After a couple of weeks of races round the Colchester area, it was an hour long drive up the A1 for the latest round of the Eastern Cyclocross League, set in the environs of Grafham Waters. This was the inaugural running of this event that was hosted with some panache by the Iceni CC.
With star cyclo-crosser Tim Brown missing due to work commitments and willing domestique Steve James, hors de combat with a bad back, it was left to John McDowall and Dave Kiely to represent the North Road.
The course was set to one side of a large boating lake, and lacked any really testing climbing. However, the layout did contained a couple of surprises. Three sections of lake foreshore had to be tackled that alternated from sand, to shingle, to clingy mud that bought back memories of short trousered urchins searching for cockles on Southend beach.
The other surprise was how deeply rutted and split the surface of the grassy sections where, all cunningly hidden beneath a lush green carpet of grass. The unseasonal warm winter weather, that continued for this race, had baked and split the ground under wheel into mini-runs of crevasses, potholes, and ridges that ensured a bone-shaking buckeroo of a cyclocross race. After a two minute silence at the start for Remembrance Sunday, the race was set off into the usual full-on sprint for position that is so important for a good result.
Dave Kiely suffered the mis-fortune of hitting one of the ruts during the key starting sprint, and after ‘pin-balling’ off a couple of riders suffered a chain drop. This left him right at the back of the field, facing a long hard battle to make much progress. Dave refused to take his bat and ball home though (Steve J please take note!) and made some good progress including running along one section of beach, in a much less bloody re-enactment of Saving Private Ryan, and made up ten places in one foul swoop. Sadly, this morale building regaining of position was nullified by a number of other crashes, becoming entangled in a race marker post after a daring and unadvised undertaking, and stopping in the pits for a puncture that actually hadn’t occurred all held back the ever willing Kiely. The ‘prefect race’ still awaits Dave who has suffered an almost unbroken chain of TinTin like mis-adventures so far this season
John had a more conventional race. The broken ground and the more rolling nature of the course seemed to suit the larger rider and he found himself further up the field than is usual. After the initial lap or so, a closely contested battle with five other riders ensued with constantly changing positions as they eked out whatever advantage they could. A strong finish for John, with some energetic running and re-mounting of the bike, ensured dropping the majority of his rivals to face a final half lap jostle with Phil Raymond, riding for local rivals Welwyn Wheelers, that in the end proved fruitless as he was unable to overhaul him before the line.
The event was won by Dean Barnett of Welland Valley Wheelers who completed 4 laps in 36.48. John came 16th, by far his best placing in a cross race, at +4.34. Dave came 44th at +8.26. Sixty-four riders finished with only one DNF.