The 2016 season is now well under way, and this round-up of club members’ early season racing activities comes to you rather later than intended due to some technical problems with the blog. The post covers the three months up until the end of March, but stay tuned for an April report coming soon.
The year got off to what is fast becoming its traditional start for West Midlands-based riders, with the third annual running of the Woolly Mamil winter crit series at Stourport, run over four Saturdays from the middle of January to early February. With the format of junior races, an E/1/2/3/4 women’s race, and men’s 1/2/3/4 and 4th-cat races continuing from the previous two editions of the series, there were plenty of opportunities for Beacon riders to test their form after a winter’s training. James Tate, Ben Walmsley, Laurence Cooley and Robin Kirkham all made appearances in the 4th-cat only races. As in previous years, these will no doubt be amongst the toughest 4th-cat races of the season, due to the annual influx of new but well-trained riders and the fact that the series attracts racers from far and wide. None of the Beacon riders were able to score points, but all were able to take something away from the series – Laurence and Robin were making progress in their comebacks from a nasty crash in training at Tudor Grange at the end of October, which saw them both unable to ride for some time; James was just starting a new coaching programme; and Ben was experiencing racing for the first time. Second-claim Beacon member David Wrottesley, who races for Halesowen, did manage to get his first points on the board, finishing 10th in round one and 5th in round four.
Matt Clegg made a couple of appearances in the 1/2/3/4 races, gaining some good experience of racing at this level having made the step up from 4th cat last year, and Stuart White also turned out for the final round of the series, to get his season under way. As always, thanks are due to all at Mamil Cycling for putting on this well-organised series, and for going to extra kilometre to ensure that the circuit was safe to race on even in sometimes challenging winter conditions. David Perry has some excellent photos of the (very wet) final round available on his website.
Next up in the calendar was a new event in the calendar: a University of Birmingham CC weekend stage race. The UoB CC have been organising a popular annual criterium at Tudor Grange for the past few seasons, but this year race organiser James Kendrick and a team of volunteers from the student club went several steps further and transformed the event into an exciting new multi-stage format. The race got underway on Saturday 9 March with a prologue hill-climb held on the KH9 course on Lea End Lane, just outside of Birmingham. This was followed later the same day by a crit at Tudor Grange and then the following day by a 10-mile time trial on the rolling K22/10 course at Great Witley and a final-stage crit at Stourport. With separate men’s 3/4 and women’s 2/3/4 events and points awarded for each individual stage and for the general classification, this race posed no small organisational task, and by all accounts it was a very successful event.
Four riders represented the Beacon, with Tim Egan and Ben Walmsley taking part in the first day’s stages and John Hunt and Stuart White entering the whole event. The Saturday got off to a good start, with John posting the 6th-fastest time in the opening hill climb, before finishing 9th in the afternoon’s crit, with Stuart 7th. This left John well placed at 7th in the general classification heading into the second day. Unfortunately, both John and Stuart lacked time trial bikes for the Great Witley stage, which put them at a significant disadvantage over some of their rivals. As John summarised, reflecting on his first stage-race experience, “Stuart and I gave it our all on road bikes but learned two important lessons. Firstly, TT bikes are faster. Secondly, TT stages are important in stage races“. Nonetheless, Stuart scored an excellent 2nd in the final stage at Stourport – thanks in part to an excellent lead-out by John. Full results are available on the British Cycling website and there are lots of photos on UoB CC’s Facebook page (thanks to Felix Alexander of Ben Alexander Photography for the photo at the top of this post). Congratulations to the winner of the women’s general classification, local rider Kelly Murphy, who is well known to many club members from local inter-club training rides, and to friend of the Beacon Ollie Hayward, who finished 3rd in the men’s classification riding for UoB CC. Hopefully this event – a welcome addition to the calendar – will return next year.
Last but not least, Ciara McCabe started her second year racing in the West Midlands Youth Circuit Series at Sundorne, Shrewsbury, in March, finishing 9th in the U10 girls’ race. More news on Beacon Cycling Academy members’ participation in these youth races to come next month.
As always, if you are interested in racing with the Beacon, don’t hesitate to contact the Racing Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pete’s coaching sessions have been going well and have been well attended, so why not put those skills into practice? The number of members racing looks set to rise again this year, and the club’s mix of experienced racers, older riders racing for the first time and promising youngsters including Matt Clegg, Ben Walmsley and Ryan Evanson bodes well for a successful 2016.