 boys and 5 girls racing a specially shortened course. After eight laps of a wet course, George Finch claimed victory only 18 seconds in front of second-placed Josh Peters with the final podium spot taken by Jordon Beighton. Isobel Gordon won the girls race with Jessica Creiske 14 seconds behind in second and Rebecca Tyler riding for the local TROGs taking the final podium spot.
The next race starting at 11am saw no easing of the rain and the course being gradually made more and more muddy as more riders went round the course churning up the mud and making it a very slippery affair. The Warrior race for 17+ saw a crowd of well over 50 battling through mud, trying to keep their bike upright for a total of three laps. The Youth and Juvenile categories were set off five minutes later for a race of two laps. Sean Dunlea brought home the win in the Juvenile Male with James Thorpe not far behind in second place and Rebecca Beard won the Juvenile Female race. For the Youth Male, a close battle between Jack Finch and Callum Riley saw Jack Finch win the race and local TROG, Lewis Parker brought in the final podium position. The Warrior racers saw Daniel Collins win the Senior Male Category and another TROG Jodie Cole win the Senior Female Category, the Vets Category was won by Antony Bensley for the men and Jackie Field for the females.
It was 1pm before the finale of racing began, it was still raining and the course was now very muddy and churned up, but all credit to the TROGs, it was still rideable and racing round it was reminiscent of Mountain Mayhem 2008 mudfest! This race is divided into elite/expert, senior and veteran categories, and just about every type of rider lined up for the 7 lap for men and 6 lap for women race.
CHRIS' PERSONAL TAKE
The warm up strategy for me was to stay in the car as long as possible and spend the least amount of time waiting for the start getting wet and cold! The race went off with a bang, I wasn't very far up the front due to leaving it late to line up, and then off the start line it took me ages to finally clip into my pedals, thereby leaving me halfway back in the crowd, the first bit of singletrack then bottle-necked and saw 50% of people run through cyclocross style in the mud as it was quicker!
As the race opened up, my strategy was to keep steady as the mud was very energy sapping, but even so I actually needed to use some energy gels round the course for the final couple of laps to keep me going, and the seventh and final lap was murderous. In the end Billy Whenman (Whyte Racing) won the elite/expert race ahead of Jason Turner (Norwich ABC). In the senior race Glenn Stanford (Extreme Sports Therapy/ City College Norwich) was victorious ahead of his team mates Jason Smith and Darren Evans. I personally finished seventh - absolutely dead, no brake pads left and my back in agony, oh and covered in mud; only 20 people out of the 108 people managed to do seven laps, the course was difficult with all the mud - the trick mostly being to keep the bike upright and not slip over.
The Female Senior Winner was Laura Sampson ahead of Maglia Jiminez (WXC Mountain Bike Team UK) and Renee Fox (Racefox) and for the Veterans John McAndrew won for Ben Haywards Cycles with Andrew Manning (Adventure Crew/Team Streetlife) taking second and Jack Peterson (Numplumz) third. For the Veteran women Averil Milligan (Cambridge CC) was the race winner.
Overall despite the weather being terrible for a summer race series, a lot of riders turned up raced their hardest against other riders and the elements. A big thankyou to SportsEssex, all sponsors involved and the TROGs for organising a course that despite the weather making it stupidly muddy, was still rideable. Let's hope the weather for round two involves some sun!
Billy Whenman (Overall Winner) - Yeah, it was a good race. I decided to start at the back of the group to give myself a bit of a challenge, and it took me a lap and half before I was up front. I also had my tyres up rock hard which made it more difficult to control, but it's all good training for National Points Series next weekend!
Callum Riley (Second Place Youth) - It was really muddy, my tyres uphill would just spin round and round, but I'm happy with second place, it's only my second race as a sponsored rider and I was quite close to the winner for most of the race.