After much anticipation and a flooding scare, the mince pie-fuelled winter series finally got underway last Saturday at hog hill on a crisp but thankfully dry afternoon.

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Under Commissaire’s orders at the start of the 4th cat race

4th Cat Race

In the men’s 4th cat race, ELV’s Dan B was looking to get his season off to a flying start and he had every right to feel optimistic: Dan finished last season just 1 point short of his 3rd cat and puts in the hard miles year-round, so with a relatively small field, the points were there for the taking. Unfortunately, Dan’s run of terrible luck at Hog Hill continued when – just 3 minutes into the race – he was clipped by a rider who had unceremoniously fallen sideways off his bike half way up the Hoggenberg. With a snapped spoke and some serious wheel-rub, his race was effectively over and he succumbed to the inevitable after a valiant effort to TT back to the pack on a broken wheel.

The race pushed on and the bunch largely stayed together for a few laps until Issy Zimmerberg (Verulam) broke clear, and set off on what would be an impressive solo ride to the chequered flag to take the win.

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Issy Zimmerman (Verulam – reallymoving.com) forces an impressive solo break

Behind him, Charles Gaimster (Dulwich Paragon) and Andy Thornley (RCC) dug in to create a split over the crest of the ‘berg and worked well together to establish, and then maintain, a meaningful gap over the chasing pack. Ultimately it was Gaimster who had the most firepower coming up the hill for the final time, taking 2nd place from Thornley who held off the bunch by a couple of lengths.

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The remains of the 4th Cat bunch crossing the line

Full result (finishers):

1. Issy Zimmerman (Verulam – reallymoving.com)

2. Charles Gaimster (Dulwich Paragon CC)

3. Andy Thornley (RCC)

4. Alistair Holland (Unaffiliated)

5. Lucian Boatright-Roberts (Unaffiliated)

6. Ross Taylor (Southend Wheelers)

7. Thomas Slater (Sunday Echapee)

8. Blake Gravener (Islington CC)

9. Simon Higgs (Essex Roads)

10. Lewis Freeman (Islington CC)

Cat 2/3/4 Race

In the 2/3/4 race, it was the Lea Valley youngsters who dictated on home soil, with Marco Passfield and Sam Allen blasting off down the road very early on and giving their team mates an easy ride with no obligation to work and chase.

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Marco Passfield and Sam Allen working hard to establish an LVYCC breakaway

Time trial specialist Colin Ward did more than his fair share and ELV’s Chris Thomas and Tom Willan both put in work to keep the break within sight, but any efforts to move clear and split the chasing group were quickly shut down – frustrating from an ELV perspective, but chapeau to the LVYCC boys in particular for some strong racing and for playing a clever tactical game.

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ELV’s Tommy and Chris leaning into the hairpin

The break was caught with five laps to go, but none of the counter-attacks stuck and the remaining riders prepared themselves for a bunch kick. A strong finish from Colin Bailey (North Road) saw him squeeze into the top 5 but it was Lea Valley who dominated, mopping up the points with 1, 2, 3 and 5 in a thrilling dash for the line.

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Legs to back up the tactics: LVYCC take a clean sweep 1, 2, 3

Full result (finishers):

1. Nesta Ferguson (LVYCC)

2. Louis Bilyard (LVYCC)

3. Sam Allen (LVYCC)

4. Colin Bailey (North Road)

5. Marco Passfield (LVYCC)

6. Joseph Bennett (Welwyn Wheelers)

7. Irfan Zaman (Panagua CC)

8. Christopher Hezelgrave (CC Hackney)

9. Sam Thienel (Momentum Cycles RC)

10. Greg Smith (Finsbury Park)

11. Matthew Shepherd (TBW Bottechia Wigmore RT)

12. Graeme Garner (Essex Roads)

13. David Barnes (University of Portsmouth CC)

14. Martin Smith (London Phoenix)

15. Tom Willan (East London Velo)

16. Colin Ward (Essex Roads)

17. Chris Thomas (East London Velo)

18. Fnan Afewerki (CC Hackney)

19. Chris Smith (Southend Wheelers)

Sadly, the women’s race didn’t go ahead due to lack of numbers. We’d really love to see women taking part in the series so please pencil in the next women’s race on 20 January if you’re thinking about having a go.

The Winter Series continues every Saturday throughout January and February. Enter via the British Cycling website now!

(All photo credits: Wayne Crombie – full set of photos available here).

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