The Team City College Norwich collective – supported by CRC – took a short trip down the A11 to their regular training ground within England’s largest lowland forest to compete in round three of the Mud Sweat and Gears series, which concurrently was the eastern region XC championship.
Six of the team were in attendance to contest four of the categories: Alex in female Sport, Tom in male Sport, Shaun, Glenn, and Jason in Masters, and Daz in the Vets. It proved to be a great day for the team, with four riders steeping up onto the podium.
This corner of Norfolk is one of the driest regions of the UK due to the micro-climate – akin to that of southern Europe – generated from the woodland plantation on the sandy soils. A prolonged period of dry weather had exacerbated the conditions leaving the trails compact and very fast, but with some of the corners sandy and loose, leaving no traction just where you need it. With the sun shining and the temperature a gently warming 15°C, conditions were almost perfect for some rapid racing on the almost five-mile loop of flowing singletrack and open fire road.
Alex pumping through the whoops (Photo by John Styles)
The team’s first success of the day was from Alex who, defending her title from the previous year, took third in her race earning a podium spot. It was a gutsy and determined effort from CCN’s female rider who, having suffered a mechanical at the start of the race, fought her way back through the group to take a well-earned third. Pushing on hard is never easy when seemingly there’s no one to race – so well done Alex!
The best ride of the day was from Glenn, who is now the 2013 Masters eastern regional champion! Glenn is a former Elite rider who knows how to punish himself in pursuit of success. With the Elite, Expert, Masters and Juniors starting together, Glenn got himself fourth wheel by the entry into the singletrack; he was still on the tail of the two leading Elite riders toward the end of the second lap. Unable to sustain the pace, he settled down into his own pace for the remaining four laps, which, by this point he already had a healthy lead over his rivals. It was with only a mile to go that he realised the title was his; with arms raised he crossed the finish line to be congratulated by his two sons.
Shaun pushing on to 2nd place (Photo by John Styles)
The Masters race was dominated by Team CCN with Shaun taking second, 1min 21 secs behind Glenn. Suffering a slit tyre on the third lap – with Glenn still just in sight – he had to calmly rectify the problem while minimising his time losses. If not for this it may have been a sprint finish between team-mates for the title. Happy with his ride and second place Shaun said: "I was pleased to stand on the podium with just my team mates for company."
Master’s podium: Team CCN Masters leaving the competition in their dust (Photo by Fergus Muir)
Jason, who has struggled with early season form, finally found his legs having a strong ride finishing a further minute behind Shaun taking the final step on the podium – Giving CCN a first, second and third in the Master’s race!
In the sport race Tom put in a solid three laps with the leading group before trailing off to an eventual eighth position. Whilst in the Veterans category, Daz’s podium chances were quashed by a back-marker sliding out on a sandy corner as he was sitting fourth wheel in the race. Things went from bad-to-worse as pushing-on hard to close the gap to the leaders he was sick – effectively ending his race. With a steely determination he battled on to find himself contesting a three-man sprint for fourth position, which he took by a bike’s length. An awesome effort mentally to suffer like that and still push on to get a result! Sometimes in racing it’s just down to luck – in this case bad luck – with your fortunes beyond your control.
With the largest attendance and participation in any Mud Sweat and Gears event shows that XC racing has firmly established itself in the east of England, largely due to the drive and passion of the organisers Matt and Graham.