With a New Year – and a new racing season – arriving here in Cambridge, we’ve put together a belated look back at some of the stellar racing performances that club members put in during the last few months of 2019.
At the start of term, CUCC had riders competing in the tail end of the road racing season, while others swapped disciplines to test themselves against the clock in hill climb events and put on the knobbly tyres for the beginning of the cyclo-cross calendar.
Road Racing and Hill Climbs
On an eventful Sunday in mid-October, the first result of the day saw Rob Walker take a fine solo victory in a damp end-of-season Finsbury Park RR, ably supported by Jonny Bodey who claimed a respectful pack finish.
Meanwhile, just south of London, Jack Kellam and Craig Rogers were tackling the iconic Bec and Catford CC Hill Climbs – events in which the club has pedigree! After a successful road race season, and promising early hill climb results, all eyes were focused on Craig who was competing in a tough field.
Despite a sketchy descent down the hill to the start on his lightweight Chinese carbon rims, Craig surged up the steep slopes of York’s Hill to claim 3rdplace – going one better than the eminent Seb Dickson in the 2018 event. While buoyed by the fact the pre-race favourite Calum Brown also weighed a ‘hefty’ 75kg, a discrepancy of a few hundred watts in power output meant Jack could only finish 44th.
Over at White Lane, for Bec CC’s event in the afternoon, Craig produced an incredible performance that kept him in the hot seat until the last few competitors. It took the massive calves of the aforementioned Calum Brown to pip Craig by 1.3 seconds to the prize. Regardless, this was an amazing set of results from our mercurial hill-climber.
A few weeks later, BUCS Hill Climb saw CUCC take a strong squad, buoyed by Craig’s stunning string of results, to Mam Tor in the Peak District. On a bleak day of driving rain and freezing temperatures, a total of 16 riders from Cambridge ground their way up the mountain pass.
In the women’s event the featherweight Elspeth Grace was our highest finisher, placing 17thin a strong field. The trio, completed by of Lucy Harris and Melody Swiers, did well to finish 6thin the women’s team event – especially given their relative inexperience in the event.
Meanwhile, in the men’s event 13 reluctant Cambridge competitors tentatively left the warmth of the van to try and get some crucial BUCS points. In the end, Craig managed a good 7thplace, disappointed to see a rider from Oxf*rd take the overall honours. With George Spooner coming in 17th, and Rob 27th, we did enough for CUCC to take an honourable 3rdin the team prize.
Another year, and after the BUCS Hill Climb, another plucky band of CUCC riders headed to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to compete on the boards. As the eternal problem of Cambridge not having a velodrome continues for yet another year (perhaps this year might be the one however…) the squad of Jack Brown, George Spooner, Rob Walker and Craig Rogers entered with low expectations, the only goal to have a ‘good jolly’ whilst they were at it.
In the first event of the weekend, the 200m Flying Time Trial, George Spooner posted a quite rapid 12.079, especially considering he’d never done a proper flying lap before…
Next up came the IP qualification, where Jack led the way with a 4:45.245 across the 4km, good enough to qualify 10th, with Rob Walker coming in 5 seconds slower in a 4:50.452.
Both George and Rob were up in the Kilo, with hopes high after Rob’s rapid time last year. However, it was not to be, especially considering George had forgotten to tighten his handlebars after switching, which saw Jack running across the track centre like a frightened rabbit in an attempt to source a 4mm Alan key. Rob posted a 1:10.392, with George (and his tightened handlebars) coming home in a 1:11.556.
The next day brought the Team Pursuit (GS, JB, RW & CR), which remains CUCC’s only slight hope at a medal. After last year’s disappointment, the boys were raring to go, but knew of the challenge ahead of them. Considering the 3 hours of track time the squad had in the run up to the event, a very clean 3:25.790 over 3km was the result, only good enough to Qualify 8th, but also only 4 seconds off the minor final.
The Team Sprint was entered purely for ‘the banter’, coming in 14th, and about 4 seconds slower than the time George had put down on the BUCS entry form.
And in the final event of the weekend came a gripping show, with Jack in the Points race (his first ever real bunch race on the track…). The opening 10 minutes saw Jack up in 3rdplace, after having taken a lap and winning a sprint in the process. Collecting a few more minor points, he unfortunately missed a move which took a second lap, but managed to use his newfound tactical nous to win a sprint after parking it on the front on the bell lap, to allow the catch to happen. The toll of not really riding his bike all that much through Michaelmas began to become apparent, with even Jack’s dad remarking at how utterly gassed he looked. Narrowly missing out in the final sprint, Jack took 5thoverall, just a single place behind a few valuable BUCS points.
Back in the great outdoors, and the 2019/20 Cyclo-cross season has arguably been one of CUCC’s most successful, seeing more members racing the discipline than ever, and a number bringing home some superb results, proving that Cambridge riders are capable of winning races that don’t involve aerobars.
Having started the Autumn with intent by winning the Three Peaks race up in Yorkshire, Ffion James has carried stellar form throughout a season that has seen her take the overall National Trophy leader’s jersey with a consistent string of top results.
Pick of these was a victory in the Elite Women at a home race in the sand dunes of Pembrey – one of a number of podium places she would eventually accrue over the course of the series. She was just as impressive over the channel in Belgium, putting in an impressive ride to finish in the middle of the field at the UCI World Cup in Namur, when up against dozens of world class athletes.
Such was Ffion’s form, there’s little space to detail all the victories and results she picked up at local races over the course of the winter too. A solid ride to finish 7that the National Championships in January capped off another great season.
Not to be overlooked though, is this year’s Women’s Captain Elspeth Grace, who’s also managed to pull off consistent performances in the mud. Alongside consistent top ten placings at regional races – and a 12thplace at the York round of the National Trophy – she claimed another great position in the National Championships, finishing in the top 25.
Will Weatherill also had a breakthrough season in the U23 Men, consistently placing in the top 10 overall of races, and winning his age category in the North of England regional championships. An absolutely massive result, though, saw Will come home in 24that the National Championships in January – an amazing performance in an increasingly strong domestic field. Alongside alumni Felix Barker, both also took their bikes over to Belgium, taking to the start line of Ambiancecross alongside Van der Poel, Iserbyt, Pidcock and other royalty!
With BUCS time trials and Varsity drawing ever nearer, CUCC will be taking much confidence from a Winter of strong performances across the board. The Other Place ought to be trembling.