Although still a relatively new event, the Maldon Dengie Tour is part of the Premier Calendar series for the first time this season. Indeed, it is the opening event of the series, taking place on 1st April.
Also known as the “Hell of the East”, a reference to the race’s challenging route, the Maldon Dengie Tour is reminiscent in many ways of the classic Paris–Roubaix event, known throughout the cycling world as the “Hell of the North”.
Organiser Alan Rosner has tweaked the course for the event’s Premier Calendar debut and had this to say about it: “This amended course has a real sting in the tail. There are a number of non-tarmac sections, the last with a mere 3 miles before the finish. Overall it’s a hundred plus miles of rolling and pan flat roads including two passages of the “Flanders landscape” Dengie farm roads.”
“In total there are nine sections of non tarmac, comprising both ways on the infamous farm track, four passages of bomb-crater alley and three new sections in the last 10 miles including a one mile byway.”
Above: the 2011 event was windy and dry. What will 2012 bring? (image: londoncyclesport.com)
The 2011 event was won by Rapha Condor Sharp’s Zak Dempster, during his remarkable run during last Spring. Conditions were windy but dry, with Rapha Condor Sharp being rewarded for some strong team-work. It is some indication of the event’s unique challenge that runner-up, Graham Briggs, suffered four punctures during the event.
The opening round of the Premier Calendar always produces some of the fiercest racing of the season as the teams battle to make an early impact and impress their sponsors, spectators and rivals alike. And, as Rapha Condor Sharp demonstrated last year, how the race is won will be all about team-work.
Although flat, the course is extremely exposed and prone to the cutting East winds which characterise the weather in this area in early Spring. Wind presents unique challenges, requiring quick thinking and selfless riding as teams protect their top riders and try to get them to the finish fresh and able to react to late breaks.
The road surfaces, or lack of them, similarly put unique demands on the riders and their support staff. Punctures require rapid bike changes as re-establishing contact with the front of the race after mechanical troubles can be nigh-on impossible in the closing miles.
Finally, although dry Springs have become something of a norm and the Maldon area is amongst the driest in the UK, there’s always the chance of rain. A wet race adds another level of technical difficulty along with simple issues like keeping mud out of your eyes. It’s not surprising that the entry in previous year has included a smattering of Cyclo-Cross and Mountain Bike riders.
But this year, for the first time, the race will feature a full turn-out by big guns of the domestic Road scene and it will be interesting to see who prevails and who each of the teams nominates as their leader for the day.
If you’re looking for a winner, it’s hard to look beyond Endura, who have both the overall firepower and the kind of riders who will thrive on the rough roads, such as former mountain biker Ian Wilkinson and Jonny McEvoy and Scott Thwaites, both of whom are talented Cyclo-Cross riders.
The event starts and finishes in the historic town of Maldon, scene of a gruelling battle between English defenders and Viking raiders in 991AD, immortalised in the Old English poem “The Battle of Maldon”. It’s an historical context which adds further grit to an event which has rapidly acquired a reputation for testing riders’ resolve and technique as much as their fitness.
The race will benefit from Essex police & N.E.G. Motorcycle escort. There’s a Condor Cycles award for the best under 23 finisher and for those wishing to spectate (the race starts at 1pm), but also fancy a ride in the area, there will be an on/off-road reliability trial organised by maldon cycling club starting at 09.00 the same day.
Event Contacts & Trade Options
The Maldon Dengie Tour has its own website, www.dengiemarshestour.com and the organiser, Alan Rosner, still has some opportunities for race sponsorship with space for trade display stands in the park adjacent to the finish. Contact Alan on 01277 218392 or 07973 448679, or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org