Contributor: Iain Fairley / Images: Aled Richards
Welsh Cyclocross League Round 11, hosted by West Wales Cycle Racing at Pembrey Country Park was the last event in an exciting and fantastic series - well attended, great venue and course, and weather that held up to its best for the middle of December.
This weeks contributor has once again given us a complete showdown of the days events, Thank you to Iain Fairley for a detailed report, it's great to read riders and spectators review of the event. Thanks also to Aled Richards for allowing us to use his images with this article.
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Step into Christmas
Elton John’s ‘Step into Christmas’ rang out across a windswept field as cyclists in a multitude of club colours sped across the grassy arena: the final round of the Welsh Cyclocross League was underway! Hosted by West Wales Cycle Racing, the league once more utilised the large and varied Pembrey Country Park. The fast-draining seaside venue meant even with the previous week’s heavy rain, ground conditions were firm for all races.
With series positions up for grabs, the kids racing was well attended and closely fought on the shorter courses. Well done to all the younger riders who braved the chilly early morning temperatures to take to the course!
Typically, the ‘ski-slope’ area of Pembrey is known for a seniors’ course that favours those with a penchant for road cycling. However, West Wales designed a compact twisty course with plenty of stop-start corners to break up the efforts making it an all-round test of skill and fitness. Notwithstanding that, speeds were high on the hard-packed short grass terrain and meant drafting paid off, especially on sections exposed to the strong wind.
In the youth races, a strong group of four led the under 16s for the early laps until this was whittled down to a duo and Jack Hastings (Cardiff JIF) edged out Finley George (Abergavenny Road Club) by one second to take the win.
Great commentary from Richard Hopkins kept spectators up to date with riders’ positions, a real bonus for races with multiple categories racing at once. In the other categories larger gaps opened up, full results for all categories can be found below.
Alternating straights linked with hairpins
After podium and series prizes for the younger rider had taken place, the Veterans and Womens races were set off. First off were the 40+ veterans, Andrew Baum led the race along the start straight with Frazer White (Pontypool RCC) in close pursuit. By the start of the second lap, a group of three had established a substantial lead over a chasing pack of three led by Arwel Davies (TRCC). Several sections of the course consisted of alternating straights linked with hairpins, allowing competitors to easily keep track of those behind them. As the race went on, nothing separated the leading trio of Matt Lewis (Abergavenny RC), Frazer White and Simon Loose (Abergavenny RC), with them coming across the finish line in that order and with only 3 seconds between them.
In the 50+ veterans race, the long, flat, start straight meant Ian Jeremiah (Cardiff Jiff) had opened up a lead of several bike lengths before even crossing the startline for the first time; although by the time he’d left the arena area, Mark James (Team Jewson- M.I Racing -Polypipe) had got onto his wheel. At the end of the first lap these two had opened up a big gap to the chasers and they would stay clear, with Mark James eventually pulling out a 30 second gap on Ian by the finish. Larger gaps were evident in the Women’s race with Ruby Miller (Hope Factory Racing) leading from the start and eventually winning by almost two minutes from Clare Hoskins (Cardiff JIF).
The rain that had been threatening all morning finally started shortly before the senior race causing variable grip through the race as the showers came and went. On the whistle, it was Steven James (Hope Factory Racing) who got the jump; crossing the startline neck-and-neck with junior Welsh champion William Truelove (Abergavenny RC). At the end of lap one it was Steven James and Lee Williams (Orbea Factory Team UK) who were in the lead as a duo with nothing between them.
James and Williams battled to the end
While much of the course was over similar terrain, towards the end of a lap was a section that twisted tightly through some trees before a log hurdle and a short, steep, loose ascent and descent to another log hurdle. This variety meant further back in the field, gaps between riders ebbed and flowed as people played to their strengths. By the end of lap 5, James had gained a 5 second lead over Williams and from that point he continued to extend his lead by around 8 seconds a lap, finally beating Lee Williams by 44 seconds. Post-race discussion highlighted the closeness of the racing for much of the field, many ruing not quite having the energy to close gaps for that last time.
As always, huge thanks to the organisers West Wales Cycle Racing, the various volunteers and Welsh Cycling commissaires involved with putting on the event. Pembrey was the last race of the Welsh Cyclocross season so thanks to all involved with putting on the series. I’m sure many of us are already looking forward to the start of the 2019 season next September!
Thank You Iain, a great report!