Blue skies and bright sunny conditions greeted the 70 riders drawn mainly from East Anglian and Fenland clubs for the Wisbech Wheelers ‘25’ with the early chilly wind giving way to hotter temperatures as the morning progressed. This course, code B25/6, straddles west Norfolk and north Cambridgeshire – the flat Fenlands beckon, but the promise (something of a falsehood in itself) of flat roads and fast times is contradicted by this road’s legendary exposure to constant cross winds, with no roadside protection, which always seem to prevail in these Fenland areas.
Alongside two other enthusiasts, I was marshalling at the westerly turn on the A47 this side of Wisbech, the course starting west of Kings Lynn, proceeding westwards on the A47 with the full distance made up by two laps, so the competitors turn twice at my position, at 6 and approximately 18.5 miles.
Favourite on the day was Daniel Bloy of Team Velovelocity (TVV) who won this event last year with a rapid 52 minute and 32 seconds ride (52.32) with Barry Charlton, hailing from the Potteries, expected to run him close. 50 years of age and clearly prepared to travel for his cycle competition, Barry is also known for his expertise on the trike holding a number of course and national records on 3 wheels, a fast veteran and cycling all-rounder. In form Charlie Nurse of the NNW was expected to offer a challenge to these favourites with 2nd claim member, Laurence Wright, perhaps a slightly unexpected starter. When he is in the groove, Laurence is also a serious challenger.
There was a strong women’s entry as well, headed by Jennifer Smart (VC Norwich) who is as much interested as beating the time of her husband, Mark, as taking the prize money in the women’s event (more of this later) Sally Withey (Team Swift) and Rebecca Murley, Wisbech Wheelers, on her 2nd comeback appearance this season after 4 years away from time trialling. Jennifer actually came 2nd with a one hour and four minute ride (1.4) with Rebecca well pleased with 1.5 and Sally less impressed with her 1.6, but the win went to 19 year old Jennifer McAndrew (Team Jadan) recording an excellent 1.3, clearly a young woman with a cycling future. This time was only just over one minute slower than her father, Graham, the event secretary’s notes indicating that ‘Dad paid the entry fees’ for both of them. That and the travelling costs, cycle equipment, food and refreshment no doubt….
At the 6 mile first turn, I could barely separate the main rivals – Bloy, Charlton, Paul Jay (TVV) Mathew Senter (Peterboro CC) Charlie and Laurence – all being close. On the 2nd turn, I noted that Bloy, Charlton and Nurse all took +/- 26 minutes to cover the (just over) 12 miles between the first and second turn, whilst other fast riders were on 27 minutes. Bloy and Charlton were clearly close and I had Charlie 20-30 seconds down on Bloy but distancing himself from other rivals.
This was a good day for this course with unusually low wind speeds enabling Bloy to win with a short 52 minute ride which, at first, I thought beat the course record of Peter Balls (dating from 2009) by just two seconds. However, I was informed that Matthew Smith (then of TVV) took the course record with a time of 51.17 in 2014; this guy has a 47 minute time to his name on the rapid E2/25 course and is a contender for the National ‘25’ that will be promoted by the EDCA in August. Charlton came in with a mid 52 and Charlie got 3rd place squeezing out a long 52, much more pleasing than a short 53. Laurence came 5th with a 54, a fine performance for someone suffering from a cold and without much recent competition, earning congratulations from his coach (the omnipresent Daniel Bloy !) in the process.
Charlie was justifiably pleased with his performance and placing with me noting that he seems to be narrowing the gap between himself and Bloy who has been a prolific winner of EDCA events in recent years. It should equally be noted, however, that Daniel and Team Velovelocity are having a serious shot at the National ‘100’ later this season (they won the team prize in this event in 2014 and in the National 50 last year) and are aiming for high placings in the individual and team BAR, which requires training for the 12 hour event and this kind of training may have an effect on short distance speed. Rather Bloy than me (or you).
Laurence Wright, who is 1st claim TVV, is also likely to participate in their team tilts at the National 100 and BAR having already demonstrated his capability at the longer distances in recent years both at time trials and in mountain-bike competition, his other speciality. The British Best All Rounder (BAR) as a title and prize has existed for almost 100 years and is calculated by the fastest aggregate speed achieved in open time trials at each of 50 and 100 miles plus the 12 hour event. For women it is over 25, 50 and 100 miles. The winning team consists of 3 riders.
Incredibly, back in the late 1960’s, the incomparable Beryl Burton OBE recorded 277 miles in the 12 hour event which, at the time, was National Competition record for both men (ed. which no man could beat for over 2 years!) and women and remains the women’s record to this day. Seven times world road and pursuit champion and a completely amateur cyclist assisted only by her husband, Burton won the women’s BAR for 25 consecutive years into the 1980’s and established women’s competition records at every distance, which stood for 20-25 years. Truly a record of accomplishment (without financial reward) that is unlikely ever to be matched, let alone surpassed, by any British sporting figure in any sport.
Finally, in the battle of the Smart’s, male pride was, for once, restored with Mark Smart defeating the time of his wife by almost 4 minutes. Had I seen him back at HQ, I would have wished him well, hoping that it was ultimately worthwhile. I am not sure that it will be. The more serious question for the NNW is ‘how much faster can Nurse get?’