Hog Hill is a testing circuit at the best of times. Throw in relentless, biblical rain and freezing temperatures and you have a recipe for some proper tough nut bike racing. Kudos to everyone who braved the grim conditions last Saturday… you all earned your post-race space blankets, that’s for sure.

Before we jump in to the race reports, a quick note about women’s racing: we had four women on the start line this week, which represents an improvement over the previous women’s race in this Winter Series but we’d really love to see bigger numbers. We would love to hear from women riders – whether you currently race or not – to learn how we can make women’s racing more appealing and generate enough interest to run exciting, well-attended races more regularly. If you have any thoughts on this, please comment below or drop us a Tweet (@EastLondonVelo). We are all ears!

4th Cat Race

Given the forecast, it was no surprise to see a slightly depleted field on the start line for the 4th Cat race this week. With the temperature close to freezing and rain falling steadily onto the already very wet circuit, gritty racing was guaranteed. Start line instructions were kept concise to allow the First Aid marshall a minute to advise the riders on post-race self-preservation: “Cover up as soon as you cross the line to avoid hypothermia!” No joke.

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The 4th Cat bunch approaches the (very wet) hairpin

And with that, the racing was underway. Daniel Hughes (Spokes BPC Racing) and Gary Munro (Unaffiliated) broke away early and worked very well together to maintain a comfortable gap, with the pair eventually taking first and second place respectively. The chasing bunch held together despite several surges. With three laps to go, the pace quickened and it looked like the pack might split, but the move was short-lived and the break was never really threatened nor was anyone shelled out the back of the group.

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ELV’s Chris Courtney getting his lean on

East London Velo’s Chris Courtney was looking to build on the success of his 10th place and first British Cycling point last week, and he managed that (just!) with a kick for the line that earned him 9th place and another point. 2 down, 10 to go for 3rd Cat immortality!

Full result (finishers):

1. Daniel Hughes (Spokes BPC Racing)

2. Gary Munro (Unaffiliated)

3. Thomas Eke (Unaffiliated)

4. Stacy Whymark (Essex Roads)

5. Blake Gravenor (Islington CC)

6. Thomas Slater (Sunday Echapee)

7. Philip Harrison (London Dynamo)

8. Michael Walton (6AM Cycling)

9. Chris Courtney (East London Velo)

10. Robert Pisolkar (Shaftesbury CC)

Women’s E/1/2/3/4 Race

Honor Elliot (Finsbury Park CC), a strong and established 2nd Cat rider, dominated the women’s race from early on, staying with the 4th Cat bunch for the duration and taking the chequered flag, despite puncturing on the final lap and powering up the Hoggenberg with a flat.

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Savannah Hewson & Rosie Wallace (both LIV AWOL) in Team Time Trial mode

The two LIV AWOL riders (Savannah Hewson and Rosie Wallace) also rode strongly, with Rosie cruelly denied a point for her efforts when she too punctured well into the race.

Special mention goes to Joanna Bednarska, who joined East London Velo just a couple of weeks ago. Joanna has only been riding for a few months and had never raced at all before Saturday. Despite almost missing the start, she powered round Hog Hill in pretty horrendous conditions, and her grit and determination were duly rewarded with third place and her first British Cycling point. Chapeau!

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ELV’s Joanna Bednarska pushing on for her first BC point (in her first ever race)

After the race, Honor tweeted “I don’t think I’ve ever felt that cold… couldn’t speak… couldn’t stop shivering for the next hour…” With the warm Hog Hill cafe quickly filling with soaked, trembling riders desperate for hot drinks to sip under their foil blankets, it was clear Honor wasn’t the only one scrambling to beat that hypothermia.

Full result:

1. Honor Elliot (Finsbury Park CC)

2. Savannah Hewson (LIV AWOL)

3. Joanna Bednarska (East London Velo)

4. Rosie Wallace (LIV AWOL)

Cat 2/3/4 Race

ELV had high hopes for the men’s 2/3/4 race, with Wayne Crombie and Roger Maidment taking to the start line alongside Instagram sensation Ben O’Dell. Roger and Wayne are ex- 1st Cat riders, but neither has spent much time on the crit circuit in recent times, both generally keeping themselves busy with time trials, cyclocross and other biking disciplines. Despite the grim conditions, the club’s tifosi were out in force to see how these champions of champions would fare on their return to the tarmac at Hog Hill.

After a couple of nervous opening laps (largely due to the many areas of standing water on the circuit), Wayne pushed on over the top of ‘berg and created a gap over the bunch through the left hand corners. Wayne was quickly joined by John Mulvey of Cambridge CC and the pair pushed on, building a lead of around 15 seconds over the next three or four laps. Despite some frustration in the chasing pack and calls for the pace to quicken in order to catch the break, the bunch never really committed to bringing the leaders back and it soon became clear where the winner would come from.

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Wayne Crombie and John Mulvey work well to establish a gap that wouldn’t be closed

As the bunch battled with filthy spray in the wheels and a handful of visits from the Puncture Fairy, the break of two agreed to work together until the final lap and then the gloves came off. Mulvey attacked coming out of the hairpin but Wayne responded in time to hold the wheel, took a few moments to re-gain his composure and then jumped the Cambridge rider at the bottom of the final hill, creating a gap and powering away to a fine win.

 

Gabriel Fowden and Nesta Ferguson took the spoils in the bunch sprint, with Roger crossing the line in 10th and Ben just behind in 12th.

At the time of writing (Tuesday evening), Ben’s body temperature is almost back to normal.

Full result (finishers):

1. Wayne Crombie (East London Velo)

2. John Mulvey (Cambridge University CC)

3. Gabriel Fowden (Pedal Power Cycles Ipswich)

4. Nesta Ferguson (LVYCC)

5. Martin Smith (London Phoenix)

6. Greg Smith (Finsbury Park CC)

7. Edward Hales (London Dynamo)

8. Milo Chapman (Team Corley Cycles)

9. Andrew Taylor (VC Norwich)

10. Roger Maidment (Forest Side Riders)

11. Paolo Puggioni (Unaffiliated)

12. Ben O’Dell (East London Velo)

13. Issy Zimmerman (Verulam – reallymoving.com)

14. Sam Asker (VC Londres)

Thanks again to the riders and all the organisers for braving such horrible conditions (particularly the marshals who stood out in the freezing rain for two hours – arguably even less pleasant than racing).

We hope to see lots of you next weekend… fingers crossed for better weather!

(Photo credits: David Smith)

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