Cycling: Branch and Lebentz seal Eastern titles with a round to spare at Milton cyclo-cross
PUBLISHED: 14:28 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:28 30 January 2020
The top women's places in the Eastern Cyclo-Cross League were settled in the penultimate round at Milton near Cambridge where Elvita Branch (Felixstowe) and Martha Lebentz (Bury St Edmunds) both made sure they were unassailable as Senior and Junior Women's Champions.
Runner-up positions are also beyond alteration, whatever happens in the final round at Writtle. Ipswich rider Katie Scotter will be second Senior while Harley Pell (Hargroves Cycles) is next Junior.
None of these won the Cambridge race, however, as Three Peaks Under 23 winner and Cambridge student Ffion James swept round on her MTB to a three minute victory.
James said the mountain bike rolled well over the tree roots - of which there were a lot on this course where competitors climb and descend the wooded bund that protects Milton Country Park from the thunder of traffic on the nearby A14.
Organisers Cambridge Junior Cycling Club had devised a varied and twisting course and saw their member Josh Palfreyman take third in the Youth (Under 16s) race - his best yet.
The Country Park managers welcome cyclists and the course, though no longer marked with tapes, remains available for those who would like to try it. Access to the country park is from the A14/A10 interchange on the northern outskirts of Cambridge.
Callum Laborde (Iceni Velo) had a clear win in the U16s, his first Eastern win since the Mistley race in November, though in between there have been outstanding National Trophy results. Joseph Smith, also from the Iceni club, was second, and is now certain to be runner-up to Laborde in the Eastern League as well.
WXC World Racing dominated the Under 16 Girls results with Phoebe Roche, Abigail Miller, Harriet Limb and Emily Miller taking the top four places, with Miller now assured of the League Championship.
The final race of the day, for Senior (age 18-39) and Junior (16-17) men saw Juniors take eight of the top 15 places with Junior Max Bolton taking the race win. Young riders do well on these sharp climbs and descents.
Watching the field first time over the log obstacle about the first ten in the 55 rider field chose to bunny-hop, staying astride their bikes, the rest dismounting.
Bolton, from Theydon Bois, and his QSW teammate James Madgwick soon opened a gap. Bolton picked his moment to attack and caught Madgwick off-guard. A gap opened, never to be closed, though Madgwick still scored maximum Senior points and remains in position to take the League if he gets a half-decent score in the final round.
Midlander Phil Roach won the Vets 50-Plus race, his determined, analytical approach paying dividends. Top Eastern League rider was Ian Newby who got away from regular winner Jimmy Piper on the technical ridge sections - only the second time in four seasons of cyclo-cross that an Eastern rider has beaten Piper.
However Piper's points as second Eastern finisher were enough to clinch the League V50 Men's Championship, joining Jo Newstead who is already sure of top women's V50 medal.
Likewise Ben Lewis (Forest Side Riders), second to Neil Ellison at Cambridge, is certain of the V40 League win. On Sunday he was too quick for nearest challenger Suffolk rider Stuart Pryce. Darren Rutterford finished next with the next places gong to Stowmarket & District regulars Glenn Davey and Mark Powell, with Colchester's Andy Hurst seventh.
Reliability Trials are now in full swing with good weather attracting 140 riders from 16 clubs to CC Sudbury's events based at Great Cornard - with at least one brave rider choosing to wear shorts.
The East District CA ride from Carbrooke drew another 30-odd, but the prize presentation was poorly supported and the decision has been taken to make the ceremony the last edition.
This Sunday West Suffolk Wheelers have their Suffolk Punch rides based at their club HQ in Shakers Lane, Bury St Edmunds IP32 7BH.
See the club's website for details.