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Cycling latest: Watson looks set to stir it up...

Youth competitors at the start. Eventual winner Joseph Smith is far left at the Henham Park MTB races near Southwold Photo: FERGUS MUIR

Youth competitors at the start. Eventual winner Joseph Smith is far left at the Henham Park MTB races near Southwold Photo: FERGUS MUIR

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West Suffolk Wheeler Paul Watson looks set to stir up the 60-plus age-group in off-road racing this summer. New in the category, Watson took the top step of the podium at Henham Park near Southwold after racing closely with regular Supervet winner Nigel Herrod, writes Fergus Muir

Colchester rider Dan Hall (left) and Joe Champness (Hadleigh MTB)  at the Henham Park MTB races near Southwold Photo: FERGUS MUIRColchester rider Dan Hall (left) and Joe Champness (Hadleigh MTB) at the Henham Park MTB races near Southwold Photo: FERGUS MUIR

The pair were in close contention for the first hour's racing before Watson opened a gap. Third V60 spot went to Chris Gooch of Colchester club VC Revolution, who was a cyclo-cross star before mountain bikes were invented, and still shows a strong competitive streak.

This first round of the Mud, Sweat and Gears summer series was blessed with a good deal of sunshine which made conditions in the sheltered valley warm and the loam-on-sand surfaces under wheel dry.

However Laura Sampson - who took centre-stage on the Women's 40-plus podium - reported that in the morning up on the high fringes of the valley

"The wind was awful"

The Supervet Podium – Nigel Herrod (Rotor) and winner Paul Watson (West Suffolk Whs, right). Photo: FERGUS MUIRThe Supervet Podium – Nigel Herrod (Rotor) and winner Paul Watson (West Suffolk Whs, right). Photo: FERGUS MUIR

I somehow failed to investigate this aspect of the conditions.

Elite/Expert women's winner was Felixstowe rider Elvita Branch while the Sport/Female winner was Gemma Melton from Ipswich who was actually riding her first MTB race, quickly adapting her experience as a star cyclo-cross exponent.

In this Gemma was probably helped by MSG's deliberate decision the tone down the course for this first round of the Series. The more hair-raising - or exhilarating - aspects of the course were left out to help cyclo-cross riders get used to flat handlebar , wide wheel off-road racing.

Head-long drop-offs may well reappear later - though these usually have an easier, slower alternative "B Line"

There was a first-event-of-the-season glitch with the electronic results which are therefore subject to revision.

However there is no doubt about the Senior race where Renvale RT's Midland member Richard Jones took Elite/Expert catergory ahead of Lowestoft rider Seb Herrod.

Watton rider Robert Smithers (XLR8) was the Sport/Male winner, just over a minute clear of Cambridge University student William Weatherill (Hope Factory Racing)

New this season is a division of the Under 12 riders into two categories based on skill and experience. So there is now an " Under-12 Expert" race - and a separate one for the less practiced - some of whom are very young indeed, but spin tiny gears with unbounded enthusiasm.

The Eastern road race season opened with a cracking Crest Road Race near Saffron Walden. This race for middle category entrants often sees determined attacks by on form young men keen to make their mark and this year was no exception.

Central challenge is a long climb over an M11 motorway bridge and up out of the Cam valley and on his a group including Ben Beynon (Strada 2020) and Loddon rider Ollie Wood made the first move.

That was chased down, but immediately a second break, again including Beynon, together with Josh Copley (TBW23 Stuart Hall Cycling), Craig Rogers (Cambridge University CC) and Jack Brown (Active Edge) opened a gap.

These riders stayed away and were joined by Charles Bailey (Lee Valley YCC), Toby Parnell (PCH) and Colin Ward (Essex Roads).

Towards the end of the 68 mile race it as Rogers, Beynon, Parnell and Ward who remained to contest the finish

Ben Beynon described the final miles thus:

"A cagey last lap with big attacks from Toby (Parnell) and Colin (Ward) on the flatter sections. Eventually on the final climb Craig (Rogers) and I distanced ourselves from Colin and Toby. On to the final rise Craig out-sprinted me with Toby coming fast behind to take third and Colin fourth"

Behind, the distance and pace had reduced the bunch to15-20 riders who, despite brief attacks, were still together at the bottom of the final hill.

Orwell Velo's Matt Day gave a lead-out to clubmate - and hill-climb expert - Chris Crabtree and Crabtree got 13th place, just behind Max Bolton and just ahead of Alex Dale, two Juniors in their first season racing on the open road.


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