Review of the 2018-19 Cyclocross season by Stephen Brook
The cyclocross season has now come to a close, with the recent World Championships in Denmark producing two more British riders entitled to wear the rainbow jersey next year – Tom Pidcock (U23) and Ben Tulett (Junior), the latter retaining the world title he won last year. Anna Kay (U23) finished strongly in 5th ahead of a strong Dutch field, with Nikki Brammeier our top Elite Woman in 8th. Eastern League riders got an early look at Tulett’s speed as he rode the first fixture of the season at Langdon Hills back in September, lapping all but the top 10 riders in the senior race.
Cyclocross continues to grow in popularity, and that was certainly reflected in participation by Wheelers this season. Across the 16 Eastern League fixtures, a total of 33 Wheelers competed this year. Many are regular league riders, but several were trying it for the first time – in particular at our home race at West Stow in November. We were represented in all age categories, from under 8 to over 60.
League venues were a mixture of the familiar and new this year. The Wheelers’ home race moved from Hardwick Heath to West Stow Country Park (as previously reported), while Stowmarket & District CC found a new venue for their race (previously at Chantry Park in Ipswich) at Haughley Park near Stowmarket. Both courses received excellent feedback from riders and spectators. The league also visited a new venue at Writtle College and returned to Milton Park in Cambridge for the season’s closing event.
Alex Cooper rides the steep bank at Haughley Park – photo: Stephen Brook
The aspect of winter racing most notable by its absence this year was mud – there was a downpour in the early season race at Northlands (Basildon) that lasted most of the day, and similar weather at Welwyn in October. The last couple of races of the season at Snetterton and Milton Park were sticky from overnight rain and frost, presenting tricky conditions that changed throughout the course of the day from the U8/U10 races at 10.00 through to the Junior/Senior race at 14.30.
Our region again hosted a round of the National Trophy series, at Trinity Park in Ipswich in December, giving local riders the chance to test themselves against the best in the country. The women’s elite race was a highlight, with Beth Crumpton edging Anna Kay in a sprint finish. Several Wheelers competed including Harley Gregory (22nd in U14), Laura Brown (14th in Elite Women), Matt Denny (47th in V40), Adrian Grimwood (37th in V50), and Peter Golding (8th in V60). Harley Gregory and Peter Golding also went on to race the final round of the series in Shrewsbury, finishing 31st and 6th in their respective categories.
There were many friendly rivalries among Wheelers in the various league categories this year.
The combined U8 & U10 race sees some of the closest action, with regular appearances from new young riders Erin Stewart and Matthew Blackwell (both U8), and Caris Gregory and Ella Stewart (U10).
Ella Stewart climbs out of the old pond at Haughley Park – photo: Stephen Brook
Tommy Dickson, Sam Blackwell and Sam Brook often finished close together in the U12 race. In the Youth age group, we were represented by Alex Cooper (U16) and Harley Gregory (U14), who finished the season 3rd in his category.
Wheelers in the U12 category line up for the start at Writtle College; from L-R, Sam Brook (yellow helmet), Tommy Dickson, Sam Blackwell – photo: Stephen Brook
Laura Brown was our sole female senior rider, finishing 3rd overall in the league this year. The faster ladies have the added challenge of working their way through the male V50 field, being gridded separately and starting shortly after the men have set off. Megan Free rode in the Junior category this year, with Alison Blackwell making her debut in V40.
Peter Golding and Laura Brown, medal winners in V60 and Senior Women league categories – photo: Giles Prime
The mens V40 and V50+ categories attract the largest fields, and are closely fought. Matt Denny is our leading rider in V40, finishing in 17th place in the league this year, followed by Matt Shingleton and then Giles Prime and Stephen Brook – the latter riders often only separated by a place or two.
Harley Gregory – league medal winner in U14 category – photo: Nicole Gregory
The V50+ category is also very competitive, with the faster riders’ lap times comparing favourably to the leading V40 riders. Paul Watson and Peter Golding both seemed to get stronger as the season went on, Paul scoring two podium finishes and ending the season in 6th place in V50, and Peter taking 2nd place overall in the V60 category. Adrian Grimwood, Karl Hale, Barry Denny, Nick Rush, Cliff Bailey and Paul Sawyer were also regular riders.