We started this week’s event on a sombre note as we acknowledged the recent passing of Derek Lusher. Derek played a pivotal role in the Eastern Road Race League for many years, giving enormous amounts of time and energy to the local racing scene. Today’s riders respectfully observed a minute’s silence on the start line in commemoration and appreciation of Derek’s vast contribution to the sport we love.

After a number of good weeks in the men’s 4ths and women’s races, numbers were smaller for this edition of the series.  Was it the arctic conditions in the week?  Whatever the reason, starters were rewarded with two hard races, delivering training that looking at a screen on a turbo could never live up to.

For the 4th cat men, one rider soon broke from the bunch and got a gap only for bad luck to strike…  The ELV mountain goats quickly spotted it was hill climb specialist, Thomas Perren, who one suspects won’t be a 4th cat for very long and who doesn’t need to lie about his weight on the well-known virtual cycling platform. After establishing and then adding to a lead each lap, Thomas had punctured with the bunch sailing past as he searched for a wheel on the sidelines.  He’d given himself a challenge and set off in pursuit with a reasonable gap to close, but soon closed in and was back on the front again. 

As the race moved into its final third, Thomas punctured again, but this time without the benefit of a head start on the bunch meaning a larger gap to bridge as the lap board counted down.  Given his earlier efforts, there was some debate in the box whether he’d get back on and have the legs for the sprint.  Almost inevitably, Thomas worked his way back in the dying laps and breaking free again, to take the win with nobody else in the picture. Nicholas Taylor (Islington CC) got the better of the bunch with Paul Ruffy (Eat Plants Not Pigs CC) making the final step.

First race, two punctures, solo victory. Who invited this guy?

In the women’s 34 race, the riders involved had a tough workout, with different riders making a gap or losing ground only to converge or swap places as the race went on.  Amelia Harper (London Dynamo) was the most consistent of the three and was able to keep a gap to the finish.  Even then, Miriam Bullock from the host club (East London Vélo) was closing in and one suspected that she would have made it had there been another lap.  Caroline Soubayroux, a winner from a fortnight ago, rounded off the podium. 

Debut victory for Amelia Harper

The recent cold weather hadn’t put off the men’s 234 riders with another good-sized field with a healthy contingent of junior riders.  There was no shortage of early aggression with Clay Davies (GPN Builders – Rock and Road), Samuel Painter (Zero BC) and Alex Ashman (TBW 23 Stuart Hall Get Taxi) going full gas up the Hogenberg at the beginning of the race.  While others tired, some early agitators were able to parlay their efforts into an advantage, including Colin Peck (Chelmer CC), Milo Chapman (Corley Cycles) and Sam Southall (TCC) who were to feature in the race’s key move. With just under half the race gone, a break steadily consolidated with stronger riders joining the break over a number of laps.  Nesta Fergusson (LVYCC), Tom Portsmouth (Spiderking Soenens), Alexander Herd (LVYCC), Charlie Bailey (HSS), Thomas Willan (Pro Cycle Hire UK Race Team), Wayne Crombie (East London Vélo), Colin, Milo and Sam all featured. Tom Portsmouth and Nesta Fergusson were unlucky to suffer mechanicals whilst out in front, leaving a break of seven in the closing laps and the bunch fracturing behind.

The final ascent

Wayne Crombie (East London Vélo) took the initiative on the bell lap, forcing a gap that left everyone gasping. That is, apart from Charlie Bailey who set off in hot pursuit and soon bridged.  Charlie took the win from Wayne “Poulidor” Crombie, who had to settle for a lower step once again in the series. A vigorous sprint gave Thomas Willan (PCH Race Team) third spot, followed by the remnants of the break.  Andy Whale (GPN Builders – Rock and Road), Chris Thomas (East London Vélo) and Max Bolton (LVYCC) led in the next group to round out the top 10.

Chapeau, Charlie Bailey.

It is the fifth round of the series next week and we will be totting up the series rankings with plenty still to play for.  Thank you to ELV’s finest for marshalling, the officials and riders for yet another first class set of races.

Full results are here, and if you’re after photos from today, be sure to check out Ian Lambert and Judith Parry.

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