Martin Smith wins thrilling 40mph bunch sprint in Chelmer CC road race

The sprint finish of the 73 miler at the Chelmer Road race

The sprint finish of the 73 miler at the Chelmer Road race - Credit: Archant

Breaks were hard to establish in both of the Chelmer CC road races – and even harder to make stick.

Top youth rider Freddie Grover (Stowmarket & District) in action at the Stowmarket Hilly 20

Top youth rider Freddie Grover (Stowmarket & District) in action at the Stowmarket Hilly 20 - Credit: Archant

With few hills and little wind it was just too easy to follow the bike in front and make brief forays to chase down any rival’s move – so big fast-moving bunches were the order of the day.

Spectators at the finish of the 73-mile race were awed by the sight of a 30-strong bunch bearing down on the line at 40 mph. There Martin Smith (London Phoenix) just beat Paul Saunders (API/Metrow) and Ben Thompson (CC London).

Jamie Hazelton (Colchester Rovers) was best placed local rider in fifth spot while Michael Bell (Fast Test) completed the top ten.

Just one break by Ross Fawcett (Pedal Power Ipswich) and two others, had lasted a significant time on the 15-mile Roxwell-Leaden Roding-Bird’s Green circuit just west of Chelmsford.

Men's winner Ollie Jones at Debenham

Men's winner Ollie Jones at Debenham - Credit: Archant


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In addition Chelmer CC excellently provided a 43 mile challenge event for entry level racers – which they wisely limited to a field of 45.

Despite this precaution a significant part of that 45 ended up in a heap on the road about a mile before the finish – where the field had closed up to pass a stationary car.

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About ten competitors were in front of the crash and from these Ryan Allen (Nottingham University) outsprinted Peter Harding (Chelmer CC) for the win.

Two seconds later Andrew Moore (Rapha CC) took third just ahead of Chris Dear (Colchester Rovers) and David Harding (Chelmer CC) with James Farren (Maldon & Dist, seventh) and Thetford rider Lee Woodcock (ninth) the other locals in the top ten. After that survivors crossed the line in ones and twos.

Organiser and course record-breaker Verity Smith at the Stowmarket Hilly 20

Organiser and course record-breaker Verity Smith at the Stowmarket Hilly 20 - Credit: Archant

From the start the race had been driven along fast by, among others, the Harding twins, usually time-trialists, and Woodcock, better known as an MTB rider.

On Saturday there was a second spot for Liam Manser (Pedal Power, Ipswich) in a race oddly but accurately titled “Hog with the Occasional Hill”.

The artificial hill, having proved, in some views, excessively tough, is climbed only on selected laps.

Both the men’s and women’s course records were broken in the Stowmarket & District Hilly 20 on the Pettaugh-Kenton-Occold rural circuit which starts and finishes in Debenham.

Organiser Verity Smith herself set a new women’s mark of 50:51 while young Ipswich rider Ollie Jones (Team OnForm) broke “Pnut” Arnold’s 2015 record, setting the new mark at 42:39. This put over three minutes between Jones and nearest rival Leon West (CC Sudbury, 45:40).

Though riding for the Writtle College team, Jones (18) is actually on a gap year – and making tremendous use of it. From no more than middle-ranking performances last season he shot to prominence with second place in the truly classic North Road Hardriders in February.

CC Sudbury’s West is another new name on the up – having started time trialling just two years ago. He was 24 seconds up on third-placed come-back man Andy Proffitt from Felixstowe.

In Debenham it was a bright spring afternoon, but a moderately strong wind gave riders a hard start to Pettaugh and later a long crosswind ride through the lanes to Occold.

Opinions differed as to the final leg – “horrible” to some, surprisingly sheltered according to others.

Top Youth rider was Freddie Grover (Stowmarket & Dist, 48.19) who is looking to the National Youth Circuit Series - first race on the Isle of Wight in May.

In the first round of the national series MTB races at Pembrey in Wales Newmarket rider Jason Bouttell just missed out to Phil Pearce in the top men’s race.

On a course that had some hidden surprises and awkward tight-spots Elvita Branch (Sussed-Out) was third Elite/Expert woman while Dan Howe (Wolsey) and Mark Wingar (Gipping) were 10th and 13th among the 40-49s. Mel Paddington, riding for Newdales Cycles was fourth in the Women’s 40-49.

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