Ipswich rider Melton wins Eastern Region title despite tape drama

Ipswich rider Gemma Melton (XRT/Elmy) on her way to the Eastern Championship at Stanborough Park. Pi

Ipswich rider Gemma Melton (XRT/Elmy) on her way to the Eastern Championship at Stanborough Park. Picture: FERGIS MUIR - Credit: Archant

Ipswich rider Gemma Melton won the Eastern Region Cyclo-Cross Championship despite being lassoed by loose tapes blowing in the wind, writes Fergus Muir.

The Eastern Women’s Championship Podium. L-R; Elspeth Grace, Gemma Melton, Connie Hayes. Picture: FE

The Eastern Womens Championship Podium. L-R; Elspeth Grace, Gemma Melton, Connie Hayes. Picture: FERGUS MUIR - Credit: Archant

As usual the course was defined by posts and tapes and a broken tape blowing loose caught in Gemma's shoe and contrived to undo it. However the XRT/Elmy rider calmly sorted that out without dismounting and continued to take the top Eastern Region medal.

Melton's win was partly a reward for carefully targeted training, in this case focusing on the short sharp climbs and off camber turns that were certain to form part of Welwyn Wheelers offering at Stanborough Park. Also, on a course wet but rapidly drying in the wind, her decision to stick with mud tyres seems to have turned out well.

Each race incorporated at least two separate championships - for Eastern Region and for Central Region competitors, and well as sometimes more than one age group, making for fairly confusing spectating, though a computer kept the results straight. On first arrival the level of noise from the A1 (M) road - just upwind - was quite extraordinary, though everyone seemed to soon get used to it.

In this Women's race, Imogen Chastell initially set the pace before Central Region Junior Maddie Wadsworth took the lead, pursued by Melton. That's how it stayed, both taking their respective championship medals.

Behind came a string of Eastern Juniors - Chastell, Ellen Bennett (Welwyn Whs), and Bethany Barnett (LIV AWOL), the latter surviving a vault over Chastell's bike after its rider fell while just in front.

Elspeth Grace (Cambridge University CC) and Connie Hayes (LIV AWOL) completed the Eastern Senior Women's podium.

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Barnett's sister Florence was second in the Under 14s with Mia Rutterford (Iceni Velo) third, while Harley Gregory (West Suffolk Whs) was U14 Boys silver medallist.

The Senior Eastern Men’s Podium. L-R James Madgwick (2nd), Neil Phillips, Jack Parrish (from Ipswich

The Senior Eastern Mens Podium. L-R James Madgwick (2nd), Neil Phillips, Jack Parrish (from Ipswich). Picture: FERGUS MUIR - Credit: Archant

Eastern Senior Men's Championship went to Neil Phillips, with James Madgwick taking silver and Jack Parrish third.

"You really felt the climbs" said young Ipswich rider Parrish.

"It wore you down, nowhere to recover" explained Madgwick - even the flat straights were soft going and hard on legs.

Next Eastern Seniors were roadman Felix Barker, Kieran Jarvis (Team OnForm) and Lowestoft rider Seb Herrod.

Nigel Herrod from Beccles was Over 60s Eastern Champion while Ian Newby (Diss & District) was third in the 50-59 Vets where top medals went Verulam CC riders, and fourth spot to Dave Copland (Ipswich BC) .

Oli Stockwell took the separate race for male Juniors - and was soon back in action helping Welwyn Wheelers with the task of getting the course dismantled before darkness set in.

Plenty of narrow slippery tracks greeted mountain bike riders who gathered in West Bilney Woods for the second round of the Winter Series promoted by Thetford Racing.

The start of the Women’s race in Welwyn – Eastern winner Gemma Melton in orange helmet. Picture: FER

The start of the Womens race in Welwyn Eastern winner Gemma Melton in orange helmet. Picture: FERGUS MUIR - Credit: Archant

For most there was a choice of a three hour race or half that time, the latter being the most popular format.

Amongst the 18-39 age group, Watton rider Robert Smithers set the pace but Ely Garage proprietor Mathew Eley eventually came past to win by just under a minute.

Neither of these was quite as quick as the fastest Veterans - the over 40s category, which was also had the largest entry. Here Ben Findlay was the winner, ahead of Epic Orange's Paul Groombridge, Craig Gunnell and Suffolk rider Glenn Davey.

Elvita Branch (Sussed Out Suspension) won the 90 minute Senior Female race, with Alison Goss second and Stowmarket & District rider Nicola Powell third. Just ten seconds behind Powell came West Suffolk Wheeler Laura Brown who smiled her way to fourth spot.

There was a turn-around in the 40-plus category where Epic Orange rider Lisa Marriott fro Diss won, ahead of regular Vets winner Laura Sampson (Sussed Out). However Laura's son Dean kept the family on the top step of the podium by winning the one-hour race for Under 16s.

Winners in the Three-Hour races were Jonathan Sheasby, Steve Day, Sally Watts and Hilary Ireland.

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