It was a fantastic weekend for cyclocross, whether it was on the Tellybox watching Cameron Mason finish 2nd at Boom in Belgium which was a Boom Boom result; or competing yourself somewhere.
First up was Pete Golding, who travelled to Hamburg via the Harwich – Hook of Holland ferry for the World Masters Cyclocross Championships. There were several riders from the Eastern Region taking part, but certainly not as many as there were at the 2022 Championships held in Ipswich. The Hamburg course was held in the Volkspark (People’s Park) near to the fantastic football stadium where FC Hamburg play. The track was a good one, over varied terrain, and certainly very different under tyre conditions, ice, snow, mud, loose dirt, sand, tarmac (black ice). All the riders had to keep their wits about them at all times, because they were never sure whether there was ice under the top layer. The bikes were relatively clean during the practice laps, as the ground was still very frozen, but as the races progressed the ups and downs in the woods became increasingly cut up, Pete found it easier to run these sections as the Baby Limus tyre choice didn’t quite offer enough grip on the mud. He had a great race however, making only 2 mistakes of note, a nasty crash on ice on lap 4 of 5 where the course transitioned from forest path to tarmac, and because the bike landed gear side down and the brake lever was pushed out of alignment, he thought it better to change to his spare bike for the last lap and a half, then he was trying too hard to get back the places he lost and lost the bike sideways down the one really tricky descent on the final lap, he finished 11th, there were 6 different Nationalities in front of him, he would have like a top 10 but was very happy to have been part of it. He owes a debt of gratitude to the fellow Eastern riders and supporters, who cheered him on and gave him pit assistance. The biggest thanks go to Dave Griggs who was once a regular Wheeler Cross Rider, he managed to tie in a Work appointment in Hamburg and be at the races on all 3 days, it was a great surprise to see him.
Those of you who remained in the UK know just how cold it’s been and certainly expected a frozen race for the Eastern Region Championships held at Milton Country Park, Cambridge on Sunday. However the weather didn’t allow that to happen, as you’re aware the temperature rose on Saturday, thawing out the venue and that coupled with fresh rain made for really tricky conditions. The course is mainly through woods and makes really good use of a tall berm or ridge which the track crossed 4 or was it 5, times a lap. Just beneath the surface were tree roots, which caused even more carnage, you certainly needed your wits about you on the tricky, very slippery descents, getting clipped back in to your pedals quickly was essential, as was avoiding a tree, which was pulled over as someone used it to hand sling around the 180 turn.
The Ollenbuttel brothers were as always ready and waiting for the start of the combined U8/U10 race, it’s really encouraging to have youngsters in Wheelers kit at these races. There were 33 racers on the start line, and they were to race over a shorter course than the older age groups, this keeps them close to their friends, family and club members to make it easier to support. Both James and Samuel are being consistent finishing in roughly the same place each week, depending on numbers, so by finishing 13th and 20th respectively, the great news is, that in the League standings they currently sit, 7th and 8th, consistency is the key.
Sam Brook had been struggling with a cold all week, so was not on the best of form, he battled on for 6th place, which was remarkable as to how he was feeling, he looked ghostly white at the finish, a great job to beat 26 others, his consistent performances mean he is currently second in the league.
We had 4 representatives in the V50 race, the Youths race had churned up the course even more, and the conditions were extremely challenging.
Matt Denny is getting to grips with how best to race and was really pleased with 25th, his smile at the end said it all. Shaun Woodley, Karl Hale and Adrian Grimwood, were never far away from each other through out the race, tyre choice was critical and being able to trust whatever grip you had to stay upright, Shaun just beat Karl finishing 42nd, Karl was 2 places behind in 44th, he was also 2 places ahead of Adrian, who despite his fears, was not last in 46th from the 50 starters.
There were 6 Wheelers on the Combined V40/V60+ start grid of 71 competitors, the Youngsters were away 1 minute ahead of the old boys, who were left shivering on the start. Simon Christie and Stephen Brook got away well, which was essential as less than a minute from the start, was a tight slippy 90+ degree corner and not long after that an awkward chicane followed immediately by a 180 off camber round a tree, and that was just the start ! The ‘Old Farts charged after them once released, including Will Tate, who had a drama prior to the start. When he got his bike out of the car, he realised he had a flat front, he’d only put the new tyre on the day before, thankfully help was on hand with a tube change, however, the new tube punctured too. He had an offer of a spare wheel, but, the axles were different, then Karl Hale came to the rescue with the offer of his bike, crisis solved. Simon was riding well, but struggling running as he had no studs, Stephen is always consistent, Peter Golding just returned from Hamburg made a great start, as did Nick Rush, Paul Chapman is getting more races in than he bargained for and Will on a strange bike were up and racing. Sadly Will had an argument with a tree, the tree won, Will wisely decided to retire. Meanwhile Simon was finishing 21st, Stephen wasn’t too far behind in 35th, Peter claimed 3rd place, Nick had his best race of the season revelling in the mud for 9th and Paul was slipping and sliding his way to 21st.
Megan Free and Nicki Davis were amongst the 24 starters in the combined Ladies race, Megan loved the mud and felt strong the whole way finishing with a smile on her face in 10th overall and 4th Senior, Nicki raced really well, holding off the fast finishing leader, so that she could get in another lap ! She came 17th.
The track had really cut up by the time the Senior race got underway for the hour long slog through the mud. Harley Gregory has been getting better and better this season and he continued the improvement in this race, he had a magnificent battle with an Army rider for the whole race, eventually finishing 6th and only 2 seconds behind and he was one place better than his last race in the Junior category finishing 2nd, a tremendous day out.
The next race in the Eastern League will be our own fixture on Sunday 17th December, if you haven’t done so already, do let Karl Hale know if you can come along and help. It is always a great day out, great racing, great friendship, great sport.