On Saturday 10th March, CUCC took to the notorious E33/10 for the annual, inter-college ‘Cuppers’ time trial. A stiff southerly breeze meant that no super-fast times were likely to be posted, but a strong sense of college rivalries and with selection for BUCS just around the corner, it was clear that many riders had showed up in form and with a point to prove. The stage was set for an epic contest.
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An incredibly strong Cambridge team headed to Hadleigh Park on the 25th of February 2018 for the annual Varsity Mtb contest. The race was held as part of the Mud, Sweat and Gears XC series and resulted in a dominating victory for Cambridge in both the women’s and men’s races. We’ll hand over to our roving reporter (and Varsity competitor) Tom Wade for a full breakdown of the race (with thanks to Robbie Blythe’s dad for photographs):
“Despite the freezing temperature and strong, blustery winds, the Cambridge Mountain Bike Varsity team arrived in good spirits at the ex-Olympic venue of Hadleigh Park in Essex. These spirits were no doubt aided by the news that Oxford had a very depleted team. There would be twenty-one Light Blue jerseys tackling the track, but Oxford could only muster five entries, making a Light Blue victory a likely prospect.
Fifteen CUCC riders signed up to ride 2018’s Ely Hardriders event despite its reputation for foul, cold weather. Perhaps the draw of the cakes was too much to resist? The weather on Sunday morning was clear without a frost, but unfortunately very breezy with gusts exceeding 30 mph. Disastrously CUCC’s resident megawatts machine, Ali Golby, choppered himself on the ride out to the course when some road detritus jammed in his front wheel. Jali Packer and Rob Walker were there to pick up the pieces and even a trip to A+E could only keep Ali from intervals on Bottisham for a matter of hours.
The first CUCC Hill Climb in club memory was held on a wet day in early November, but the damp weather didn’t stop 34 entrants lining up to take on the mighty Gog Magog. A strenuous 900m at 4.2% reaching the heady heights of 67m, it’s about the best Cambridge has to offer. Of course, that was no reason to take it easy! However, the committee were disappointed by the lack of vomiting at the top – clearly the racers weren’t trying quite hard enough. Ffion James took the win (and the QOM! (from Laura Massey!)) for the women in 1:53.1 with President Jess close behind in 1:53.8. Alice Bittleston completed the women’s podium. John Hale stormed the win in the men’s competition in 1:32.6, with Espresso Library’s John William Gull 3 seconds down at 1:35.4 – was he weighed down by the Zipp disc? We will never know. Tom Simpson was first club member in 1:37.6.
Honourable mentions go to Felix Barker (6th) and Luke Fisher (18th) for riding fixed, Felix on his pursuit setup for BUCS track and Luke on his Simpson-built machine (shameless plug), and to Tom Wade for riding town-bike.
After missing last year’s event in Stirling (lovely spot, a very long way from Cambridge), CUCC were back with a strong presence in 2017. The race was held on October 28th on Pea Royd Lane in Stocksbridge near Sheffield, a steep sub-3 minute climb that was used (in a 400m longer format) for the 2014 Nationals. The women were first up, with President Jess Atkinson coming in 14th and Carrie Bedingfield following in 17th in a competitive field. Felix Barker (8th), Seb Dickson (13th) and Rob Walker (17th) made up the Cambridge men’s team who placed second on the day, while Tom Simpson had their backs in 18th. Toby Cowell was 36th, Luke Fisher 59th, fresher Jack Brown managed 70th despite having his start botched and Seán Irving was 83rd. Full results can be found below.
The Women’s Race
The women’s race started at 10am, so Jess and Lottie chose to drive up to York on the Friday night rather than have a 5am start and 3 hour drive pre-race on the Saturday. A course recce on the Saturday morning was rather eye-opening as it had a series of short, steep climbs ramping up to 18% at points. This was to be Lottie’s second ever road race (the first being BUCS RR in 2015), but Jess has a lot of road race experience spanning seven years and this was one of the hardest courses she’d seen. The plan was to stick in the bunch as long as possible and make a call at the end if they were still at the head of the race.
The Men’s Race
First up on the day were the Men’s B team, hot off the disappointment of BUCS ruling them ineligible to receive a (silver) medal at either the BUCS 10 or BUCS 25. Team time trialling is a difficult discipline at the best of times, but the lumpy course near bath provides a few extra challenges with some tight corners and puncture-inducing potholes thrown in for good measure. Riders Ali Golby, Oli Mytton and Rob Walker had got in a small amount of practice together beforehand, which paid off with a level headed and well controlled ride.
Saturday marked the 2nd of the BUCS Cycling Championships, this one over a much longer distance of
25 miles. Although a similar style of event, 25 miles is a markedly different distance to race over than 10, requiring a much greater degree of self control and pacing, and having much more chance of things going wrong. It also incorporated the 70th edition of the Varsity match with Oxford.
Up for the honours were 12 men- 5 were returning from last year (Including all 3 of the Half Blues), and of the 7 new riders, 5 were freshers. With the fastest three from Cambridge earning Half Blues (and the opportunity to try for the discretionary Full at the National Championships later in the year), competition was almost more fierce between the Cambridge riders than with the other Universities! Although we were feeling pretty strong and were definitely the favourites after a dominant performance in the shorter 10 Mile Championships, a lot can go wrong in 25 miles.
Fresher Luke Fisher (Tit Hall) was the first to start in the whole competition- a somewhat unknown quantity having been absent from Cuppers, but he came through to take nearly 10 minutes off his PB, a very impressive feat. This laid down a good marker, so much so that it ended up being good enough for 12th, just 14 seconds outside of the top 10. Whilst Luke was riding, former CUCC President and BUCS Champion Ed Bradbury dropped by to support his brother, and later on the old Senior Treasurer of the club came along too to cheer us on!
Early on the 2nd April, 11 intrepid cyclists gathered as CUCC teamed up with Cambridge University Triathlon Club on a voyage to the boat races. Proceedings kicked off with a classic jaunt up chapel hill, perfect to wake us up on our way out of Cambridge. After a mere few miles, most of us realised it was considerably sunnier than we had expected… cue a major kit change for most! Off with the jackets and base layers, on with the sunglasses!
The sun stayed with us as we made our way South, covering the slightly more undulating terrain of Hertfordshire. Having covered roughly two thirds of our distance, we reached St Albans. We found ‘The Mermaid’, where half the group settled down for a pub lunch, pints and all, whilst a second group sought out the more traditional cycling staple: coffee and cake!
Having refuelled and regrouped, we jumped back on the bikes with London firmly in our sights. Before long, we passed the M25 and our ride began to change. Narrow winding roads became a single straight busy road which would take us directly into the centre of London. Progress was marred by traffic light after traffic light. Despite attempting to stick together, Matt and Harshal were lost to what we would later find out was a double puncture.
Finally coming to the end of this seemingly endless road, the Marble Arch appeared before us. A combination of confusing Garmin directions and lack of London knowledge led to much guesswork through the capital, but the views were not compromised. Thinking we were on the mall, some of us initiated a sprint, reminiscent of the final stages of the London 2012 Olympic road race, only to realise this was not in fact the mall, but an adjacent road. Despite this, we soon found our way to Buckingham Palace where we joined the many tourists, taking some all-important ride photos!
After a quick stop at the palace, the ride continued over Westminster bridge before we split off to find various friends at the Putney and Hammersmith bridges. We were greeted by an awesome atmosphere on a beautiful day for the boat races! Huge respect goes to all who competed in the races with particular congratulations in order for both Cambridge women’s boats!
Although I can’t speak for the rest of the group, the journey home came with its own issues, attempting to carry a road bike on the underground whilst others confused my Cambridge cycling shorts for a rowing overall, thinking I had just come from the river.
In all, a great day’s cycling covering 70miles on what couldn’t have been a nicer day. Thanks to all who came, we look forward to cycling with you on touring rides in the future!